HOUSE BILL NO. 315
AS AMENDED BY HOUSE AMENDMENT NO. 1
AN ACT TO AMEND TITLE 25 OF THE DELAWARE CODE TO CREATE A NEW CHAPTER REGARDING RIGHTS AND TITLE TO ABANDONED PERSONAL PROPERTY.
BE IT ENACTED BY THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY OF THE STATE OF DELAWARE :
Section 1. Amend Title 25 of the Delaware Code by creating a new Chapter 40 as follows:
“CHAPTER 40. RIGHTS AND TITLE TO ABANDONED PERSONAL PROPERTY.
§ 4001. Definition of abandoned personal property.
For the purposes of this chapter “abandoned personal property” shall be deemed to be tangible personal property which the rightful owner has left in the care or custody of another person and has failed to maintain, pay for the storage of, exercise dominion or control over, and has failed to otherwise assert or declare the ownership rights to the tangible personal property for a period of one year. No tangible personal property which is subject to division under § 1513 of Title 13 of the Delaware Code, or which has been stolen or otherwise taken from its rightful owner in violation of Title 11 of the Delaware Code, or the possession of which has been unlawfully taken from the rightful owner by conversion or otherwise, or which is subject to the provisions of Subchapter I of Chapter 11 of Title 12, or subject to Article 4, Subchapter II of Title 12, or any intangible personal property and the tangible evidence thereof subject to Chapter 11 of Title 12, shall be deemed to be ‘abandoned personal property’.
§ 4002. Right and title to abandoned personal property.
Notwithstanding any other provision of the Delaware Code, including but not limited to §1210 of Title 12 of the Delaware Code, to the contrary, upon order of the court as provided in this chapter, any person who holds, stores, safekeeps, or otherwise is left with possession of any abandoned personal property, including but not limited to automobiles, motorcycles, boats, and furnishings, which has been abandoned by the owner as defined in § 4001 of this chapter, shall be vested with complete and absolute title to said abandoned personal property and shall have all right to sell, alienate, gift or otherwise dispose of the said abandoned personal property provided such transfer does not violate preliminary injunctions in effect pursuant to §1509(a)(1) of Title 13 of the Delaware Code.
§ 4003. Procedure to obtain title.
(a) Any person who holds, stores, safekeeps, or otherwise is left with possession of any abandoned personal property may be vested with complete right and title to said abandoned personal property upon application to a court of competent jurisdiction. The petition filed pursuant to this subsection shall be executed under oath and penalty of perjury and shall include the following:
(1) a complete description of the property including all identification and registration numbers if applicable;
(2) the name and last known address of the owner or owners of the property;
(3) the names and addresses of any persons who claim to or have an interest or lien in the subject property;
(4) a statement that the petitioner has conducted a lien search concerning the subject property for any liens filed with the Delaware Secretary of State and, if applicable, that the petitioner has conducted a title and lien search with the Department of Motor Vehicles concerning any lienholders that may have an interest in any motor vehicle, and the reports of the Secretary of State and the Department of Motor Vehicles resulting from the searches shall be attached to the petition;
(5) a statement of the value of the subject property; and
(6) a statement by the petitioner that the property has been abandoned as defined by § 4001 and the owner of the property is not an infant or incompetent person, and is not a member of the military.
(b) Upon receipt of a petition which is made pursuant to subsection (b) of this section, the court shall send a notice and a copy of the petition and a Request for Information Form requesting the party who receives the notice and petition to provide all information concerning the identification and address of all other owners and/or lienholders of said abandoned property by certified mail or registered mail, return receipt requested, to the owners, secured parties of record, any known lienholder of the property, and any other persons whose names and addresses are listed in the petition. The petitioner shall further cause notice of filing of the petition to be posted in the court house and three or more public places and shall advertise the fact that the petition has been filed in a newspaper published and/or circulated in the county in which the petition was filed. The notice shall include a copy of the petition and shall include the following information:
(1) a statement that a petition has been made with the court;
(2) a statement that the owner or other person has a legal right to a hearing in the courts and that if a hearing is desired then the owner or other person shall file with the court an answer to the petition;
(3) a statement that if an answer is filed a hearing will be promptly scheduled and the owners or other interested persons may appear to contest the claim;
(4) a statement that the court will enter a judgment in favor of the petitioner unless an answer is filed within 20 days after the date on which the notice was mailed;
(5) a statement that the person may be liable for costs if a judgment is entered in favor of the petitioner.
(c) If the court receives an answer described in subsection (b)(3) of this section, the court shall notify the petitioner and all parties of the hearing date to determine ownership of the subject property. If no answer is filed pursuant to paragraph (b)(3) of this subsection and there are no lienholders or other interested party, then the court shall issue an order declaring that the petitioner has full right, title and interest to the said abandoned property.
§ 4004. Sheriffs sale of the property when there are lienholders.
(a) If it is determined that there are lienholders or other persons with secured or other interests in the abandoned property, the court shall further order that the subject property shall be sold at sheriffs sale after notice as required in this section.
(b) Prior to any sale of the abandoned property, the petitioner shall give at least 30 days notice of the sale by handbills posted in the court house and three or more public places and by advertising in a newspaper published and/or circulated in the county in which the sale is to be held.
(c) The proceeds of the sale shall be applied to the costs of keeping and selling the property, costs of execution, and court costs. The balance, if any, of the proceeds of the sale shall be deposited not later than 10 days from the date of the sale with the court to be applied by the court to the payment of any lien or security interest to which the property may be subjected in order of their priority, with any remaining proceeds to be paid to the petitioner after all liens and other interests have been paid.
(d) In every sale authorized under this chapter, it shall be the duty of the lienholder or other interest holder to file with the court a form required by the court satisfying the judgment or indicating the disposition of the proceeds.
§ 4005. Motor vehicles.
In the case of motor vehicles, the court shall enter an order requiring the Department of Motor Vehicles to issue title to the vehicle in the name of the petitioner or other person who has purchased the vehicle through sheriffs sale, and the petitioner or other person to whom title to the vehicle is to be issued shall present to the Department of Motor Vehicles a copy of the order of the court with the court’s seal affixed thereto. Upon receipt of the Certified Order, the Department of Motor Vehicles shall issue title as directed by the court.
§ 4006. Jurisdiction.
The Justice of the Peace Courts, Court of Common Pleas, and Superior Court shall have concurrent jurisdiction over actions instituted under this chapter.
The courts may adopt appropriate and specific rules to effectuate the intent and purpose of this chapter.
Approved July 20,1999