Can a motel you were living in throw your belongings away for non-payment if you had a security deposit and arranged to pay difference?

Me and my 3 year old son were living in a motel with a friend. I had to leave and he checked out a couple of days later. He was suppose to get our stuff but he left it. I called up there and they told me they threw it all away. I talked with the cleaning lady and she told me they put it in a storage building. When I called again, they said I would have to pay $30 since they had my $50 deposit. I sent someone up there and one guy said she couldn’t get it at night then the owner said it was thrown out. I don’t think they threw it out. These things are all me and my son own. What can I do?

Asked on June 11, 2012 under Real Estate Law, South Carolina


FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 8 years ago | Contributor

Under the laws of all states in this country, a representative for a motel of hotel cannot legally discard one's belongings simply because a guest has not been current with payment for lodging. Custom and practice is for such left behind items to be placed in storage as "lost and found" for up to a year so that the owner can claim the items.

If the items have been discarded that you own, your option is to make a claim for reimbursement of the items to the motel's owner(s) and if not paid, bring a legal action for the items' fair market value.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.