1. I am selling my house in NY State. I live in Maryland.
2. My real estate agent says that someone visiting my home found an envelope of money in one of my closets.
3. My real estate agent says that according to the laws of Hashavis Aveidis, I must provide the proper simanim for him to give me the envelope. I don’t remember details about belongings that I left behind in my house; or it is possible that my ex-wife hid some money in a closet.
My ex-wife skipped Bais Din and was issued a seruv. The civil court awarded me all of her belongings because she didn’t retrieve her belongings or sign the Judgement after the settlement was finalized in court because she wanted more than the Judgement stated. The house belongs to me according to the Judgement; my ex-wife signed it over legally.
4. My real estate agent says that he contacted several viewers to ask them to give the simanim and they all said that the money belongs to them.
5. Therefore, he is going to keep the envelope of money.

Questions:
1. Do laws of hashavis aveidis apply to a private house?
2. Does not my house acquire (kona) any property left there?
3. Isn’t my real-estate agent acting as my agent and therefore anything that he “finds” in my house belongs to me?
4. Is the real-estate agent considered a theif since he is keeping money that I claim belongs to me?

Answer:

The envelope belongs to you.

When a lost item is left in one’s property and becomes ownerless, it is generally is acquired by the owner of the property even if he is unaware of the lost item. The exception is if it something he never would imagine would be placed in his property and will never find it in the future. In this case a person likely assumes that what is left in his house he would acquire. Also, before selling the house he would probably check through the house for his belongings. Hence, he would acquire the envelope.

In your case it seems we don’t need to come on to the rules of hashavas aveidah. This envelope was probably placed in your closet by yourself or wife. There is no reason to assume it is someone’s lost item at all as with the rest of your belongings in your house. So either way it seems the envelope is rightfully yours.

Sources:

see Choshen Mishpat 268:3 and Rama there. see Tosfos Bava Metzia 21a s”v dshasich, and Shulcha Aruch Harav ibid seif 10 that we assume money in the house is from the owner.

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