Contractor Claims $2.7 Million Found In Homeowner's Walls

A Cleveland contractor found what amounted to a $2.7 million fortune in the walls of a house he was renovating. The homeowner offered him 10%, but he wants to keep it all, his lawyers enacting a centuries old “treasure trove” common law provision. Steel boxes contained rare 1929-series Cleveland Federal Reserve bank notes, worth about $85 each, $500 bills and a $1,000 bill. Tipster Zakarth quipped, “If the contractor had found a poison leak would he take ownership of that?” What do you think?

Who gets the fortune found in house walls? [Chron] (Thanks to Zakarth!)


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  1. Rusted says:

    It’s lawyer time! My bet is on the owner of the house.

  2. Bos'un's Mate says:

    I hear that Scott Boras is representing the contractor.

  3. jjbelsky says:

    This article provides some information on this kind of thing:

  4. nyyankees says:

    Tipster Zakarth quipped, “If the contractor had found a poison leak would he take ownership of that?” What do you think?

    Yeah really.. would the contractor sued if he found a poison leak and got sick? Prob..

    Homeowner was nice enough to offer the 10%

  5. UCLAJason says:

    The article brings out some important. This is not a slam dunk legally. Courts have been trending towards overturning trove common law. Further, whatever the trial court decides will likely be appealed.

  6. godai says:

    One might even refer to the 10% as a fee of some kind…. perhaps a Finder’s Fee?

  7. forgottenpassword says:

    One thing I have leaned metal detecting yards…. is that one should expect that the owner will snatch up ANYTHING you find, keep it for themselves, smile & tell you to get off their property. That’s why I carry around some simple silver coins to show the owner instead of what I REALLY found (I dont usually find anything valuable…but I have an attachment to the items I find, while the owner just sees dollar signs).

    IF I were the contractor… I would have kept my discovery a secret, removed it (so I could quickly assess the loot in private), return half of it, THEN inform the homeowner.

    IMO a “finder’s fee” is BS!… at the very least he should get one-third of the loot… if not half!

  8. Buran says:

    @Rusted: I’d think so too. If it was in the house when the house was sold to me, it’s mine. If you wanted to keep it you should have removed it first.

  9. stanfrombrooklyn says:

    I assume you have permission to go around with your metal detector and dig up someone’s yard. If not, then you might find some unintentional metal – buckshot in your ass.

  10. Buran says:

    @forgottenpassword: Of course I would. If it’s in my yard and you didn’t accidentally drop it, it’s in MY yard for a reason.

    Now get off my lawn!

  11. Buran says:

    @stanfrombrooklyn: No kidding. And he’s admitting he’d steal things from houses that aren’t his, for financial gain. This joker needs to be on the wrong side of a lawsuit himself. Or, forget lawsuit, I’ll have the state prosecute, and someone who tries that on me will face cold hard time.

  12. Pylon83 says:

    The difference between treasure trove law and regular finders law is somewhat vague. In regular finders law, the owner of the locus in quo (the home/property, etc) has constructive possession of everything on/in it. That makes it all theirs. However, “treasure trove” applies when the “found” item was specifically hidden away on the property and the owner has no reason to know it is there. It wasn’t “lost” or “misplaced”, but hidden. In those cases, the finder has rights to the property. It does seem pretty obscure, and personally I think it should be abolished in favor of giving the owner of the locus in quo possession.

  13. TehRev says:

    I’m with Buran 100% on this as well as the metal detector guy.

  14. forgottenpassword says:

    In addition… when this news story first came out days ago…. it was reported that it was decided on the spot that the loot would be shared, but when the homeowner found out the tremenous value of it…. the owner changed her mind & only offered a finder’s fee (10%).

    Of course… could just be hearsay…. but that’s what was reported at the time.

    Some advice when finding ANYTHING of tremendous value…. is to keep it quiet & tell noone, because there may be people coming out of the woodwork to try to take it away from you (legally or not) …. in cluding city/county/state/federal entities.

    Silence is golden!

  15. BigBoat says:

    I doubt he’ll get a penny. On close calls legally, which I don’t even think this is, the judge is going to go in favor of public policy and public interest. Do you think any court wants to set the precedent of contracts being able to keep what they “dig up” through “necessary duty”? They might settle, but if it goes to a trial his chances are very slim.

  16. JPropaganda says:

    @BigBoat: Technically, the public policy is to award the loot to the contractor, as per @Pylon83‘s explanation.

  17. SkyeBlue says:

    If the property, as in the house itself, did not belong to the contactor when he was renovating it then I don’t see how he is able to try and keep the money. If the homeowner had accidently left her wedding ring laying on the windowsill of the kitchen, and the contractor found it would that mean he would get to keep it, if she had left a car stored in the garage of the home and he took it would that mean he had a right to just take it and say it was his?

    Just because you find something does that mean you have a right to keep it? Would you legally be able to keep a bag of money that fell out of the back of an armored truck?

    To me his arguement that he should be able to keep the money makes no sense.

    She needs to turn the tables on him and charge HIM with theft!

  18. selianth says:

    This article explains quite a bit about the “treasure trove” rule and how it was in actuality only applied a few times between 1904 and 1948, and has since been mostly disregarded in favor of the “mislaid property” rule.

  19. JiminyChristmas says:

    It doesn’t make a lot of sense to me that one can “find” something in someone’s house and not have that item belong to the owner of the house.

    One thing that would be interesting to know is whether the homeowner and contractor had a written contract in place and, if so, what it says. Construction contracts often address the issue of salvage and who it belongs to. Usually, this applies to things like scrap metal but perhaps it would apply in this case.

  20. Pylon83 says:

    There is no “precedent” to set. The precedent was set YEARS and YEARS ago when this doctrine was developed. The real question is whether the judge will decided to take this occasion to overturn it. As the law stands now, the loot goes to the contractor. Either way, based on the amount of money, it will go to trial, and appeal, and maybe another appeal.

  21. forgottenpassword says:


    of course permission is obtained, however some owners will take everything you’ve found & tell you to piss off. Some owners will literally follow you around the yard & practiclly POUNCE on anything you dig up. You see… they think that every silver coin or item found is very valuable when in fact most coins found are worth less than a buck or two. And gold is EXTREMELY hard to find (because it registers the same as a lot of metal trash items) so most dont bother looking for it (unless they are on the beach).

    Also… metal detecting often requires a certain amount of skill. Sure, beginners can find things right off the bat, but finding EVERYTHING is often hard because of electrical interference (from power lines), the masking effect of trash metal items, shitty mineralized ground that the detector finds hard to read through, deep & barely detectable objects…. etc. etc.. If the OWNER rented a metal detector….. odds are he wouldnt be able to find much of anything & give up.

    When it is mentioned that the person who’s yard I am detecting says they lost a ring in that yard…. the owner always gets the ring… I will often try to find it for them, but if they are simple coins that have been lost in the yard upwards of 50+ years ago…. I get those! They are only worth something to me (I dont cash in or sell my finds … I dont do it for the $$$)… the owner just sees what they think are valuable coins (when they are almost always NOT).

    My point is that most items found in a person’s yard are not valuable ,but are worth more to me than they are to an owner.

  22. Pylon83 says:

    It’s an entirely different concept from the one which you have described. The “Treasure Trove” rule applies only to things that were hidden on the property/ in the home by a previous owner/possessor, not to things that were lost there, or mislaid, or simply placed on a table. You’re confusing the issue. I will admit it is a bit of a complex law, though.

  23. iamme99 says:

    Since the original owner left no heirs and the current house owned came into the treasure trove merely through possession of the house and further that she would never have known about the treasure if the contractor wasn’t remodeling, it would seem that fairest settlement would be for each to get 50%.

    But greed knows no bounds.

  24. MeOhMy says:

    @selianth: That’s a really interesting article espeically the part that says that the original application of this “Treasure Trove” notion was erroneous!

  25. Pylon83 says:

    Just because they are more valuable to you than the owner doesn’t mean you get to keep them. Even if you are on the property with permission, if you find property that was lost or mislaid, and that does not constitute a “Treasure trove”, you have no rights to it.

  26. specialed5000 says:

    Am I the only one who noticed that the money is not worth $2.7 million, and the original post and headline say? The face value of the bills is $182,000, their appraised value to collectors is $500,000. The $2.7 million number is used to illustrate what their face value would be in today’s inflated dollars. Hiding $182,000 in the 1930s would be equivalent to hiding $2.7 million today. The original poster mis-read the article.

  27. amed01 says:

    These guys will argue over & over about it in court until all of the money found has to be spent on lawyers and court costs!

  28. Me - now with more humidity says:

    Sounds like the contractor is no more than a common thief. If he took money off the dresser or from an envelope in the kitchen cabinet, it’s stealing. This is no different. He should take his 10 percent and be glad he’s not facing a countersuit for being a greedy, ignorant jackass.

  29. num1skeptic says:

    the contractor should have just taken the %10. if he loses in court, he may not get anything.

  30. just_paranoid says:

    i collect old bills and coins and if it were me, he would have got nothing, as i held on to it for my collection. (i know call me a hoard.) but to me its an investment, the value of those bills will only increase in time.

  31. MercuryPDX says:

    I’m betting on the owner on this one. The only way the contractor would have gotten it all would be by not mentioning it.

  32. Kos says:

    Here’s a good news article on the subject: []

  33. forgottenpassword says:


    We are talking about simple coins lost in a yard 50+ years ago…. not some long lost cache of civil war gold coins. If I spent the time, effort & the expertise it took to find a few silver coins…. I think I should be able to keep them for the most part. Or at the very least most of them. SURE! the owner probably has the technically legal right to take everything I worked to find & then tell me to get the fuck off his property, but is it fair? Lets be reaslistic here. The law is supposed to be fair & just, but a lot of times it isnt.

    Now if I DID find a cache of civil war era gold coins…. I would take half then report the rest to the landowner. I wouldnt take it all. I think that would be fair. Hell!, even in england (where REAL treasure is found every year in fields by metal detectorists)…. the government divvies the value up between landowner & finder and if a museum doesnt want to buy it & pay you, then you get to split up & keep your portion of the actual treasure. The landowner doesnt get it all.

  34. huadpe says:

    @Pylon83: That depends. If they had established a prior contract of some type (which since he has permission is logical) then that contract overrides. If I agree to give you all the non-rings in exchange for searching for rings, I can’t change my mind after the fact when you find a 1933 gold double eagle.

  35. forgottenpassword says:

    Just want to point out that the need for fair laws regarding the finding of treasure is so that people wont find it & keep it a secret in fear of it being taken away from them. If you werent assured that you would get your fair share by law… then you would keep it & not report it. By having fair laws…. you are more likely to report it. And it could have historical value. I remember several stories about the state of florida wanting ALL of the shipwrek treasure found off its coasts that others have worked hard to find for many years.

    In this country (USA) the laws are hardly fair to the finder…. its the complete opposite in england.

    Believe me… if the laws were more fair here, I wouldnt advocate keeping a found treasure & not reporting it. Like I said before…. if you find treasure in the US… people/government entities will attempt to take it from you… so with the current laws…. keep silent.

  36. m4ximusprim3 says:

    @amed01: Agreed- as soon as it became a legal fight, I would have taken the 10% and run. The actual 500K current value of the stash will fund the initial judgement and maybe one appeal, Take your 50k, make a big payment on your ARM, and stop paying lawyers.

  37. UCLAJason says:

    Everyone would be smart to listen to Pylon83 for he knows what he is talking about.
    @huadpe: you are right though most modern construction contracts don’t stipulate about treasure.

  38. econobiker says:

    I think it also depends on whether the contractor got the smart idea of actually pricing the bills as antiques/collectables and not just on face value of the money. If the owner just wanted to cash in the money for face value then the contractor should protest and get above the face value in the sale. If the owner wanted the antique value and the contractor wanted face value then give him a percentage as finder fee.

    All in all they both are up the creek as the lawyers will profit from their battle and government will get a chunk of any proceeds from the antique/collectable value of the bills.

  39. reasonsnotrules says:

    @num1skeptic: But when he wins it all in court….Contract law says it is his….

  40. IrisMR says:

    If it was on that guy’s property, then it is his money and not the contractor’s.

  41. Pylon83 says:

    Your comment makes no sense. When he wins it all in court contract law says it is all his? Contract law is likely not at issue here. This is property law.

  42. Pylon83 says:

    Have you read the article or any of the comments? According to the common law, it belongs to the contractor.

  43. forever_knight says:

    if the contractor has any legal claim to this money, i am convinced the law is fucked up.

  44. forever_knight says:

    also, there are a lot of would-be thieves in this thread!

  45. Libertariot says:

    “It’s a thorny legal issue all right. I’ll need to
    refer to the case of Finders v. Keepers.”

  46. Pylon83 says:

    I do agree. I hope the judge takes the occasion to overturn the law.

  47. erratapage says:

    I can’t believe it. I’m agreeing with Pylon83!

  48. Fait Accompli says:

    @forgottenpassword: I can’t explain it, but you sort of creep me out.

  49. cde says:

    The entire thing is that if it wasn’t for the contractor, the owner would NEVER have known the property was there. That’s the difference. The owner never had possession of the money. He didn’t know it existed.

  50. Curiosity says:

    Might be interesting if the court found that the contractor was an agent of the homeowner … (Independent Contractors can be agents in some situations). I wonder what duties he would have hmmm… I’ll take a look.

  51. warf0x0r says:

    Lets as Nicky Cage and National Treasure 3: Hunt for stuff in walls.

    Sad news is, the screenplay was just optioned.

  52. SkyeBlue says:

    I hope she fights him in court until his lawyer fees equal more than the actual money, THEN if he wins the case and gets the money I hope the IRS goes after him for their share of ALL and by the time it is all said done the guy ends up HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS OF DOLLARS IN DEBT!

  53. squikysquiken says:

    The way I see it should be, the homeowner gets the money because there is no difference between her tearing the wall herself, and paying something to tear this wall. The contractor was paid for his services which he delivered.

  54. ceejeemcbeegee is not here says:

    I don’t know…

    If I were the contractor, I’d be happy with 10%. ‘Cuz 10% of zero is always zero.

    If I were the homeowner, I’d probably split it 50/50. I don’t get people’s greed these days. Half of 2.7 mil is 1.35 mil I didn’t have before, so I’d be thankful to the contractor and split it evenly. After a long lawsuit and lawyers fees, I’d probably get much, much less than the original 1.35 mil.

  55. ShadowFalls says:

    You don’t go around people’s lawns looking for money and expect people to be your friend, especially if you start to dig.

    In this case here, it is her house, it was found in her house. Whether it was in a candy dish or in her walls it was still her property.

    Now she was willing to give him a little bit as a personal reward for his honesty. He felt it was not enough and there we go court case begins.

    This thing went way too far because someone got greedy, nothing more to it. Not knowing it was there doesn’t make it not your property. If a person doesn’t know that there is copper in their A/C unit, (they do naturally) it doesn’t give you the right to plunder it.

    If I don’t know there is hidden treasures buried 1 foot down on my lawn, does not give you the right to go around digging stuff up. It does give me the right to call the police and have you arrested though.

  56. ShadowFalls says:


    What was found was not worth that much, it would have been what it equaled to today based on inflation. It is really only worth $182,000 as it is their face value. Anything more they could get would be whatever a collector decides to pay for it.

  57. floydianslip6 says:

    Dude the question here REALLY is:

    Who touched it last?

  58. crypticgeek says:

    The discussion of treasure trove law aside, I think the home owner should have rights to everything. The contractor was specifically there as a well…contractor for the homeowner. Meaning, he was acting as an agent for the homeowner. I think the INTENT of the law (well atleast how I feel the intent should be) is to allow people who happen to be on someone else’s property treasure hunting to keep what they find if it’s specifically been hidden there by someone other than the property owner.

  59. ceejeemcbeegee is not here says:

    @ShadowFalls: Still… found money is a gift, not a right, IMHO. The fact that the owner is offering a 10% “thank you” should be enough. But greed has set in and now both parties will probably end up with close to nothing.

  60. Pylon83 says:

    The thing is, as of right now, the contractor has more rights than the homeowner. The court will have to overturn, or ignore, the common law in order to award it to the homeowner. Typically, the homeowner is considered to be in “constructive” possession of anything in their home or on their property. This means that while they don’t have actual possession, because they don’t know it is there, the law considers them to be in possession nonetheless. This is an old law, but it is still the law. The judge would be well within his powers to give everything to the contractor.

  61. cde says:

    Personally, when it comes to treasure on private property (treasure being anything a previous owner left on the property, hidden, without telling the next owner, and that next owner telling the next, etc) should be split 50/50 as a matter of law.

    The treasure trove concept should apply as is to treasure on public/government land. Embedded treasure should be modified to unintentionally embedded treasure (shipwreaks, money that fell and is now in the ground.)

    Buried treasure intentionally placed there is easy to show. In a chest? Buried intentionally. Four or Five coins in a ditch? Unintentional.

  62. forgottenpassword says:


    Are you making the assumption that I just tresspass on people’s lawn & start digging with a shovel? If you knew anything about the hobby…. you’d know that we take great care in when detecting & digging in people’s lawns …. this includes the use of thin probes (to probe for objects) & making a small hole (the size of a quarter) to the use of a hand-trowel to make trapdoor “plugs” so that the grass/lawn is not damaged. There are special techniques that are used. And most object are found within 5 inches of the surface… we dont dig to china.
    ANd it isnt the lure of “money”/profit that most detectorists seek (except the beach detectorists). It is more along th lines of the thrill of the discovery, the fun of the search & the end result… the “trophy”. (Note: I hate to use the word trophy, but it the closest word i could use to describe it). And “money” isnt the only thing we look to find… old household artifacts like watchfobs, thimbles, marbles, unusual keys/locks, silverware etc. etc…. are sought also. Some of my favorite finds have practically no monetary value. Hell! I’d pay for the true value of the things I find, but most homeowners see a silver coin & automatically think its worth way more than it is & if you offer to pay its true value… you are looked at as trying to buy it for a song!

  63. Buran says:

    @cde: Um… it’s on his property, he has a deed to that property. I have all sorts of stuff that once belonged to family that I don’t know about specifically but it’s still mine. (family house)

  64. forgottenpassword says:


    forgot to mention that we get the owner’s permission to detect the property.

    In fact… its common practice to offer to find a lost ring in a person’s yard if we are allowed to keep everything else Or permission to detect another property that has more potential (old property that has a lot of activity on it thoughout the years). And most detectorists will return any item that can be traced to an owner. Its fun & we love to tell stories of returning lost items. A perfect example… class rings. Class rings can be traced back to the owner & returned. And sometimes…the owner will flippantly say thanks & slam the door in your face, or accuse you of stealing it because they think you want a reward. We dont want a reward, just a appreciative “Thank you”… or at MOST a decent yard or property to detect on if possible…. if big deal.

  65. mac-phisto says:

    so they agreed to split it, greed got the best of them & with the amount of time the lawyers will bank sorting this out, they’ll each end up with enough to buy a pez dispenser.

    if it was me, 50/50 & call it a day (but if i was the homeowner, i’d want the contractor to finish the work free considering he just made $1.4 million by ripping out some walls).

  66. nealb says:

    @forgottenpassword: It’s one thing to have prior permission to both hunt on the land AND keep everything you find, but you have repeatedly stated you feel justified keeping half and reporting the other half or even keeping everything and not reporting it, because you feel laws should be more “fair” (in your opinion) toward the “detectorist.” Just because you disagree with a law, doesn’t make your conflicting actions any more legal. You sound quite comfortable with blatent burglary.

  67. BigBoat says:

    @Pylon83: I disagree. It may qualify as treasure trove, but some jurisdictions only look at metal as treasure, not currency(some do both). And the doctrine is hardly universal. If it’s not trove, then someone hired onto your property to do work that finds -hidden- valuables is, in fact, not allowed to keep it.

  68. Dustin says:

    Although it’s a substantial amount it isn’t, unfortunately as the headline implies $2.7 million. That’s adjusted for inflation–and I don’t think you get interest on money in your walls.

  69. spookyooky says:

    Unless the contractor’s name is Indiana Jones and he had to run from a giant boulder to bring the “treasure” out. I don’t see how he should get to keep it. He was hired to fix the joint search for the damn holy grail.

    In truth though, the only people who found anything of value here are the lawyers. They found two suckers who can’t agree and will now piss away the money in court. It’d be cheaper just to seal the money back up into the wall.

  70. Haplo9000 says:

    @Fait Accompli: What is this “sort of”? Forgottenpassword TOTALLY creeps me out…makes me wanna put a fence up around my house and get video cameras installed.

  71. sly100100 says:

    @forgottenpassword: The more I read your comments the more it sounds like you are trying to justify your methods. I have been a metal detectorist for a few years and I have never once “replaced” a found item with a coin or other object.

    I get permission from the land owner and make an agreement about any possible finds and then at the end of my hunt we sit down and go over the items found. We follow the agreement every time. I have never had anyone not follow an agreement set up prior to me hunting.

    Sounds like you need to plan your hunts a bit better and be a bit more honest.

    As for the contractor it is all about greed. I agree with most people if the “treasure” was found on her property whether she knew of it’s existence it is still her property. And that in my book makes him nothing more than a common thief. He should have accepted the %10 finders fee and walked away an honest man.
    I can’t imagine who would hire him to work on there property after this as I am sure most people would be afraid to leave him alone for 5 seconds for fear he would claim the jewelry or cash as a “treasure”!

  72. Grrrrrrr, now with two buns made of bacon. says:

    Of course the owner of the house should get the money.

    What on earth does the contractor think entitles him to something he found in the walls of somebody else’s house???


  73. forgottenpassword says:


    well, you are correct. However there is often a difference between “Legal” & “fair”.

    But what often happens with a verbal agreement (just like in this case)…. the greed of the owner gets the best of them & then all bets are off when something of real value (or something they THINK is of real value) is found. And trying to get a property owner to sign ANYTHING when asking to detect their property is prettymuch pointless. Remember… we are the ones who have had experience dealing with double-crossing propertyowners. We have even been threatened with false tresspassing & property damage complaints unless we completely agree when the owner desides to reneg & keep everything. There is an general understanding that I am not detecting the property jsut so I can give all I find to the propertyowner. I also never said I would keep everything. I said that if you found something extremely valuable (I meant on your own property)… to keep silent about it… because people/government entities would want to take it away from you. I was not talking about something valuable found on someone else’s property. Perhaps I have given the impression that we detectorists find gold dubloons & jewels while out detecting someone’s yard. If we are VERY lucky we will find 3-6 old coins tops (which are typically valued at a couple of bucks). If I find once silver coin or an indianhead penny in a yard…. that is a good day for me. Most of the time you find nothing that you are wanting to find. I also said that I will on occassion substitute what i find if I believe the owner will take it all. I am talking about one mercury dime for another mercury dime (sometimes more)…. the difference is that the coin I found has a non-monetary value to me & the one I offer up doesnt. I guess that is dishonest, but not by much because the same monetary value is given (sometimes more) when I substitute. If I find a dime… I would show one or two in its place when showing the owner.

    And I still stand by my stance on keeping half a extremely valuable cache & then reporting the rest to the property owner…. because we have had experience with greedy property owners & with human nature & know what WILL happen. Anytime valuables (or what someone THINKS is valuable) are involved…. people get greedy. If I took the WHOLE cache & never reported any of it to the homeowner…. that would DEFINATELY be wrong. I only want half.

    Regarding the original article… IMO a 50/50 split of a valuable unknown cache is reasonable. No one party should get to keep it all. The property owner would have never known about it had it not been found by the contractor. If you make the laws to where the contractor/finder would get nothing… then they will take it all in the future & never report it to anyone (like it said in the article,,,, it is a contractor’s dream to find a cache). Its in the interest of all parties to make sure they are rewarded for doing the right thing.

  74. freshyill says:

    I really hope this asshole thinks he can retire on $2.7 million, because if he wins it, nobody’s ever going to hire him again.

  75. FromThisSoil says:

    To me it’s pretty cut and dry…if I own the house, I own everything in and within it. Regardless of who finds it.

    If I let you in my house and you find a $100 bill under the couch, do you take ownership of it? I think not.

  76. forgottenpassword says:


    Well, could be I AM attempting to justify my methods. If after 10 years metal detecting & being screwed out of finds I worked hard for…. maybe you would feel the same? Get back to me after you spend 4 hours in the hot sun, poking & prodding for every find to only find a bunch of trash & a single seated or baber dime (the one you’d been hoping to find for years)…. to only have it snatched away by some smirking landowner who will probably throw it in a drawer somewhere after he finds out how much it is REALLY worth. Wait till it happens more often…. your stance may change.

  77. BrianH says:

    I hope the contractor knows a good dentist & orthopaedic surgeon. Because he’ll need them after a thick guy named Vinny comes over and knocks his teeth out & breaks both his kneecaps.

    I’m just sayin’.

  78. IrisMR says:

    @Pylon83: I did read and if the contractor has a legal claim on the money thanks to the law, the law needs to be changed because it is unfair and ridiculous.

  79. BigBoat says:

    @forgottenpassword: Hey guess what. If you can’t do your job without breaking the law, find a new job.

    This post applies to debt-collectors as well.

  80. nealb says:

    Just because you worked hard for something doesn’t mean you’re legally entitled to it. If you work your ass off detecting a 10-acre lot, find $10 worth of coins, and pocket them, sure you’re getting “paid” a terrible “salary” and would probably feel like you’re somehow entitled to it; but that doesn’t make it any more yours if the law says what is on someone’s property is their own. You might feel even more warm and fuzzy by giving the owner $5 worth of the coins. If keeping $10 is stealing, then so is keeping $5. But you’re right that there’s definitely a difference between “fair” and “legal” in many cases. You can keep justifying all you want, but that will never make keeping someone else’s stuff for your own more legal, ever.

    In addition, your Mercury dime for a real dime switch doesn’t cut it either. Many people are coin collectors and find as much satisfaction out of a Mercury dime as you would. Either way, even a newly minted coin often has differing collectors and face values. You can’t assume the collector’s value matters to yourself and only the face value matters to the rightful owner.

  81. MrEvil says:

    I would say that the spirit of the treasure trove law was to protect finds of archaeological significance unearthed by….OMIGOSH….ARCHAEOLOGISTS! Or people that are wanting to search a property for the sole purpose of finding something of intrinsic or even real value.

    The contractor was not there for EITHER purpose. He was not there to look for treasure, or dig up artifacts, the contractor was there to remodel the homeowner’s house.

  82. reasonsnotrules says:

    @Pylon83: He was contracted to do a job for the homeowner, he finds money while doing his job. Money is his. That’s what contract law pretty much sums up. Before you open your mouth about something you don’t know why don’t you research it.


    Ties directly into contract law. He was contracted to do work, he found said objects while doing nothing outside his normal scope of work. If he was working on a separate part of the house and accidentally put a hole in the wall on the other side, then it is not his and that is where contract law comes into play. In this case it is considered treasure trove or abandoned property, either way it belongs to the finder. In this case the finder had a right to be in that area working on the house and that is why it belongs to the contractor.

  83. cde says:

    @FromThisSoil: If I lose my wallet in your house, is my money yours?

    @Buran: One, family property means it has been left to you by right of it being family. And was not hidden away intentionally.

    But I bet your one of those old biddies that would keep a kid’s baseball if it got knocked into your yard….

  84. ceejeemcbeegee is not here says:

    @Pylon83: If that’s really the case, it’s a highly flawed law, and I hope this case will prompt a serious review of it.

  85. ceejeemcbeegee is not here says:

    @MrEvil: Exactly. If the contractor was there to dig a hole for the pool and he struck oil, would he then be able to claim rights to the oil? I would hope not.

  86. aikoto says:

    Why ask the question? Of course it’s the homeowner. If he had found a body, would the police be grilling him or the homeowner?

    Put another way, what if he found a rat’s nest where the rat had been gathering family memento’s for years (pack rat)? If the nest happened to have gandma’s valuable old wedding ring (which has been lost and therefore technically abandoned for 50 years), does the contractor have the right to take it then?

  87. aikoto says:

    By the way, this comes under the, “I don’t care what’s legal, but what’s right” category.

  88. forever_knight says:

    The fence contractor I hired to build me a privacy fence accidentally found buried “treasure”, that being the bones of Mittens, a cat that died 12 years ago.

    The contractor promptly went to his lawyer because I refused to give him 50% of Mittens bones, as I first indicated I would. I realized the value of said kitten bones and offered him only 10% of the skull.

    The case is pending.

  89. MeOhMy says:


    Get back to me after you spend 4 hours in the hot sun, poking & prodding for every find to only find a bunch of trash & a single seated or baber dime (the one you’d been hoping to find for years)…. to only have it snatched away by some smirking landowner who will probably throw it in a drawer somewhere after he finds out how much it is REALLY worth. Wait till it happens more often…. your stance may change.

    Here’s my stance: you should find a new hobby. Either you’re not setting down your terms clearly or you’re not enforcing them. In either case, stealing or swapping out your findings is not the correct solution.

  90. savvy999 says:

    A couple years ago, I was doing some painting work at the house of this really rich couple, and when I was moving some furniture around, under the sofa I found a copy of this videotape… I don’t think they even knew they had it!

    It was kinda hot and sweaty that day (they didn’t have the A/C on high), so I felt fairly justified in keeping it and eventually selling it, and now I sit by the pool at my own mansion and post on Consumerist all day.

    Finders keepers rocks.

  91. BStu says:

    @iamme99: Its not like the contractor was remodeling the house on their own. They were employed by the owner to remodel the house. What if he found a hidden room. An empty hidden room. Does he get the room in the middle of the house?

    The treasure trove concept is outdated at the least, and frankly I don’t see how it was ever conceived that criminal trespass should be rewarded. It flies in the face of standard property law and should not be applied here.

  92. pda_tech_guy says:

    You know what is sad? the attorneys are going to get most of that now.

  93. Morgan says:

    @Pylon83: Have you read the articles linked to in the comments? Treasure trove doesn’t apply in most jurisdictions, and even jurisdictions that once used it tend to overturn it these days. It’s more likely that the owner of the property gets to keep what was found than not.

  94. SavageATL says:

    I got my property book out of the trunk of the car to see which cases we discussed these concepts in.
    By the way, with all due respect- the first concept I learnt in law school was- the law has NOTHING to do with what “you think it should be” or what should be the case, etc. One’s personal opinion has no influence on what the law is, and even if a judge regards the law as unjust, unless she can find that the common law precedent was wrongly decided, she can’t just overturn it.
    Lost property is property which went out of the owner’s control without his/her knowledge or intent, like if you drop a bracelet on the ground somewhere. Goes to the true owner, then the finder.
    Mislaid property is property the true owner has placed somewhere with the intent to return and get, but has forgotten where he placed it. Goes to the owner of the locus in quo, here, the homeowner.
    Abandoned property is that which the true owner doesn’t want anymore and has relinquished all rights to, and goes to the finder.
    Treasure trove is coin/currency with an “air of antiquity”, having an UNKNOWN owner and in the US “more often than not goes to the finder, although some courts have awarded it to the owner of the locus in quo.”
    See Favorite v. Miller, 176 Conn. 310; Benjamin v. Lindner Aviation, 534 N.W. 2d 400; A case that is EXACTLY like this is Hurley v. City of Niagara Falls, NY, 30 A.D.2d 89- except here the property is more likely to be considered Treasure trove than mislaid, because of its antiquity and we know the true owner is dead. The two parties are likely to settle out of court, but if they do go all the way to trial- the property is likely to go to the finder. There is obviously no way in which the true owner is coming back for it so it is unlikely to be characterised as mislaid.
    Forgottenpassword: If you find something while on someone else’s land, and are trespassing, it goes to the owner of the land, see the Favorite case, especially if you have to dig for it. Might want to get a waiver or something and have the landowner sign it in case in the future you do find something valuable.

  95. mac-phisto says:


    There is obviously no way in which the true owner is coming back for it so it is unlikely to be characterised as mislaid.

    now wouldn’t it be interesting if some former property owners came out of the woodwork & laid claim. or if an heir of the former owner produced documents which bequeathed the bills in question (which couldn’t be found when the estate was settled). i would imagine that could cause the bills to be reclassified as lost or mislaid.

  96. Pylon83 says:

    Clearly you don’t understand the treasure trove concept. Unless such a situation was planned for in the contract, contract law doesn’t apply. Read SAVAGEATL’s discussion. It’s a bit more in-depth than I was willing to go, but it’s right on. This is property law, not contract law. The contract really has little to do with it, unless it speaks to such a situation. The contract would only be relevant if the property is considered mislaid, because as an employee of the homeowner, the contractor has no rights. However, as SAVAGEATL pointed out, Treasure Trove and abandoned property typically goes to the finder. Though I do want to say that abandoned property may go to the owner of the locus in quo as well. Either way, this is property law, not contract. Perhaps you should understand ALL of the concepts before opening your mouth.

  97. Pylon83 says:

    The prior property owner would have to prove they knew it was there, and forgot about it. Might be a bit tough since it was buried in the walls. Interesting idea though.

  98. jimconsumer says:

    @forgottenpassword: You, sir, astound me. You have no rights to anything you find on my property unless I allow you those rights. Admitting that you will steal half of anything you find reveals your true character – and yes, it would be THEFT for you to take half of it. Period.

    You say you have an owner’s permission to search in his yard? You’d better have him sign an agreement, in writing, that you can keep half of what you find. Otherwise, if you keep anything without his permission, whether you had permission to be on his property or not, you are, indeed, a thief, and guilty of theft, and should go to jail for such – and given your attitudes on this subject, I expect you eventually will.

  99. pyloff says:

    Retard arguments for the win…

    If the law doesn’t work for me here, surely it could work somewhere else.

  100. BugMeNot2 says:

    I’m happy everyone is arguing the whole “is it legal” thing… but it saddens me that I am apparently the only one here to RTFA…

    It clearly says they found $182,000, not $2.7million.

    The 2.7million figure comes in later (at the end of the article) when they adjust for inflation.

    My question is what is with the sensationalist, false headline? Someone obviously didn’t read the article since it says $182,000 within the first few lines, and 2.7million all the way at the end.