Lost property law (Germany)

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The German Fund Law governs as part of the German property law , the ownership of lost things and the legal obligation between the owner and the finder. The regulations can be found in § 965 to § 984  BGB .

Loss and find

Colloquially, lost means that the owner does not know where the thing is. This would also cover cases of mere misplacing (glasses in the apartment, books in the closet). That is why the legal terminology defines more precisely: A thing is lost when it is not owner-occupied , but possessed . This means that the loser still considers himself to be the owner, but cannot actually exercise power over them. Such a thing - also contrary to the colloquial parlance - is not found when a third party discovers it, but only when he takes the thing for himself, i.e. establishes new ownership. This shows that from a legal point of view, finding is not an actual phenomenon, but rather an agency for the loser.

Merely inspecting a lost item is not taking possession, so the person is not legally a finder: "Anyone who only picks up a lost item for viewing and puts it back immediately is not a finder and therefore does not commit a breach of duty."

Legal obligation

A legal obligation arises between the loser (the law speaks more precisely of the person entitled to receive) and the finder . This obliges the finder to report the find to the person entitled to receive it and to deliver it. If he does not know this, he has to report the find to the responsible authority (municipality / police) and hand it in if the value is more than 10 euros. The authorized recipient owes the finder reimbursement of his expenses and the finder's fee . According to Section 971 (1) BGB, the finder's fee is 5% of the value of the item up to 500 euros, 3% of the added value, and 3% for animals. If the thing was found on the premises of an authority, in the means of transport of an authority or on public transport, the finder only receives half the finder's fee and that only if the thing is worth more than 50 euros ( Section 978 (2) BGB) . In addition, the claim is excluded if the finder is an employee of the authority or the transport authority or the finder violates the delivery obligation (Section 978 (2) sentence 3 BGB).

Acquisition of property by the finder

Six months after the notification to the competent authority has expired, the finder acquires ownership of the item if by then he has not become aware of the person entitled to receive it, nor has he / she reported to the authority ( Section 973 (1) BGB). However, if the value of the item is less than € 10, the 6-month period begins on the day it is found. However, the finder has to surrender what has been obtained for another three years according to the rules on unjust enrichment .

Found animals are subject to the same deadlines as lost property with regard to the acquisition of property, but can be referred by the competent authority after a period of four weeks. The animal can therefore be passed on to the finder or a third person, but without them acquiring ownership of the animal. The acquisition of property continues after the 6-month period has expired.

Lost property in public transport and authorities

For finds in train stations, vehicles and other "establishments" of the public transport, as well as for finds in the business premises and means of transport of the authorities, § 978 BGB applies: So a lost property is to be handed in to the company or the authority. The minimum limit of € 10 does not apply. The acquisition of property by the finder is excluded.

Treasure find

A treasure is something that has been hidden for so long that its owner can no longer be determined (definition of § 984 BGB). The finder of a treasure already acquires half of the co-ownership with the discovery . The other half of the co-ownership belongs to the owner of the thing in which the treasure was hidden, i.e. usually the property owner. This principle goes back to the so-called Hadrian division .

The monument protection laws (DSchG) of the German federal states restrict the regulation of the BGB through the treasure shelf defined there and define the ownership structure differently if the object found represents a cultural monument . In the majority of the federal states, such treasure finds fall on the country, in the minority only if they were discovered during state investigations (usually excavations). These restrictions are confirmed by numerous judgments of the administrative courts.


The find of flotsam was regulated by beach law until 1990 . Since then, general property law has been in effect .

Found animals

According to Section 90a of the German Civil Code (BGB), the rules for lost property also apply to animals. A found animal is therefore an animal that is possessed but not ownerless. The responsible find authority is the municipality in which the animal is found. If necessary, it is temporarily responsible for the custody of the found animal, it can be responsible for the well-being of the animal and must then initiate appropriate care measures in accordance with Section 2 of the Animal Welfare Act .

Most of the found pets are not owned or ownerless, in that sense they are not found animals because they either return to their owners (e.g. cats) or the owner obviously wanted to get rid of them ( abandonment of ownership ).

Identifying the owner

The municipalities (lost and found offices) and other public institutions (post office, railway, etc.) are required to determine the owner within a 6-month period. Clues are e.g. B. SIM card numbers, telephone numbers, etc. After the name and address become known, the owners will be contacted and asked to collect them.

See also


  • Theo Mayer-Maly : The definition of the treasure. In: Pascal Pichnnaz, Nedim Peter Vogt, Stephan Wolf (eds.): Traces of Roman law. Festschrift for Bruno Huwiler on his 65th birthday. Stämpfli Verlag AG Bern 2007, ISBN 978-3-7272-2952-7 , pp. 439-440.
  • Georg Huttner, Uwe Schmidt: Fund rights in municipal practice. Handbuch, Kommunal- und Schul-Verlag, 2nd edition 2015, ISBN 978-3829312066 .

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. Julius von Staudinger, Commentary on the Civil Code , note on § 984 BGB
  2. a b Administrative Court Gießen: Tierschutzverein; Care for found animals; Reimbursement right. VG Giessen 10th Chamber, judgment of 5 September 2001, 10 E 2160/01
  3. Jurisprudence of the Lower Saxony judiciary: Fundtier; Reimbursement of expenses by a veterinarian against the municipality. VG Göttingen 1st Chamber, judgment of 19 May 2010, 1 A 288/08