Critically evaluate the law on finder’s title

Critically evaluate the law on finder’s title. Determining who has the best claim to lost things found in or on land has been said to give rise to surprisingly difficult problems.

Critically evaluate the law on finder’s title
Critically evaluate the law on finder’s title. Determining who has the best claim to lost things found in or on land has been said to give rise to surprisingly difficult problems.

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Objects found on my land
A finders title
Have you ever found something on land that is not yours? A lost watch? Money? An item of clothing? There are many situations where the true owner of that item is not known or not locatable; where this occurs, other people may have a claim to that property. These include:

Firstly, the finder of the object;

Secondly, a person in occupation of the land (eg, a tenant);

Thirdly, a person with a superior right to the land (eg, a landlord);

Further, the finder’s employer.

It was established in Moffatt v Kazana (1969), that the true owner of an object has a better claim over the found property than anybody else. If the true owner cannot be found however, the question of who has the strongest claim depends on where the property was found.

Objects found in or attached to the land
This is even the case where the landowner was unaware of the object before it was found and never showed any intention to control the land.

In Waverley BC v Fletcher (1996), a gold brooch was found 9in underneath the surface of a public park. The court outlined three reasons why items found below the surface of the land should be treated differently from those found on the property:

An object in land should be treated as an integral part of that land against all but the true owner. So, if the finder of the item is to remove it from the land, they would be doing so without a license or permission and therefore become a trespasser.
Removal of an object in or attached to land would normally involve interference with the land and may damage it.
It is unlikely the true owner of the object in the ground would be there to claim the property, whereas if the item was found on the soil it is likely to have been recently lost and the true owner may return to find it.
Case law examples of objects found in or attached to the land include:

rings found in mud at the bottom of a pool (South Staffordshire Water Co v Sharman (1896));
a prehistoric boat found six feet beneath the surface (Elwes v Brigg Gas Company (1886)).

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