Houston, we have a problem

David Davis

I have a problem.
About 6 years ago a local builder brought an “optic probe” into a hire shop where I was working. I said I might be able to repair it.

As it turned out I couldn’t. Then I stopped working there a few months later.
He never came back for it. Two years ago I binned it with a load of other stuff. Today, he turned up at my house asking for it. What shall I do?

8 responses to “Houston, we have a problem

  1. Tell him that each year you take all the unclaimed items and either bin them or give them to a charity shop. In his case you kept hold of it and then as he showed no sign of collecting it, you binned it. It’s too bad but that is the truth. If he wanted it he should have asked for it – what are you a Storage Unit? ALWAYS tell the truth. He can’t sue you.

  2. I didn’t think of that, Peter. On the doorstep today I decided to say nowt just in case, and that “I will look into it and contact you”….

    I’m pretty sure it’s gone, although there is one large box of ex-MOD surplus RAF electronic parts into which it _may_ have been chucked, which is in the outhouse, and which I will search tomorrow when the door becomes unfrozen!

  3. Ask him what storage charges for 6 years would be.

    He can’t have any reasonable expectation of your still having that item. Anything left that long is clearly abandoned. Just be honest and say that after 6 years it will long ago have been cleared out.

  4. David,
    There is an email on the way on the subject, let me know if it arrives


  5. If you were an employee of the business and you did this as an employee, he should be talking to the business, not to you.

    If you did this as a personal favour, then advise him of the position. Tell him only once and if he’s not happy suggest that he consults a solicitor. If he keeps coming round, he’s harrassing you – a police matter.

    The (approximate) legal position – most businesses have time limits on collecting property left for repair. These may be implied terms and conditions for all businesses and I suspect are probably measured in a few years or even months (local dry cleaners disposes after 3 months).

    If it was irreparable you were entitled to dispose of it after a reasonable time. If you repaired it you would be entitled to sell it after a reasonable time. I suspect six months is a ‘reasonable time’.

    If it was more than six years ago it is statute barred (that is all legal claims are extinguished) in any circumstance and if it wasn’t quite 6 years ago it becomes statute barred on the 6th anniversary.

    Do not write to him to tell him this because written acknowledgement of a statute barred debt resurrects the debt, and probably will do so for property. I do not know if your outline above constitutes the property equivalent of ‘written acknowledgement of a statute barred debt’ – just hope he doesn’t read your blog posts.

    There is also the doctrine of laches, as I rediscovered just now (see url for definition below).

    If he gets antsy with you merely invite him to sue. I doubt that he will, especially if it was more than 6 years ago. If he does, you have a good defence and grounds for a counter claim. The judge would almost certainly side with you.

    If he keeps coming back or gets aggressive order him to leave you alone, and if he does not comply immediately, call the police – immediately. If there is any indication that he might get physical, advise the police anyway.

    You should be able to check it out with a lawyer either through the CAB or local solicitors. Some of them will give you a brief consultation for free. Using a solicitor will rack up costs alarmingly, and is only worthwhile of the builder has loads of money and you can claim costs against him, though be warned you never get them all back and it still costs you your time.

    NB I am not a lawyer – this is recollection from college level law a long time ago, plus several decades of business experience.

    These may help:




  6. I found the third bit (which was what didn’t work in the first place) but not the 6V DC connector lead.

  7. All very sensible answers. I was just going to say tell him to fuck off.

  8. I did find most of the bits, and he took it away happily. Hope that’s the last I see of him.