By: Rudman Winchell Attorney Colin Howard
It’s time for spring cleaning. But before you throw all that junk away, make sure you comply with Maine’s unclaimed property laws.
In Maine, property is classified as “unclaimed property” when it is abandoned or lost and an owner cannot be located within a specified period of time. Besides real estate, animals and vehicles, almost anything can become unclaimed property, including all personal property, checking accounts, certificates of deposit, over payments, gift certificates, unpaid wages, commissions, uncashed checks, death benefits, dividends, insurance payments, money orders, refunds, savings accounts, and stocks.
Maine law presumes that property is abandoned after a certain period of inactivity, called a dormancy period. The duration of the dormancy period varies depending on the type of property. Unused amounts on gift cards, for example, are presumed abandoned after two years. (Here’s an earlier post on Maine gift certificate regulations.)
For unpaid wages, the period is one year. For most types of tangible property, the period is three years.
All unclaimed property, regardless of value, must be reported to the State of Maine after the applicable period passes without the owner communicating any interest. If the property is worth more than $50, the holder must first attempt to notify the owner that his or her property will soon be turned over to the State. Note that in many cases, Maine companies must file negative reports each year if they do not hold any unclaimed property.
Additional requirements apply to a landlord whose tenant left behind property after moving out. The landlord must place the property in a safe place and provide notice to the tenant. In some limited circumstances, the landlord may condition the release of the unclaimed property upon the tenant’s payment of unpaid rent.
Every year, the State Treasurer lists all unclaimed property worth more than $10 on the internet. If the property is worth more than $250, the Treasurer will attempt to locate the owner.
You can search the federal and state unclaimed property databases to determine if you have property waiting to be claimed.