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  1. #1

    Default Motorcycle Titled to Me Sold Without My Knowledge Due to Repossession of Property

    I own a Motorcycle which is titled and insured to my name in the state of North Dakota. I have a friend whose father owns property in another town, and they have allowed me to store my motorcycle inside of a garage on that property during the winter months. We did not have a written agreement on this, it was a verbal agreement with no exchanging of money.

    I went to pick the motorcycle up for the season last Friday evening, to discover it was not in the garage. I called my friend and he had no knowledge of where it went, neither did his father. I called the local Sheriff's department on Monday to report a stolen vehicle, and received a call back later in the day from a Sheriff who reported that the property that the motorcycle was being stored on, and all contents of the property, were sold by the county due to taxes my friend's father did not pay. The Sheriff remembers the buyer of the property asking him about the motorcycle, but they apparently did not run the license plate or VIN to determine who owns it, and thus I was never notified. The buyer of the property took the motorcycle, and it is now out of state. He did give me a phone number with contact information for the buyer, but calling him really didn't seem to do much, as he referred me to my friend's father.

    So, what recourse, if any, do I have in this situation to either get my motorcycle back or receive just compensation for my motorcycle being sold without my knowledge?

    -Despite the buyer of the property purchasing "everything" on the property at the time of sale, since the motorcycle was titled and registered in my name, and not my friend's father's, does that entitle me to reclaim it from the buyer?

    -Despite the location and "ownership" of the motorcycle known, would I be able to file a police report for a stolen vehicle anyway?

    -Essentially: Do the rights I have by having the motorcycle registered in my name supersede the rights the buyer of the property has due to my motorcycle being present on it when the sale was made?

    -If the above fails, despite us having no written agreement/no money having been traded hands for the storage of the motorcycle, does my friend's father have liability for not "protecting" the motorcycle until I reclaimed it? There was certainly a verbal "reasonable assumption" that the motorcycle would be there in the spring.

  2. #2
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    Default Re: Motorcycle Titled to Me Sold Without My Knowledge Due to Repossession of Property

    The buyer of the property obtained clear ownership of the property via process of law. As you paid no consideration to your friends father, he was simply doing you a favor and no contract for storage existed. Since no contract existed (no consideration), there is no liability to him. I think you just lost your motorcycle.
    With enough thrust, pigs fly just fine.
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  3. #3
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    Default Re: Motorcycle Titled to Me Sold Without My Knowledge Due to Repossession of Property

    From the facts you have provided so far, you are describing what is, in legal terms, a gratuitous bailment - somebody offering to hold your property for you at no charge, entirely for your benefit. Although I don't see a specific definition of the scope of bailment law for gratuitous bailments in your state, typically a person who accepts property under a gratuitous bailment is held to a standard of "slight care" and is only liable for damage or loss if they commit gross negligence in relation to the property.

    You have not stated what, if any, agreement you have with your friend's father as opposed to your friend. If dad was basically out of the loop, even though he didn't remove the property left by junior's friends prior to the foreclosure sale, I don't see that an argument that he either had a duty to you or was grossly negligent would be likely to succeed. Similarly, I don't know the extent to which your friend was aware of his father's financial problems, of the foreclosure or sale, such that he might be arguably negligent or grossly negligent in relation to the motorcycle.

    Your state has a statute addressing what happens in relation to personal property following foreclosure of a mortgage, and quote it below, but I don't see an equivalent statute for what happens following foreclosure of a tax lien. If nobody else can come up with authority, I suggest running the question past a real estate lawyer in your state.
    Quote Quoting North Dakota Century Code, Sec. 32-19-41. Abandoned personal property - Disposal by record title owner.
    The grantee in a sheriff's deed that has been recorded, or after receipt and recording of a deed in lieu of foreclosure, may retain and dispose of without legal process any personal property left on the real property thirty days after the issuance of a sheriff's deed. If the total estimated value of the personal property is five hundred dollars or more, the record title owner shall make reasonable efforts to notify in writing the mortgagor or person who was entitled to possession of the real property during the redemption period by certified mail at least fifteen days before disposing of the personal property. Service by mail is complete upon mailing. The record title owner is entitled to the proceeds from the sale of the personal property, after all costs incidental to removal, storage, disposal, and sale of the property have been deducted. This section applies only to tracts of land not exceeding forty acres [16.19 hectares].

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