Property With Unknown Ownership

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As a manager, you may experience occasions when you and your staff will discover
personal property whose ownership is uncertain. Under common law, there are
three classifications of property whose ownership is in doubt. Each classification
carries with it unique responsibilities for the hospitality manager. The three property
types are:

Mislaid property

Lost property

Abandoned property

Mislaid Property(
Personal property that has been put aside on purpose but then has been forgotten by the rightful owner
Mislaid property comes into existence when the property owner forgets where he
or she has placed it. For example, in a restaurant, a guest may enter with an umbrella,
place the umbrella in a stand near the door, but upon leaving the restaurant, forget
to retrieve it. In this case, the umbrella is considered to be mislaid property, and the
restaurant ’ s manager or owner is responsible for the safekeeping of the umbrella
until the rightful owner returns. In fact, if the umbrella is given by the manager to
someone who claims to be the owner, but who in fact is not, common law would
find the manager liable to the true owner for the value of the umbrella.
A manager is required to use reasonable care to protect mislaid property until
the rightful owner returns to claim it. If the rightful owner does not return in a
reasonable amount of time, ownership of the property would be transferred to the
property finder. Most hotels and restaurants require their employees to turn in any
mislaid property they find in the normal course of their work. Thus, ownership of
the mislaid property would be transferred to the employer, not the employee.

Lost Property(
Personal property that has been inadvertently put aside, then forgotten by the rightful owner
Lost property comes into being when the rightful owner accidentally or inadvertently
forgets where he or she has placed the belonging. Under common law, the individual
who finds lost property in a public place is allowed to keep it unless the rightful
owner returns to claim it. In many states, the finder has a legal obligation to make a
reasonable effort to locate the rightful owner of both lost and mislaid property.
Like mislaid property, employees who find lost property in the course of their
work must turn the property over to their employer. This is true even if the property
was found in a public place. Thus, a hotel lobby cleaning attendant who finds a
portable computer on the floor near a chair would be required to turn the property
over to the hotel, because the employer could be responsible for the value of the
property if the rightful owner were to return to claim it.
A question can arise over the length of time a finder of lost property must
retain that property. One would expect the length of time that the property should
be held would increase with the value of the property. Thus, a pair of diamond
earrings found in a hotel guestroom would likely require a greater holding time
than a pair of gym shoes. Many hotel operators solve this problem by requiring
that all property be held a minimum length of time before it is given to the
employee who found it (as a reward for honesty) or given to charity. Figure 11.2
is a sample form that a hotel or restaurant can use to properly track these lost -
and - found items.

Figure 11.2 Form used to track lost-and-found items.

Download (8.17 KB)

4-27-2009 08:09

Abandoned Property(
Personal property that has been deliberately put aside by the rightful owner with no intention of ever returning for it
When an owner abandons property, he or she has no intention of returning to
reclaim it. Obviously, it can be difficult for a manager to know when property has
been abandoned and not just misplaced or lost.
Under common law, a finder has no obligation to take care of or protect abandoned
property . In addition, the finder of abandoned property is not required to
seek out its true owner. Broken umbrellas, magazines, worn clothing, and inexpensive
toilet articles such as razors, toothbrushes, and the like are all common
examples of abandoned property found in hotels. The statement that “ one man ’ s
trash is another man ’ s treasure ” certainly holds true in regard to abandoned property.
Still, it is a good idea to make sure that any property discarded by the hotel
is in fact abandoned. When in doubt, it is always best to treat property of doubtful
ownership as mislaid, or lost, rather than abandoned.

Disposing of Unclaimed Property
When items of value are found in a hotel or restaurant, your first goal as a manager
or owner should be to return the property to its rightful owner. When that is not
possible, your next goal should be to safely protect the property until the rightful
owner returns for it. Only after it is abundantly clear that the original owner will
not be returning should the property be liquidated.
As a guardian of guest property, it is your responsibility as a manager to protect
and, when appropriate, properly dispose of property with unknown ownership. If
you do so correctly, your guests and your employees will benefit.

KARI RENFROE WAS EMPLOYED as a room attendant at the Lodge Inn motel. One day,
as she came to work, she discovered an expensive leather jacket stuffed inside
a plastic shopping bag in the employee section of the parking lot. The jacket
had no ownership marks on it, and neither did the plastic bag. Kari turned the
jacket over to the manager of the motel despite the fact that there was no
policy in place regarding items found outside the motel.
The jacket was still unclaimed 120 days later, at which time Kari approached
the manager and asked if she could have the jacket, since she found it. The
manager refused to give Kari the jacket, stating that all unclaimed property
found on the motel’s premises belonged to the motel.
1 . Would the jacket be considered mislaid, lost, or abandoned property?
2. Who is the current, rightful owner of the jacket?
3. How could the motel manager avoid future confusion about handling
“found” property?

The jacket was an abadoned property..
The guest who arrived to the hotel was the rightful owner of the jacket.
He should keep the property safe until the owners claim them..

OMG, what a mess!

If you saw guests fight in rooms or public areas (sometimes it just happens), you call supervisor and hotel security, that’s correct. But as you saw people brawl on street, you call police! Even there’s a guest in them.

It’s like a common sense, that’s why there is no policy for it.

Let me put it this way, Kari as a room attendant might have no clue what she was doing, the manager should have. It’s an expensive leather jacket, it may be much more expensive than you guys could image. Turn it to police now, better late than never.

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