What about money buried in the yard or found in the street?

I know this topic has been discussed, but after some basic searching, I am finding everything BUT the type of thing I am looking for....

We were discussing the recent case of the money sewn into the suitcase that was donated to a charity shop by the spouse of the person who hid it ($100,000 I believe). Luckily the person who bought the suitcase paid by eftpos and was traced. Apparently the money had been found by the new owner of the suitcase and deposited into two different accounts (some spent, but mostly in the accounts).

Person was charged with "stealing by possession" or something like that.

We were discussing this today and got into quite a heated debate.

My son says "a solicitor" told him that if someone buys a house and there happens to be money buried in the yard, that the new owner has bought "everything" and is entitled to the money. I don't believe this is right at all.

I know someone who knows someone who found some rare coins in a wall cavity and I believe the previous owner was entitled to at least some (if not all) of them. I cannot remember what happened, but I do know it was not clear cut, and the new owner of the house didn't have a right to the coins (from memory).

I'm curious to know just what the law says about this.

My son also said his "lawyer" friend told him that if you find (for example) $10,000 on the street, and spend say $9000 on a diamond ring, then you are entitled to keep that ring. He says that anything spent on, say, groceries must be given back as it was something you would buy regardless of finding the money. (This sounds like rubbish to me, but I'm not sure.)

I think he was still dreaming, or making this stuff up, but I am curious to know if anybody knows what happens if you dig up a stash of cash in the back yard, and what happens if you find money in the street and spend it on non-essential items.

I think my son was making it up as he went along :D.
You got me curious Wylie so had a quick Google, because I never knew that law existed where you could be found to be stealing by not returning something.

I found this page and had a quick scan.


From that I take it to mean that if the absolute true owner can be proved, then they can make a claim to it, but if it can't be proved (I guess a wad of cash in the backyard of a house, if the previous owner has no way of proving it's theirs) then it's finders keepers. Doesn't sound all black and white though.

Either way, sounds like your son or his lawyer friend is telling porkies. ;)

I found $50 when I was about 8, Mum made me hand it into the police... I was horrifed, but she tells me it was a learning lesson for me. No one claimed it so I got it in the end. Just as well she made me do it, I might have ended up with a police record at the age of 8! :)
Found this today after hearing something about a large stash of cash being found somewhere ($9mill..?)...not sure if this is the story but it's relevance to the thread I thought ok....

Mystery cash stash found in backyard at St Leonards

Carl Dickens From: Geelong Advertiser January 08, 2010 7:53AM 26 comments

A MYSTERIOUS cash stash has been found in a backyard near Geelong.

The money was found in a backyard at St Leonards, on the Bellarine Peninsula, on November 2.

Portarlington police said a large sum of money was discovered but refuse to provide more details, the Geelong Advertiser reports.

Police have made numerous inquiries since the find, but the owner of the cash remains unknown.

A police spokeswoman last night said if the cash was identified as being proceeds of crime, it would be seized by police.

"Otherwise, if all reasonable attempts to locate the rightful owner fail, after three months the finder gets to keep the money," the spokeswoman said.

Anyone with information about the cash should contact Portarlington police on 5259 2606 or Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.
I think the actual offence is called "stealing by finding".

Just because you find something does NOT mean it automatically becomes yours.

The correct action is to hand it in to the police and make sure your details are recorded. If not claimed after a length of time (three months, I think) then you are entitled to keep it.

I think things change if it is suspected to be the result of crime.
how do you prove that 'cash was identified as being proceeds of crime' if it
was found?

other wise the cops would say everything found was theproceeds of crime, could be seized by police.
When we buy a property, we have included "all goods and chattels"

I still don't think this covers the situation I heard about with the coins. I will try to ask the friend who told us the story and post up what actually happened. I do know it was not a case of having bought the house and everything in it belonged to the new owner.....
When we buy a property, we have included "all goods and chattels"

According to that site I quoted above:

"that since 1982 the standard contract had contained a provision that anything left behind after a sale was "deemed abandoned" and could be claimed by the new owner."

"Chattels on the land" are "considered" abandoned if they are not removed before settlement."

"But what if a property owner finds goods or money buried or hidden somewhere "in the land"? No matter whether a sale has just taken place or happened years earlier, the "on the land" contract clause will not apply. When the find is not "on the land", more complicated law applies."

"If you find buried treasure trove, that is gold or silver objects such as coins, you will mostly miss out on keeping the loot. No matter who finds treasure trove, or where it’s found, there is an automatic vesting of possession and ownership not in owner, tenant or finder – but in the Crown (i.e. the government). After two tenants of rural land in Victoria turned up old gold sovereigns while digging post-holes, they sold some of the coins. Because the pair had found treasure trove which legally belonged to the Crown they were later actually charged with stealing the coins they had sold."

I'm curious Biggles about your thoughts on what my son says about buying something with money, as in my first post.

I think he is wrong, but I have no legal idea. It just "seems" wrong, but then lots of things "seem" right or wrong but that doesn't mean that "sensible" is right.
Many years ago, a girlfriend who had built their own home, started building a garage down the back and kept uncovering glass jars stuffed full of money. I was most excited for her as it was enough to build the garage. Years later when I became a bit more educated in the ways of the world, I wondered if he had actually earned the money as a mechanic working from home for cash and that was their way of explaining how they got so much money
I'd think if it was on your land it's yours. Otherwise you'd have to keep everything in the house as the owners may want to claim it later. Our house had junk in the garage which we threw out.
The crown land story is different as it wasn't their land.

Lots of people have money hidden in their house. It's not that uncommon I don't think (especially older people). Some of it is bound to be forgotten.
I'd think if it was on your land it's yours. Otherwise you'd have to keep everything in the house as the owners may want to claim it later.

I know nothing about what the legality is, so just from my reading it sounds like when you buy a house you buy what's ON the land, not IN the land. So if something is buried, sounds like you may not be able to claim it.

As for if you buy a suitcase full of cash, or didn't some guy once buy a case which turned out to be full of Beatles memorabilia and quite valuable, I don't know. That couple got charged with spending the money in the case, which seems to imply there is some law that says you can't keep it. But then, never heard of that guy with the Beatles stuff getting charged with keeping it. Maybe it comes down to the type of item, cash is not something you'd sell... why would you sell $10K worth of cash for $100, however Beatles stuff you could say he did sell for $100 and it just happens to be worth a lot more.

Although the coins in the wall one is interesting, that is on the land, and not in it, and I would consider them to be like the Beatles memorabilia (worth an unknown exact amount).

There must be some lawyers on this forum. Has me curious, not that I'm going to go and dig up any of my property to go looking for money! :)
so just from my reading it sounds like when you buy a house you buy what's ON the land, not IN the land. So if something is buried, sounds like you may not be able to claim it.

My understanding is that you own the ground to a depth of 50 feet, if you only buy what's ON the land, who owns the foundations, underground connections and septic tank (if applicable) etc?
My understanding is that you own the ground to a depth of 50 feet, if you only buy what's ON the land, who owns the foundations, underground connections and septic tank (if applicable) etc?

Well obviously they're part of the house and what you've bought, but I was referring more in regards to "abandoned possessions". Anyhow, I don't know, I'm not a lawyer, I'm just trying to interpret what I'm reading. Until I find a wad of cash in my backyard, I don't really care either way, but I don't think I'd automaticallly be keeping it, doesn't sound so black and white.
there is no simple answer to this one - in Qld anyway.

stealing by finding is easy to prove and hard to defend. Wylie, as far as i recall - the reasonable person test can apply here - (I could be wrong now though, been a while!!:eek:) if the property left behind could not reasonably be deemed to have been intentionally left behind (like a big wad of cash stashed in a wall cavity) then the charge would stick as the finder has made no reasonable attempt to find the owner of the property...

very sticky set of rules here - as odd as it sounds, the best thing really is to hand ANYTHING into the police, wait the time period to see if it is claimed (very unlikely) and as long as it is not an illegal item it should be returned.
There is no clear legal rule about this issue.

However, there does appear to be a general rule under tort, that a person who does 'find' something, should take reasonable and appropriate steps in locating the true owner of the aforementioned property in question.

If an owner can be located, this is where the waters can really get muddy, depending on actual facts and circumstances.

If an owner is genuinely unable to be located, and there is no evidence that what is found is the proceeds of a crime, then 'finders keepers' applies.

There is oddles of case law out there on this issue - but like I said no clear cut answers.
I’ve studied property law and this is a topic that comes up – It invovles ownership and possession which are related to each other but not the same thing.

Going from memory, ownership is when you can make some sort of claim over property (property in this sense means personal things, not necessarily real property). Possession is when you hold property.

Eg you may have a diamond ring which you purchased. You have ownership by the fact of legal title being transferred when you handed over the cash. You then go and ask your friend to hold it for you. Your friend has possession but not ownership. You have ownership (the right to demand it back) but not possession.

When you lose something, such as a diamond ring you retain ownership, but you have just had the possession aspect disappear. It is still you property.

When you find something it still belongs to the owner, but you have possession. You have a claim of ownership until the original owner comes along. You have a claim superior to all except the true owner. It all boils down to who has better rights. The original owner has better rights than the finder, but the finder has better rights to everyone else.

I recall there are a few cases, one where a ring was found in an airport lounge. Who had better rights, the airport lounge owner or the finder?

Another was where the Australian Federal Police found a case of cash in someone’s wardrobe. The owner of the house didn’t know it was there and the police seized it – but could the house owner claim possession even though she didn’t know it was there in the first place?

I will dig out my notes to find out if you are interested.
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I had forgotten how complex this area of law is (like all law I guess).

In competing claims over property it all comes down to who has better title to the goods.

There are different ways to acquire title. One way is by possession. The mere possession of something can mean ownership. Another is by deriving title such as title being transferred when you buy an item.

When you find something you can gain title by possession. But this does not extinguish the ownership of the previous owner. They may have acquired the item by either possession or transfer and they have not given up this title – they have just misplaced the item (assuming they haven’t abandoned it).

Therefore when someone finds something it comes down to who has better title. The general rule of law is that a finder has better title than everyone except the true owner. If the true owner turns up to claim the item it is their’s, but until this time the finder has better title to the item than anyone else.

But what happens if you are visiting a house and you find a bracelet in the garden? It is not the occupier’s bracelet so who has better rights to it – you or the occupier? This is essentially what happened in the Parker case, Parker v British Airways Board [1982] 1 QB 1004. A gold bracelet was found in the British Airways lounge at an airport. Parker handed the bracelet in with the instructions that it was to be kept for himself if the true owner did not claim it. BA waited for a while and then, when it wasn’t claimed, they sold it and kept the money. Parker sued.

In this matter it was ruled that a finder has greater rights than the occupier unless the occupier has a right to control, and manifests an intention to exercise control over, the building and the things in it. (Otherwise someone finding money in a bank vault could claim it!). BA had control over this lounge. They controlled who could come in. But it was held that this amount of control was not enough to show manifest intention to control as it was a semi public place.

The other case I was thinking of actually involved the National Crime Authority and not the AFP, see Chairman, National Crime Authority v Flack (1998) 86 FCR 16. In this case a large sum of cash ($433,000) was found in the cupboard of a residential premises during a search warrant. The occupier of the premises didn’t know the cash was there. Did she have better title to the cash than the NCA?

Unlike in Parker, the goods here were found in a private residence. It was ruled that an occupier has an intention to control the premises and all goods therein. Access is restricted and not just anyone can go in and out. This is a rebuttable presumption too. So an occupier of a residence has greater rights than a finder even when they do not know of the existence of the goods in the premises – as long as it isn’t proven that they had no intention of not controlling the premises.
The NCA did not charge Flack or her son who they were investigating for alleged drug offences. So Flack asked for the money back arguing that she had possessory title. The NCA was ordered to give it back.