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Old July 6, 2014, 10:45 PM   #1
MoGas1341
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Firearms held for ransom!

I have a friend, Dave, that lives outside of Dayton, Ohio... He, in January and February lived with a person as a room-mate. He payed $200 a month for those two months. He then moved out (but left some of his belongings, to include 4 firearms at this person's house) and moved in with his current significant other. I'll save everyone the 'drama' and cut to the chase...

Dave went back on July 1st and collected the rest of his odds and ends, and the former 'landlord/room-mate' says he owes him $800 for rent from March through June. There is no rent/lease agreement...He WAS NOT at any time at that residence from March through present. When he collected his things his former room-mate pute Dave's firearms in his gunsafe and will not give them back.

There was no rental or room-mate agreement signed at any point. He (the room-mate) is essentially holding his firearms hostage until Dave pays him for the months that he was not there...

Is firearm theft not illegal? In Ohio, what are the reprecussions? I am NOT by any means getting into the civil dispute about rent etc, but someone cannot just take firearms for 'collateral', can they? He has the serial numbers etc. What is the legal and proper course of action?

On one hand, I thought firearm theft was a felony (In its own right), but then again I'm sure the rent issue boils into a civil dispute (which I believe should be separate.)

Anyone who is a lawyer or has any experience in a similar situation, I would appreciate the advice so that I may pass it on to him. I could care less about the civil dispute, but taking a man's firearms is unacceptable!
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Old July 6, 2014, 11:10 PM   #2
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I'd say he should contact local PD and explain the situation to them. I suspect they will tell him that it isn't theft, and so it becomes a matter for small claims court.
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Old July 6, 2014, 11:25 PM   #3
Frank Ettin
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MoGas1341
...Anyone who is a lawyer or has any experience in a similar situation, I would appreciate the advice so that I may pass it on to him....
I'm a lawyer, but I'm not his lawyer (or your lawyer), and I have no intention of giving him any advice beyond that he should find is own lawyer.

I will offer some observations:
  • This would most likely be a civil matter.

  • It would most likely be a contract issue.

  • Even though there is no written lease, the laws of most States will recognize an oral lease as valid and enforceable.

  • The primary difficulty with oral leases (and oral contracts in general) is determining exactly what the terms are.

  • Some States have statutes which will fill-in by operation of law missing terms in residential leases.

  • The "landlord's" argument will probably be that since the OP's friend left some stuff behind he effectively continued to occupy the property. Even if that argument were to fail under the applicable laws of wherever this took place, a court would very likely find that the "landlord" was entitled to some compensation for allowing the renter to store his stuff on the premises.

  • Some States might recognize that even in the absence of a written lease, if a renter owes the landlord any money a landlord can have a common law right to a lien on (or security interest in) any property left behind by the renter. The lien right would allow him to hold that property until the renter pays what he owes.

  • I have not done any research into Ohio law, nor do I intend to.
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Old July 6, 2014, 11:40 PM   #4
hoghunting
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Quote:
He, in January and February lived with a person as a room-mate. He payed $200 a month for those two months. He then moved out (but left some of his belongings, to include 4 firearms at this person's house)
Quote:
Dave went back on July 1st and collected the rest of his odds and ends
Not sure why someone would leave his belongings at his former residence for 4 months after moving out, but as Frank noted, that's definitely why he needs a lawyer. Has your friend offered to pay the former roommate for storage? Attorney fees may wind up costing more than the $800.
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Old July 7, 2014, 12:05 AM   #5
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theft of a firearm is a felony. recouping back rent is a civil matter. proceed accordingly.
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Old July 7, 2014, 01:02 AM   #6
MoGas1341
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Frank Ettin; I appreciate your response, and I told him something very similar as to get his own legal council. I fully understand that you are not my, nor his attorney, but I thank you for your observations... Very valid points (I wouldn't try and learn Ohio Law anyway! haha)

hoghunting; I'm not sure why he left his stuff there either. I can't answer for him. Attorney's fees may well indeed exceed $800. The sad part is that he has a criminal justice degree, and knows several members of the the local police force.

JERRYS.; Yes, I thought the same. He has the serial numbers on 2 of the guns, and now I open up the worst case scenario book: What if the former room-mate sold those guns in order to compensate for 'rent' and then someone used them in a horrible way, but he only sold them to make a quick dollar because he didn't care about them...

Worst case scenario of course.
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Old July 7, 2014, 03:07 AM   #7
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Guy was REALLY dumb to leave guns behind, with no contract. Plain and simple.

Hope he has some receipts to prove they were originally his. That will help prove some ownership. Friend would be totally in the wrong to call the cops, because the landlord is entitled to some storage fee or rent.

Oral contracts are hard to enforce. Often there is something in writing, whether it's an email or text message. Proof of ownership also hard to prove without documents. Possession often is ownership.

Landlord/tenant law in many states allows for the landlord to take possession of property after a set time for nonpayment or abandoned property after the tenant leaves.

Problem is, the friend is boxed in no matter how he argues it.

A. He either moved out entirely, and abandoned the items. He would have no right to abandoned items. Perhaps it's different for guns in his state of residence, and that may be his saving grace. Friend could argue that due to the value and unique nature it should have been clear they were not abandoned, in the absence of contract. However, landlord is probably entitled to all abandoned property, in the absence of a contract or controlling local law.

OR

B. He argues that he had been continuing to rent a room, or even storage space, and defaulted (never made payment or attempt to pay). Landlord could argue that there was a material breach and he suffered some damages. States vary, but usually a landlord can re-coup 1 months rent, or perhaps 1 month + a security or cleaning deposit, re-key lock charge, etc. And that's for a tenant that leaves. For the landlord to continue to *hold* property, rental space in a gun safe could be a fair surcharge, something up to $200 per month (the previous payment, times 5 months).

But then again, the landlord is required to mitigate his situation, such as re-renting the room. He's not necessarily entitled to a windfall.


At the end of the day, the landlord is probably entitled to some where in the ballpark of a couple hundred dollars, to $1,000 maximum (5 months rent/storage @ $200 per month). If I were a Judge listening to these facts, assuming both parties acted in good faith, I would award the landlord up to $1,000 in cash or property equivalent, and the return of the balance of the guns. Probably recognize that there was a misunderstanding and that the landlord did store the property, lease was broken, etc. Assuming they are average $500 guns, your friend might get 2 or 3 of them back. Otherwise known as splitting the baby.

As I see it, friend's realistic legal options are:

1. Call the cops, report a theft. This is fraught with problems, and an over-reaction. Would NOT recommend this course of action. It could backfire and filing a false report is a crime.

2. Landlord probably taking rent money under the table, perhaps a discussion involving the IRS will motivate him to return the guns. But, presumably this was an all cash arrangement, and again difficult to prove. Getting him into court and on the record that he was the landlord would be of some value...

3. Suing in District court with a lawyer will be a waste of time and money because if they are average guns, he'll spent more on lawyers and court than the guns are worth. He can sue in small claims, which costs about $100 to get in to court in most states and most states allow a plaintiff to recover around $5,000-$10,000. Of course, this option gets more attractive if the guns are valuable, rare, etc.

4. Do nothing, learn life's hard lesson for relatively little money, and move on with life and pick friends better. If it's important, put it in writing.
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Last edited by leadcounsel; July 7, 2014 at 03:27 AM.
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Old July 7, 2014, 06:50 AM   #8
green_MTman
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one cant leave guns in the house of another.he needed to find a storage locker right away.you just cant leave guns with another person.
unless its a friend or family member vetted to be a legal gun owner
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Old July 7, 2014, 06:55 AM   #9
JimmyR
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I'm no lawyer, and don't pretend to be, but if your friend moved out, he abandoned his property. If he left the stuff there and intended to return for it, he didn't move out. Either way, he either owes rent or has no claim to the guns, unless an agreement was made beforehand that they would be held for him.
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Old July 7, 2014, 11:16 AM   #10
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Forget about the IRS, $1000 is not enough to open a case for. Taxes could be less than $100, and they don't work several hours to collect that small a sum.
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Old July 7, 2014, 11:51 AM   #11
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I see this kind of thing (in general) all the time on TV. People's Court, Judge Judy, they deal with these cases all the time.

Usually guns are not involved, it is other property. Essentially, leaving behind property does not automatically mean you are still in residence. These cases are usually (on tv) decided on who can prove what, as to time at residence, and what, if any written contracts are involved.

The landlord has (generally) a right to reasonable storage fees, but not rent, if you don't live there, but leave some property behind.

However, the devil is in the details, and your friend either needs to get a lawyer of his own, or decide if the cost of legally forcing the landlord to return his property is more than the value of the property.

Essentially, either take them to court, or give up on it. It wouldn't be theft, as he left the guns. On the other hand, I'm not a lawyer, didn't stay at a Holiday Inn last night, and just watch TV, so my opinion is worth what you paid for it.
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Old July 7, 2014, 05:57 PM   #12
Aguila Blanca
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Quote:
Originally Posted by 44 AMP
The landlord has (generally) a right to reasonable storage fees, but not rent, if you don't live there, but leave some property behind.
True -- IF you notify the landlord that you are moving out but would like to leave some things behind. If you just stop sleeping there without saying anything, IMHO the landlord is entitled to think that you are still renting the place/space.
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Old July 7, 2014, 07:18 PM   #13
MoGas1341
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It does appear that he just might have to go to small claims court if it gets ugly, which is never fun. I was thinking that the firearms would immediately put the situation into the criminal side versus the civil side.

He 'unofficially' moved in with his girlfriend at the time he moved out, and his prior landlord said he didn't mind if he came back later to get his things. I know this gets into the he said/ she said stuff.

I told him to offer the guy a fraction of what the rent was for storage fees and see if he can get them back that way and the guy will accept that. It gets really messy because there was no lease or written agreement.

I appreciate everyone's insight, I was just testing the waters and getting an idea of what advice I should give him.
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Old July 7, 2014, 09:56 PM   #14
kilimanjaro
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A cash offer is the best way to go. There was no theft, the guns are right where he left them four months ago. The landlord is obligated to secure abandoned possessions for a period of time, if he's owed money he can hold them for satisfaction, yada, yada.

Best thing to do is to pay him all or part and be done with it.

If the safe is opened and there are no guns, that's when you go to court.
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Old July 8, 2014, 12:51 AM   #15
Aguila Blanca
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He 'unofficially' moved in with his girlfriend at the time he moved out, and his prior landlord said he didn't mind if he came back later to get his things. I know this gets into the he said/ she said stuff.
My guess is that the landlord's idea of "later" wasn't six MONTHS later ...
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Old July 8, 2014, 06:35 AM   #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by green_MTman
one cant leave guns in the house of another.he needed to find a storage locker right away.you just cant leave guns with another person.
unless its a friend or family member vetted to be a legal gun owner
I can not speak to any other state, but this is absolutely untrue in Vermont...

There is no law against 'leaving guns with another person', and the only 'vetting' is the Federal requirement that the person not knowingly transfer a gun to a 'prohibited person'...

Leaving guns with people you do not know, or as in this case, in an old apartment, is stupid bordering on reckless, but it is not illegal in Vermont...
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Old July 8, 2014, 01:06 PM   #17
MoGas1341
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I think I should clarify on another note, and while I agree that it was foolish (and I did indeed tell him that) on his part to leave them there, he left them under his bed in the room he was renting. Furthermore they are (or were) friends, and Dave moved in to help him out financially, and to assist fixxing up the house the guy just bought. I think he honestly left his things there in 'good faith' that his buddy would give his stuff back. It was the prior landlord that removed the firearms from under Dave's bed and placed them in the safe, and presented him with a handwritten bill of debt.

Unfortunate situation entirely and I hope that it works itself out, I just thought I would ask everyone on here if it is different being that it involves firearms versus lets say clothing, furniture, electronics etc.

Thanks again everyone!
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Old July 8, 2014, 01:33 PM   #18
green_MTman
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i never said it was illegal,i just said it was common sense not to leave your guns where an ineligable person could get.in Massachusetts it would be illegal in Vermont just bad judgement
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Old July 8, 2014, 02:13 PM   #19
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As this one has turned into a discussion of landlord-tenant relations, I'm going to call it.
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