How to recover my valuables if they are locked in a friend’s house?

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How to recover my valuables if they are locked in a friend’s house?

I am a musician and visual artist. My friend and I planned on building a photography darkroom in his house. I brought the necessary supplies there. I wound up having to move from my then apartment across the street

from his house into a very small room and had no place to put all my musical equipment and artwork. My friend offered to keep it at the house along with the darkroom gear I had already put there for our project. I moved into a large house and wanted to get my belongings back but discovered that my friend’s phone had been disconnected and he did not come to the door when I knocked. An internet search revealed that the house had been sold and that the sale is pending but has not closed due to unpaid property taxes. I found the realtor representing my friend and he originally agreed to let me into the house but a few days later someone else from the office emailed saying my friend id still living in the house and I should try knocking on the door. I tried again and no response. Should I call the police and would they be able to help me get in? I would need to hire movers, so how would I coordinate this?

Asked on June 11, 2019 under Real Estate Law, Pennsylvania

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 2 years ago | Contributor

The police will not help you: they will view as a "civil" matter, or non-criminal dispute over ownership and/or access to the belongings. File a legal case against your friend for "unlawful detainer," or his holding onto your belongings illegally, which can be done in county court on an expedited basis for a court order that he has to allow you to retrieve what he is withholding (or in the alternative, in the event he has disposed of your belongings, the complaint will include a claim for the economic value of your possessions. Go the court clerk's office and explain the situation; the should be able to direct you to the correct forms and instructions. You need a court order to resolve the situation; with an order, the county sheriff can help you retrieve your possessions.


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