What do I do with unclaimed property at my business?

| January 5, 2018

Here’s another question we’ve gotten from customers:  what do I do with unclaimed property at my business? Lots of workplaces open to the public have a lost-and-found. And sometimes, when a customer leaves something, they don’t come back to get it. So what do you, a business owner, do with the property that’s been lost?

Lost Property In a Cafe

The answer will vary from state to state. But in general, you’re required to turn over the property to your local police department or the state. In Alabama, for instance, unclaimed property gets turned over to the state treasurer’s office; in California and New York, property gets turned over to the local police department. Low-value property isn’t required to be turned over; in California, the minimum value is $100; in Alabama, it’s $50.

The threshold for how long the property has to be lost to be officially “unclaimed” depends on the type of property. Under the Alabama law previously mentioned (and most unclaimed property laws), money orders, for instance, become unclaimed property five years after they were issued, while in comparison, utility deposits become abandoned one year after the deposit becomes payable.

If the state can identify who the property owner is, they’ll try to track them down, usually by posting the property on a state unclaimed property website. If the owner can’t be identified, the government will hold it for a limited amount of time before it’s sold off at public auction if there’s no way to determine who the true owner is. In California, for example, this period of time is set by local law.

Lost and Found Sign - MyDoorSign

Of course, if you want to set a policy for your property or to point your customers to your lost & found, SmartSign carries a full line of Lost & Found signs, at the lowest prices, guaranteed.

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