How do I get my motorcycle back from an ex-roommate?

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How do I get my motorcycle back from an ex-roommate?

He said he’s keeping it because I crashed his car. The car was worth $500-1000, my bike’s worth about $4k. He said he’d fight me if I tried to come get it. The dispatched police officer told me I had to go to court. The guy stole the title and keys, then put the bike in his garage. I tried to arrange payment for his auto damage but he said he’s keeping the bike. I don’t think he can hold the bike hostage until this is resolved; can he? I do have a new copy of title from BMV.

Asked on May 4, 2012 under Bankruptcy Law, Indiana

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

What your roommate is done is theft; the fact that you wrecked his property or owe him money does NOT give him the right to take your property. The police were wrong--they should have acted, since your roommate has no legal basis for his actions, and should have been arrested. That said, if the police won't help, the way to get your bike back is to sue your roommate. You would bring a lawsuit seeking a "declaratory judgment," or court determination, that you are the rightful owner; injunctive relief, or a court order, requiring the friend to return your bike; and to the extent he damaged it or cost you money, monetary compensation, too (which might be offset, such as if he countersues you, by what you owe him on the car). This can be somewhat complex for a non-lawyer, so for a $4,000 motorcycle, you should retain an attorney to help you.


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