Objects found on my land

A Finders title

Have you ever found something on your land that is not your property? A lost watch, money or even an item of clothing? There are many situations where maybe the true owner of that item is not known or unable to locate, and where this occurs other people may have a claim to that property.

There are many people who may be entitled to claim objects found in or on the surface of the land, these include, The True owner of the object, The Finder of the object, A person in occupation of the land ( living on the land), A person with a superior right to the land (I.e. Landlord) or the Finder’s employer.

Note that the true owner of the object has a better claim over the found property than anybody else, as seen in the case of Moffatt V Kazana 1969

If the true owner of the object cannot be found then the question of who has the strongest claim the object depends on where the property was found.

Objects found in or attached to the land

If the true owner of the property discovered is unidentifiable or unable to be found then the person In lawful possession of the land is entitled to the item that was found in the land or attached to it. This is even the case where the landowner was unaware of the object before it was found and never showed any intention to control the land .

The courts stated in Waverley BC v Fletcher 1996, the three reasons why items found below the surface of the land should be treated differently from those found on the property.

  • Firstly, An object in land should be treated as an integral part of that land against all but the true owner so if the finder of the item is to remove it from the land they would be doing so without a license or permission and therefore become a trespasser.

  • Secondly, Removal of an object in or attached to land would normally involve interference with the land and may damage it.

  • Finally, it is unlikely that the true owner of the object in the ground would be there to claim the property, where as if the item was found on the soil it is likely to have been recently lost and possible the true owner may return to find it.

Examples of items found that have undertaken court proceedings in the past include;
  • Rings found in mud at the bottom of a pool (seen in the case of South Staffordshire Water Co v Sharman [1896]), A prehistoric boat found 6 feet beneath the surface (noted in Elwes v Brigg Gas Company (1886) ) and A gold brooch found 9 inches underneath the surface of a public park (basis of the case of Waverley BC v Fletcher [1996])

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For more information on:

  • Items found on top of the land itself
  • The Treasures Act 199
  • Objects found on my land