What laws are there about personal property that is stored on somebody else’s property?

My neighbor has been storing a pile of firewood on my property for 2 months. I told him that he needed to move it (3 days from now). Can I say it was abandoned after that date (since he had notice of when it needed to be moved) and take possession?

Asked on November 13, 2015 under Real Estate Law, Iowa

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 5 years ago | Contributor

If it was indisputably on your property--e.g. you had let your neighbor store the wood on your land or in your shed, etc., and there is no question, or disagreement, or dispute about whose land it is--then you could provide him written notice, sent some way or ways you can prove delivery, giving him 30 days to remove it and stating that if it were not removed by then, you would consider it abandoned and dispose of it.
But from what you write, it appears that the wood is on land that the neighbor thinks is his--you may have had the property surveyed, but if he disputes that the survery is correct or that this is your land, you can't unilaterally assume that it is your land. (Or consider: if you could do this, then the neighbor could produce a surey showing that land you think is your is actually his and claim it.) In this case, if there is dispute over the boundary, you need to file a legal action for a "declaratory judgment" in which a judge will look at the deeds, surveys, etc. and decide where the boundaries are. In the context of that action, the judge could also order that anything on your land be moved.


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