'I've fallen out with my neighbour who's always borrowing stuff - now he won't give my stuff back. What can I do?'

Our solicitor tackles this sensitive issue

I have one of those neighbours who always seems to need the lend of something or other. At least that was the case up until recently. Let’s just say we fell out over a separate issue recently and since then the borrowing has stopped, which is great.

The only problem is the stuff of mine which he borrowed and still has. A number of years ago I lent him my fertiliser spreader. He was doing some reseeding and I didn’t need it at the time.

I don’t use it much, only when I’m doing a bit of reseeding myself. So, I was in no rush to get it back of him. Three years has since passed and now I need it back. When I asked for it back he denied he ever borrowed it off me and that he had bought it on DoneDeal himself. It’s worth about €1,000 but what can I do?

Dear reader, Unfortunately, the kind act of loaning something to a friend can quickly turn sour when the item is not returned.

Polonius in Shakespeare’s ‘Hamlet’ certainly got it right when he gave this advice to his son in Act 1, Scene 3.

“Neither a borrower nor a lender be; For loan oft loses both itself and friend, And borrowing dulls the edge of husbandry.”

You say you loaned your land leveller to your neighbour three years ago but when you asked for it back, your neighbour denied borrowing it from you and instead claimed he bought it himself on Donedeal. 

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I am assuming your neighbour did not show you a receipt for this alleged purchase and I am further assuming that you are both talking about one and the same fertiliser spreader.

Section 4 of the Criminal Justice (Theft and Fraudulent Offences) Act 2001, as amended, outlines that a person is guilty of theft if he or she dishonestly appropriates property without the consent of its owner and with the intention of depriving the owner of it. 

Further, it goes on to state that a person does not appropriate property without the consent of its owner if the person believes that he/she has the owner’s consent, or would have the owner’s consent if the owner knew of the appropriation of the property and the circumstances in which it was appropriated.

To apply this to your situation, you loaned your land leveller to your neighbour. Your neighbour therefore had this property for the past three years with your consent. You recently approached your neighbour for return of the land leveller, but he denied borrowing it. If you have any witnesses to your loaning it to your neighbour, you should check with them that they recall you doing so as that would support your case. Your own receipt for the purchase of the land leveller would also be useful.

As is prudent in all disputes involving neighbours, you should go to your neighbour again and seek return of your spreader, notwithstanding that you have fallen out over a separate issue. If your neighbour again denies borrowing it, outline when you loaned it to him and that you have witnesses. Further make it clear that he is now holding your property without your consent.

Your neighbour, by saying he did not borrow the spreader and claiming he bought it himself on Donedeal and by continuing to keep onto the land leveller, is dishonestly keeping onto your property without your consent and further more with the intention of depriving you, the owner, of it.

Accordingly, it would appear he satisfies the definition of theft. You should calmly explain to your neighbour that if he does not return the land leveller to you, you will have no alternative but to report him to An Garda Siochana for theft. I would give him a definite number of days to return the land leveller. If he does not return it, then unfortunately, you will have no alternative but to go to An Garda Siochana.

The Gardai may well decide, as it is a dispute between neighbours, to leave the matter to civil remedy, in which case you will have to attend your solicitor for further advices. If your neighbour has other property belonging to you, now would be a good time to seek return of them also.

Deirdre Flynn is from a farming background and practices as a Solicitor at Deirdre Flynn Solicitors, Cathedral View, Ardfert, Co. Kerry Tel: 066 7115695   Email: info@deirdreflynnsolicitors.ie

The information in this article is intended as a general guide only. While every care is taken to ensure accuracy of information provided, Deirdre Flynn does not accept responsibility for errors or omissions howsoever arising. You should seek legal advice in relation to your particular circumstances at the earliest possible time.

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