When someone has wrongfully taken or kept your property, should you give up and let them keep it? Should you engage in a street brawl with them? Luckily, you don’t have to settle for either of these crappy options. There is an alternative for recovering your property swiftly and legally, the legal right of replevin.
What is a Replevin Action?
The replevin process is used to lawfully take property away from a party who is in wrongful possession of it and return it to its rightful owner. The most important aspect of any replevin case is the establishment of who truly owns the property so they can have it quickly returned to them. Replevins can be filed on virtually any form of property – from automobiles to commercial equipment, tools, or other items of value.
Basil was renting a property and failed one month to make rental payments. In order for him to stay in the house, his landlord, Hiram, offered to hold on to his Escalade as collateral until Basil was able to make rent again.
Basil doubled up on his rent for 3 months until the past due amount was paid. When he began making regular on-time rental payments, he went to get his Escalade from Hiram. Basil was shocked when Hiram told him he would keep the car to ensure that Basil continued to pay the rent on time. Rather than withhold rent, Basil filed a replevin action against Hiram to recover his vehicle.
Replevin Actions Differ from Repossessions
Replevin cases are different from typical repossession because repossession does not require a lawsuit. In repossession, creditors are able to simply take back possession of property because a person broke a contract by failing to meet the terms of the initial agreement.
In replevin cases, on the other hand, plaintiffs may recover wrongfully-held possessions after the court authorizes their seizure. If you win your replevin action, you can recover any financial losses you may have incurred as a result of not being able to use your property for a period of time.
Filing a Replevin Action
To recover your property, file a civil lawsuit in court to obtain a document called a “Writ of Replevin.” This document is a court order demanding a piece of property be seized by a U.S. Marshal, local sheriff, or other official designated by the court.
In your filing, provide the court with a description of the property that includes:
- The name and address of the party who has your property
- The total value of the property
- The reason you are the rightful owner of the property
- Reasons why the person keeping the property is wrong
- Reasons why you should have the property back
If you are able to provide photographs, serial numbers, or other forms of evidence demonstrating the property belongs to you, you will significantly increase your chances of recovering your property.
Serving the Summons
One critical aspect of filing a successful replevin action is notifying the defendant that you have filed the case. Once you’ve filed, you must send the defendant a notice or summons along with the complaint. Below are the rules for sending the summons:
- A summons must provide a court date and details about the replevin action.
- A summons may be sent through certified mail or be delivered by the sheriff or other authorized official.
- The defendant must receive the summons at least five days prior to the hearing.
- If you fail to properly notify the defendant about your lawsuit, your case may be dismissed.
- Pay a fee for the summons and service of summons.
Other Things to Know
There are several other things to remember regarding the replevin action.
- If you believe the defendant may conceal or destroy your property once they learn about your replevin case, you may be able to get a seizure of the property before your court date.
- To have the property seized, you must file an affidavit listing all the facts of your replevin case and justification for your belief in the defendant’s intent to conceal, damage, or dispose of your property. You will have to pay for the sheriff’s office to assist you with recovering your property during the pre-hearing seizure or after you have won your case.
- Once you file the complaint and summons, the defendant must serve an answer.
- After hearing both sides, the judge will determine what happens next regarding the property. With a strong enough case demonstrating your rightful ownership of the property, the judge should decide the case in your favor.
The right of replevin is an excellent tool for recovering your lost property. Isn’t that better than a brawl?
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