Q: I lent a sculpture to a friend about ten years ago and it was on her front lawn all that time. She recently sold the
house and left the sculpture for the new owner. Do I have the right to reclaim my sculpture? I live in Montgomery County MD and that is where the sculpture is too.
A: Can you prove it was a loan and not a gift? Is there a claim that you gave up ownership through abandonment of it? Your friend who sold the house in all likelihood did not inform the buyers that the sculpture was not part of the sale and did not convey--in fact, your friend may even have represented that the sculpture would stay with the property. While your friend had no legal right to sell what was not hers, proving that the sculpture was not hers to sell will be your first hurdle if the new owners react negatively to your asking to remove it from their yard. If they refuse to let you take it, you will need to sue and get a court judgment for return of the sculpture (or risk trespassing and theft charges by trying to take it unilaterally). Assuming you prevail on that issue, your friend may now face a lawsuit from the new owners of the house for the loss of the sculpture that they will claim was part of their contract to buy the house, so they may seek damages for its loss and removal. Obviously, your first step is to contact the new owners and let them know that the sculpture is yours and was not the seller's to convey. If they allow you to remove it, then all is well. If not, you have to decide is the cost and aggravation of a lawsuit worth it to you to recover the sculpture.
Thomas C. Valkenet agrees with this answer
Your question is two layered: First, was this a loan? Or, did you gift the item to your friend? And what were the terms of such loan? Second, did the home sale include chattel items in the list of personal property to convey with the sale?
The direct approach often works- ask for return of the item. But be prepared for a flat "no." You might then enlist your friend to invoke the mediation provisions of the MAR contract, spurring some negotiation on the matter. The new owner may even offer to sell the item back. So, ask yourself "what's it worth?"
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