Disputes about ownership of second-hand goods

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Claims to ownership

Disputes about ownership of second-hand goods may be settled by the Magistrates’ Court of Victoria.

A person claiming to be entitled to possession of second-hand goods or pawned goods that are in the possession, or under the control, of a second-hand dealer or pawnbroker can apply to the Magistrates' Court of Victoria for an order for delivery of the goods.

They can apply without giving notice to any other person and must provide supporting evidence to the court on oath or by affidavit. This could include proof of burglary or theft, such as a police report.

Second-hand dealers must hold goods for at least seven days in the form in which they were received, before they can offer to sell or otherwise dispose of them. However, pawnbrokers often keep goods for longer as part of the pawn contract – they must wait until the last repayment is due before they can offer it for sale.

A person who has sold or pawned goods to a second-hand dealer or pawnbroker cannot buy back or redeem the goods before the expiration of the seven-day period.

Court process for handling applications

If satisfied by the supporting evidence, a Registrar of the Magistrates' Court may make orders directing the second-hand dealer or pawnbroker to:

  • deliver the goods to the applicant, and  
  • refrain from altering the form of the goods and from disposing of them in any way contrary to the order.

The Registrar's orders will lapse six months after they were made or when the court makes an order on the case, whichever comes first.

Objecting to a court order for delivery

The second-hand dealer or pawnbroker may lodge an objection within 21 days of receiving notice of the order. If an objection is lodged, the Registrar’s order lapses and the matter goes to a magistrate for hearing.

The court may:

  • direct the second-hand dealer or pawnbroker to deliver the goods to the applicant, or  
  • direct the second-hand dealer or pawnbroker to pay the applicant the value of the goods as assessed by the court, or
  • dismiss the matter and rescind the Registrar’s order.

Police notices banning alteration or disposal

If a police officer reasonably believes that goods in the possession or under the control of a second-hand dealer or pawnbroker may have been stolen, the officer can serve a notice on the dealer under Section 26 of the Second-Hand Dealer and Pawnbrokers Act 1989.

This notice bans the second-hand dealer or pawnbroker from altering the form of, or disposing of, specified goods in any way for 21 days from the service of the notice. The notice can be reissued once, for a further 21 days.

It is an offence not to comply with a notice under section 26, punishable by a maximum fine of 20 penalty units.

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