Someone borrowed a car seat from our car seat gemach, probably about/over a month ago, and hasn’t returned it yet. They gave us a deposit (cash, so we don’t have their contact info, and forgot to ask for it). What do we do? We’d like a car seat (for ourselves if necessary, and for the gemach). Is there a point at which we can use the deposit money to buy a new one?

Answer:

The question doesn’t mention how long a person is permitted to keep the car seat for; once this time expires, it is permitted to use the money.

If no specific time is given, and the gemach has no known policy on the matter, then it will be permitted to use the money after a time period has elapsed when it is no longer reasonable for the borrower to hold on to it.

It is possible that the borrowers have forgotten about the matter, but they will surely see the car seat in the Pesach cleaning operations, and I think that if it is not returned by Pesach it will be permitted to use the money.

See Choshen Mishpat (341:1) and Divrei Mishpat (340:1) where it is clear that the period of “thirty days” does not apply to borrowing, but only to lending money. However, this idea gives the lender the right to claim back the item at will, and will not help us in this case, where the identity of the borrower is not known. In this case, the deposit can be used if the car seat is not returned “on time.” If there isn’t any “on time,” the time will be when it become completely unreasonable for the borrower to continue holding on to it.

A month seems like an unreasonable amount of time, but by Pesach this will surely be the case.

Best wishes.

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