Have you loaned a friend your car for the evening and they are refusing to return it? Did you break up with your significant other and they are refusing to give your dog back? Did your parents kick you out of the house and your stereo system is still there that you paid for? Virginia law protects people from having their personal property withheld from them.
So what is the process for getting your property back from someone who is unlawfully withholding it?
How Much Time Do You Have?
The first thing you need to be aware of is the timeline for filing your claim for stuff with the court. There are three different deadlines depending on whether you have a written contract with the person holding your property, an oral contract, or no contract at all.
For example, if you have a written contract with a storage company, and they are refusing to return your property even if the contract allows it, you have five (5) years to demand your property back. If you have an oral contract whereby your friend is borrowing your lawnmower, then you have three (3) years from the date you demand the property back.
In contrast, there is less time if you are dealing with a situation where there is no contract. If you need to get your dog back from your significant other, you only have two (2) years to do so. If you fail to file at the right time, you may never get your property back.
What Do You Need To File With the Court?
The process is started by filing a document known as a “Warrant in Detinue.” This document must identify the specific property you allege the other person is withholding. For example, if you are dealing with a dog you should identify their name, breed and age. It is also a good idea to provide documentation proving that you are the owner of the dog to the court. This applies whether there is a written contract or no contract. If there is no contract, you should attempt to locate proof of purchase such as receipts from your credit card company or your bank.
What if the Property is Stolen?
Alternatively, you may need to consider contacting your local Magistrate if the person who is holding your property has no right to do so. This may be considered theft. They may be in trouble with the police if they have stolen your property.
Why You Need a Lawyer.
Failure to follow the specific procedures provided under Virginia Law may cause your case to be thrown out. For example, if you do not provide adequate proof of ownership or enough description of the property, you will lose. If you do not timely file, you will lose. Therefore, if you are in a property dispute you should immediately contact an attorney to determine what your rights are.