You’re protected when someone sells you stolen goods

Q. I bought something at a pawnshop for $350. It was just confiscated by the police because it was stolen. Is there any way to get my money back?

A. If you buy stolen property, the true owner has the right to get the property back from you. If that happens, however, you have a claim against the seller, in this case the pawnshop. Generally, whenever someone sells something, they give the buyer what is called a “warranty of title.” If the property turns out to be stolen, there is a breach of that warranty and the buyer is entitled to the return of the purchase price. I suggest you let the pawnshop know you expect a refund, and consider small claims court if they do not settle the matter.

Q. Before he died, my father would sometimes stay with a female friend. A lot of his belongings were at her house at the time of his death. The woman now refuses to return any of his items, and says they belong to her. Can she legally keep all of his belongings?

A. If it was his property at the time of his death and he didn’t give it to her as a gift before he died, she has no right to keep the property. The executor of his will can take steps to have the property returned and distributed according to his will. To avoid the time and expense of legal action, you should let her know that she has to return the property and try to work things out.

Q. I bought a used vehicle from a car dealership about a year ago. It was sold “as is.” Now I discover it has a major problem and it will cost me $1,000 in repairs. Does the dealership have any responsibility to help me fix the problem? I am still making payments on the vehicle.

A. Based on what you say, it doesn’t sound like the dealership has any responsibility. In most cases, when you buy something “as is,” it means there is no warranty and you are stuck if there are any problems. Seeing the words “as is” should be a red flag to be careful, and carefully check things out before you buy. On the other hand, if the dealership knew about the problem and intentionally didn’t tell you to get you to buy the car, or misrepresented the condition of the car to get you to sign the contract, it could be liable under our state’s consumer law. If something just went wrong after you bought it, however, the dealership probably has no liability.

Q. I am looking to find a durable power of attorney and a medical power of attorney. I have seen some online for a small sum, and a local attorney told me it would cost around $250. Any thoughts? Are the online forms valid?

A. Have I got a deal for you. You can find durable power of attorney and a medical power of attorney forms on my Web site,, and they are free. Look at the “wills, living wills and powers of attorney” section under “Legal Topics.”

Q. More than 20 years ago, I was convicted of a felony. I still have trouble renting an apartment. Is it legal to discriminate against me for something this old? I have had a steady job, and have had no problems since that mistake.

A. You are correct that you are being discriminated against, but the law does not prohibit all discrimination. Discrimination is illegal only when a state or federal government prohibits that type of discrimination. For example, the law prohibits landlords from discriminating based on race, sex, age or religion. There is not a law prohibiting discrimination based on a criminal record. I suggest you talk with the landlord and explain your situation.

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