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Items left in home that we bought

Question:

Hi Rabbi,

BH, we just moved to a new home. The sellers left many items, some of which were discussed that they would leave for us. Some of the items we did not discuss and were surprised to find them when we moved in. In the contract they were supposed to remove everything except what we discussed. Do these items now belong to us and can we do what we wish with them?

Thank you

 

Answer:

Thank you for your question.

Assuming that the previous owner is Jewish, and you have an obligation to do hashovas aveida, essentially the items that were left there are his lost items, and you should let him know that he left them there. However, on a practical level, when people move out of a house, the things they leave there, are because they don’t want them, and then you can keep them. This would apply to things that it is clear that the owner knew that they were there, such as furniture or other large items. However, a small item left in a closet, which might have been simply forgotten, regarding those types of things you should let the owner know about it, and he will say clearly if he indeed wants it or not. As a side point, items that were hidden well, (i.e. under the floorboards) and might not have been found even if the previous owner would have looked, that may be kept, because whoever it belonged to didn’t find it, even after looking and was miyayesh from it.

Best wishes

Sources:

See Choshen Mishpat siman 260 seif 3, and Shach 11.

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2 Comments

    1. We are not obligated to return the lost item of a gentile, and you can keep them. The gentile don’t have laws that they have to return a lost object, and we don’t have to return it to them either. Especially in this scenario, that the owner most probably just left it there because he doesn’t want it.

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