Category: physical property

Unclaimed Art and its Proceeds

We mentioned recently that some states specifically earmark unclaimed funds for particular uses, such as education.  According to a recent article on Wicked Local, a bill pending in Massachusetts would set aside the proceeds from the Abandoned Property Division’s auction of unclaimed “creative and individual works of art” for an Artists Disaster and Emergency Aid Fund to “ensure the safety and vitality of artists residing in the Commonwealth.” 

Though Wicked Local included this pending legislation in its listing of the most unusual bills filed during the most recent legislative session, unclaimed art and royalties is a real issue.  We’ve covered earlier some of the controversies involving the Screen Actors Guild and unclaimed television and movie royalties.  More recently, New York Magazine published a brief story indicating that Sound Exchange, a performance rights organization that collects royalties on behalf of music artists, has in excess of $100 million in unclaimed royalties.

Spike TV’s Auction Hunters: Unclaimed Property Comes to Realty TV

We have reality TV shows relating to (the New York) residents of the Jersey ShoreLeonardo Da Vinci, and famous (if underachieving) wide receivers, so why not one relating to unclaimed property?  Spike TV’s new show Auction Hunters follows two “prospectors” who bid on abandoned storage units in an attempt to sell the contents for more than was bid.  Escheatable was unfamiliar with the process for auctioning storage units, but according to Spike’s website:

 You and the other bidders will then line up in front of the first of what is likely several units up for auction.  Next, the auctioneer will throw open the unit’s door.  Each bidder will briefly file past the open unit, leaving you only a matter of seconds to look and only look into the unit.  No touching allowed!  Once those precious seconds are over, you’re done and that’s why these short moments are so important.  You need to make a lightning fast assessment as to what the contents might be, and how much are you willing to bid.  Once everyone has had their look, bidding begins.  It can start as low as $1 or go as high as several thousand.  After being declared the winner, you will typically have up to 24 hours to clean out the unit or be forced to pay a financial penalty.

The obvious question (at least to us) is, isn’t this unclaimed property?  Generally, yes and no, depending upon the storage unit contract.  In most instances, the storage unit contract or some states’ laws specifically provide that the storage company can auction off the contents in order to be reimbursed for unpaid fees.  If the amount received, however, is greater than the amount due, the excess may be unclaimed property subject to reporting and delivery (at least according to some states and state laws).