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View Poll Results: Taking personal items off the curb from an eviction is...
perfectly fine. It's on the curb! 0 0%
a gray area, but somebody is going to do it, so it might as well be me. 1 10.00%
a gray area, and I would steer clear of it. 2 20.00%
always wrong, and I would never do it. 7 70.00%
Voters: 10. You may not vote on this poll

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Old 04-21-2015, 01:20 PM   #1
glatt
 
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Ethics of eviction personal property grab

I went for a walk today and a high end downtown apartment was clearly being cleaned out in an eviction. Lots of very nice expensive stuff was being left on the curb by low paid sweaty workers. This is during the work day, so the tenant is clearly not home to try to save the stuff.

What are the ethics of taking the stuff off the curb? Assume for the sake of argument that some of it is pretty valuable and desirable and portable. Think nice shiny clean musical instruments.

I was tempted, but partly I was on auto-pilot to keep walking, and also there were people standing around watching, and then there's the idea that you are taking part in kicking someone while they are down. Can I live with myself doing that? Can I enjoy the stuff if I take it?

On the other hand, when I walk by there in a couple hours after work, all the expensive stuff will clearly be gone and only the large furniture and crap will remain. If I don't take it, someone else will.
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Old 04-21-2015, 01:27 PM   #2
regular.joe
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You have to ask what the ethics are? Unless you mean to pick the stuff up for the guy or gal and make sure they make it back to them unharmed.
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Old 04-21-2015, 01:40 PM   #3
Undertoad
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I believe the law says once your trash is at the curb it is fair game.

I believe the beef is between the tenant and the landlord, and the tenant can take legal action if the landlord has unfairly evicted them.

(But how can the tenant prove damages if you don't take their stuff? Go git it!)
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Old 04-21-2015, 02:35 PM   #4
Lamplighter
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If it were your stuff at the curb, and someone took it ...

If you took it, and left a note where the person could get back...

The choice seems pretty simple to me.
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Old 04-21-2015, 02:54 PM   #5
glatt
 
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My own take on it is that it is both legal and ethical, but not moral.

I agree with what UT wrote. It's on the curb. It is legally trash. The tenant has a beef with the landlord, and has presumably been properly notified that they are in arrears, and that they risk eviction, and yet they did nothing to prevent this. The ethics are all clear. The rules have been followed. Everyone had their eyes open. No trickery. Everything is ethical.

However, it feels wrong to me. Which is where the morals come in.

But there are scenarios where it wouldn't feel wrong to me. Like if the stuff was there for a couple of days, I'd feel just fine taking it. So already, my morals only go so far. The question is, where do I draw the line for myself?

It's on the curb...
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Old 04-21-2015, 03:10 PM   #6
Undertoad
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What's odd is that the workers aren't setting anything aside for their own selves, but maybe they have some other requirement. If I was doing a clean-out and there was something of value that I wasn't allowed to take, I'd be sure to call my friends and tell them that there is a shiny new trumpet worth $500 at the curb of 22nd and Main.

So maybe the most moral answer is to take everything possible and contact the loser and give them an opportunity to buy back their stuff from you, at a huge discount but enough for your troubles, if it has sentimental value. Otherwise, you did want to put up more eBay auctions.
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Old 04-21-2015, 03:14 PM   #7
Gravdigr
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It's stealing.

That it's Glatt, of all people, asking this question is a little disappointing.

Unless the tenant's stuff was put on the curb, as trash, by the tenant, taking it would be stealing.

If your kid left his bike by the curb, and it disappeared, you'd say "Someone stole my kid's bike.", and you'd be right in saying so.

Eviction workers putting the tenant's stuff by the curb doesn't make it trash. It makes it some unfortunate bastard's stuff by the curb.

Ain't legal. Ain't ethical. Ain't moral. Ain't cool.

I wouldn't do it, and I (used to) consider my ethics to be a damn sight slacker than Glatt's.

Shame on you for thinking about stealing this person's stuff.
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Old 04-21-2015, 03:15 PM   #8
Undertoad
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I should add that I left a lot of stuff in my shithole rental and at some point they are going to remove it all and put it in a dumpster. Legally it's not mine anymore (and thank goodness) since I left it in someone else's house. I do not care if someone comes along and gets my old garden hose and moldy wooden wine rack. It was a great help to abandon some of that shit. They stole my money and the least I could do is leave them with chores. And if someone comes along and gets that stuff, great, it doesn't become landfill material.

Perhaps the (well-off) evicted tenant feels that way about their trumpet. It's shiny and nice, but they can't play it, so fuck it.
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Old 04-21-2015, 03:16 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Undertoad View Post
What's odd is that the workers aren't setting anything aside for their own selves,
The endangered Honest American, perhaps?
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Old 04-21-2015, 03:37 PM   #10
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I don't think there is anything wrong with thinking about things. It's an intellectual exercise.

The more I think about it, it's the time frame that matters to me. I'm assuming the tenant doesn't know their stuff is on the curb. And that's why I think it's not moral to take it yet. But once the tenant is aware of what is going on and has had a chance to fix it, anything left over is trash at that point.

But I'm convinced that it's both legal and ethical. I'm certain that the rules were followed. The labdlord opens themselves up to too much liability if they didn't follow the rules. They wouldn't do that.

So I'd feel fine taking anything left tomorrow morning. But there won't be anything left then.

I'm leaving now and we'll see what's left of the pile. I walked by mid-clean out, so more may have come out after I walked by.
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Old 04-21-2015, 03:40 PM   #11
Gravdigr
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Quote:
Originally Posted by glatt View Post
...The labdlord...
See, now, you didn't say it was a lab.

Stuff's probably contaminated.

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Old 04-21-2015, 03:43 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by glatt View Post
...

... It's on the curb. It is legally trash. The tenant has a beef with the landlord, and has presumably been properly notified that they are in arrears, and that they risk eviction, and yet they did nothing to prevent this. The ethics are all clear. The rules have been followed. Everyone had their eyes open. No trickery. Everything is ethical..
I disagree...

"It's on the curb" - True enough
For all the rest, it's an assumption.

If it's a legal eviction, it would be under the direction and authority of the Sheriff,
or whoever is the legal authority, to remove the contents
acting under the orders of a court.
Such a removal could not be declared as trash by the Sheriff.
For someone to take it from the curb, just might be seen as stealing.

How do we know it's not just a emotional Landlord waiting for the tenant to be at work, and hiring laborers to do his dirty work ?
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Old 04-21-2015, 03:51 PM   #13
glatt
 
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Well. There were two unhappy looking dudes loading the stuff into a rental truck. It was mostly full. They were well dressed.
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Old 04-21-2015, 03:57 PM   #14
DanaC
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Quote:
Originally Posted by glatt View Post

But I'm convinced that it's both legal and ethical. I'm certain that the rules were followed. The labdlord opens themselves up to too much liability if they didn't follow the rules. They wouldn't do that.
.
You have no way to know that, though. In this specific instance, given the high value housing, it is likely (since they are being evicted this is only a likelihood) that they have the resources to seek legal redress had the landlord not followed the rules. In general terms, tenants who are being evicted are often the least resourced to defend their rights - if not generally then at least during whatever crisis may have precipitated eviction.

Personally, unless the owner of the goods has voluntarily and knowingly left them for others to pick through and take - I would want no part of it. I don't care if something I wanted but could not afford sprouted magically from the pavement in front of me - if it's potentially the worldly goods of some poor bastard who is probably having the worst week of his life and desperately trying to sort out storage and board at short notice, count me out.
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Old 04-21-2015, 03:58 PM   #15
footfootfoot
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Evictions don't happen overnight. They've known for a long time this was coming.

I agree with Grav on this and I also would ask myself would I get more enjoyment out of a thing from the curb if I could say "this was trash" than if I said "Some dude got evicted and I snagged this off the curb."
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