Selling unclaimed property in storage is illegal. The vendor’s possession of the customer’s property is derived from a contract to render services and/or provide goods in exchange for payment. In terms of this contract, the vendor never becomes the owner of the customer’s property. For this reason, the vendor cannot sell the customer’s property if the customer fails to collect his property after notification by the vendor.
If the vendor sells the customer’s unclaimed property to a 3rd party, the customer can claim his property back from the 3rd party due to his ownership rights. The contract between the vendor and the 3rd party is null and void and the 3rd party can claim payment back from the vendor.
What the vendor can do if property remains unclaimed, is sue the customer for outstanding costs. Once judgment has been given in favour of the vendor, the sheriff can attach the customer’s property in storage to sell on public auction.
It is very important that the vendor does not relinquish possession of the customer’s property until it’s been attached by the sheriff. Otherwise, the vendor loses his lien or right of retention over the property.
In conclusion, for the vendor to get rid of unclaimed property and claim storage costs, the correct legal channels must be followed. If you are unsure about your rights, it is always better to consult your attorney first.
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Contributed by: Hestelle Graaff BA Law (UP) LLB (UP)