What rights do I have over vehicles left / abandoned on my property?

Question Details: We recently purchased a farm. A contractor had left his Bulldozer on the farm, and it had been sitting on the farm for over 2 years at the date of purchase. We needed to move it from the paddock it was in. The contractor is now seeking compensation for the vehicle. Were we within the law to move the vehicle under the assumption it had been abandoned?

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Answers by Lawyers

Community Law Wellington & Hutt Valley

It can be quite difficult to prove that something has been "abandoned" in a legal sense. The person claiming abandonment needs to show that there was an intention by the owner to completely give up the goods. In other words, it needs to be shown that there was an intention to absolutely surrender the bulldozer. It will depend on the circumstances of your situation whether the contractor abandoned the bulldozer on your property.

Whether the contractor has a claim for compensation depends on where the bulldozer is now and who has possession, and whether it was abandoned. If the contractor can recover the bulldozer, then they will probably not have a claim. If the contractor did not abandon the bulldozer, and you moved it with the intention of denying the contractor access to it or have sold it to someone else, then the contractor may have a right to compensation. This is on the basis that you have unlawfully got rid of the contractor's property. (And they may be able to complain to the Police as well.)

Relevant things to consider in assessing your legal position are what, if anything, was agreed with the contractor about leaving the bulldozer on your property, the terms of the work to be done, what correspondence or communication there has been with the contractor since the bulldozer was left on your property, and what you did with the bulldozer.

The Community Law Centre nearest you will be able to tell you about the ways you can get further advice locally. www.communitylaw.org.nz

Answered 11 Apr 2013. The IMPORTANT NOTICE below is part of this answer.

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