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Theft of goods who is liable

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  • Theft of goods who is liable

    Hi, thanks for letting me join. I could do with some advice if possible in regard to issuing a claim. We rented a storage container for some 8 years without problems, it contained amongst other things, business equipment, stock, shop fittings etc. In all this time we have paid the rental monthly, at first by cash (no receipts given even when requested) and so for the last few years payment has been by regular bank transfer. We phoned the owner to say we were coming down and could we have access (the next door container always blocked or restricted access so always let them know we were coming down) only to be told the container was empty.

    A visit showed that the container now had a new tenant and all our belongings had gone. The owner then claimed it must have been broken into some 3 months previously and he knew nothing about it. He had our contact details, but nothing no phone calls or anything. We had been paying for a container that was empty and he had taken the money. He is denying liability / responsibility as it's ''just a container'' however he does rent out numerous containers, compounds and spaces as a business. The cctv only records for a week and there is no record of it. and there are security gates. He has refused to give any other details. Police are more than useless other than giving a crime and incident number and telling us to take him to court and claim.

    My main question is as this business is being run on a commercial basis, is he liable?
    Tags: None

  • #2
    Are you insured for this loss?
    Lawyer - retired from practice, now in academia. I do not advise by PM.

    Comment


    • #3
      Hi, no we are not. The business is insured, but the container not, as he claimed fully insured, cctv and security gates. We were responsible for the security lock and lock box. It was a large container that was full front to back floor to ceiling next to a load of others that he rented out. Definitely not a case of someone hopping over a fence picking a random container and nicking a few boxes. It would have taken several people a day at least to empty it and a very large van / lorry.

      Comment


      • #4
        I would claim on his insurance and lodge a stronger complaint with the police, because any criminal activity is a matter for them.

        Should he refuse his insurance details you need to list the contents, value them and sue in the County Court.

        Comment


        • #5
          Hi, thanks for that, that's pretty much what the police said to do, although even they said it was suspicious. So would you say letter requesting his insurance details then a letter of claim or just go with letter of claim/action?

          Comment


          • #6
            He sounds like a bailee for reward. If so, he assumed a duty of care to you and your goods, and may well be liable.

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            • #7
              If you believe criminal activity has taken place the police are duty bound to investigate.

              You need to complain to an inspector or above and not just be fobbed off by a constable. If you believe a ghost appeared and whisked your property away you need to claim on the storage companies insurance.

              Only resort to legal action as a last resort as the court will want to know what action you have taken to resolve matters before resorting to legal action.

              Document everything.

              Comment


              • #8
                "If you believe criminal activity has taken place the police are duty bound to investigate."

                Nearly. They have a duty to record a credible complaint. They have a duty to consider whether to investigate such a complaint, but they have a substantial discretion as to what extent they take it any further by investigation.

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                • #9
                  Thank you all, your thoughts have given me something to think about. The update from the police is that in their opinion, it is highly likely that the owner is behind it, or knows who it was, not very helpful and without any evidence there is nothing they can do. I have written a letter asking the owner for his insurance details and a VAT invoice for rent paid (including the 3 months he has continued to take since the incident) and we will see what happens.

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                  • #10
                    If the owner is denying liability, good luck with a claim against his liability insurers!

                    What does your contract state? (perhaps post up a copy or a link to the wording)
                    Most of these rental contracts remove all liability from the owner and put responsibility for insurance cover on the client

                    Even if there are unfair terms in that contract for a consumer, they may not be unfair if you were renting as a business

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      DES8 There was no written contract, the landlord doesn't do them. It was purely ''there's the container and I want £xx per month'' It was informal but we were told that the place was insured and security in place. He did ask what would be going in it and we told him. He also claimed he had third party liability for break-ins. We had no problems for some years other than access to the actual container on occasions. The only thing we were responsible for was the security lock and lock box. The landlord now claims that the container business is his dads (a retired farmer) and nothing to do with him and so far has refused to hand over his insurance details and VAT status / number.

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                      • #12
                        The main problem seems to be the owner is denying liability,,

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                        • #13
                          So how did you pay the storage charges/
                          can you prove to whom you gave the payment?

                          In this situation you seem to have a simple contract where you the bailor entrusted your goods to the care of the bailee for reward.
                          The bailee has a duty of care to protect the bailed goods from theft or damage so as to be able to return the goods to you.

                          Whether or not he has insurance to cover your goods is irrelevant.
                          It will be for you to prove his liability and for him to claim on his policy (if he has one)
                          As there was no paperwork involved in your arrangement I doubt he has any insurance cover at all
                          Your claim is against the bailee

                          If he is not responding in a positive manner, perhaps a letter before claim threatening a county court claim will focus his attention.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            "In this situation you seem to have a simple contract where you the bailor entrusted your goods to the care of the bailee for reward.
                            The bailee has a duty of care to protect the bailed goods from theft or damage so as to be able to return the goods to you."

                            That is the long and short of it.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              DES8

                              ''So how did you pay the storage charges/
                              can you prove to whom you gave the payment?''

                              When we first had the container it was cash every month. When the promised receipts / statements didn't materialise we arranged to pay by bank transfer every which we have been doing for several years, so have got proof of payment. Owner is now trying to say all the containers belong to his dad and nothing to do with him. However, the bank payments went to the person we contracted with in the first place and nothing to do with his dad.

                              Comment

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