When someone steals your stuff, most people feel angry and betrayed. If the thief is a roommate, these feelings might be even more intense.
We expect to be able to trust people we are close to, and even if your roommate is not a close friend, living with someone often lowers our defenses, giving us an expectation that we can trust the other person not to rip us off.
Sometimes roommates take stuff by mistake when moving out, as there are so many items they can’t keep track of everything that is yours or theirs. There are also other explanations for what happened to them.
This guide is what to do if your roommate moved and stole your valuables on the way out the door? Ian – I changed the words so it sells the article more as one which gives the best solutions.
You can take action, even if getting your stuff back might be difficult. If your roommate moved out and stole your stuff, you can:
- Ask the roommate about the missing stuff
- Install a security camera
- Protect yourself, so the problem doesn’t continue or happen again in the future.
- Look for your stolen stuff
- File a police report
- Talk to the landlord and change locks on doors
- File an insurance claim or lawsuit
Read on for details on these ideas and more.
1. How to Confront a Roommate Who Stole Your Stuff
If you have contact with the roommate you suspect of stealing your stuff, you can try confronting the person about it.
However, do this cautiously. You don’t want to make the situation worse for yourself.
Don’t go to the person’s workplace or confront them in a classroom at school. Instead, contact them and ask if you can meet up for a short visit. Maybe invite them out for a cup of coffee or a meal. Take a witness along if possible.
Try to make it an in-person meeting, if at all possible, because that will give you more information from the person’s body language and other clues than if you contact them by text message, email, or phone.
Don’t accuse the person of taking your stuff. Instead, tell them what is missing and how you are concerned and ask them if they know anything about it.
If they admit to stealing it
If your roommate really did take your stuff, they may admit to it when you ask about the missing things.
For example, they may say they took the stuff by mistake. Or, your ex roommate may tell you they think you owed them money, and that is why they took your belongings.
For example, the person may say, “Yeah, I took your $300 bike because you owned me that much for the rent money after I moved.”
Or, they may have another excuse or explanation for why the items are missing.
If they admit to taking your stuff, ask them to return it immediately. You may be able to resolve the situation with the person when you confront them, getting them to return your stuff voluntarily.
If the person fails to return your stuff but admits to taking it, at least you have a confession you can take to the police or use in a lawsuit if you decide to take legal action against the person.
If your roommate tells you they took your stuff for whatever reason, and they do not agree to give it back right away, you can tell them you are going to report it as theft to the police or hire a lawyer to help you. Hearing this may prompt the person to return your belongings.
However, a roommate who steals may also lie about it, and confronting the person may not give you any new evidence.
2. How to Catch a Roommate Stealing by Using a Security Camera
Wikipedia, AntanO, Lens (with image sensor) of Mini Camcorder
If you are concerned about an ongoing situation of your roommate stealing your stuff at home, you can install a hidden security camera and try to catch them in the act.
Security video footage of theft is substantial evidence for the police, a legal suit, or an insurance claim.
Setting up a hidden security camera in most areas of your house is legal in all states. The exception is, you cannot put a hidden camera anywhere a person has a ‘reasonable expectation of privacy,’ for example, in a bathroom or inside your roommate’s bedroom.
Laws about recording audio vary more from one state to another, so be sure to check local laws before trying to record your roommate’s conversations on a surveillance camera inside your house.
However, if you suspect your roommate is stealing from you, a hidden security camera in a common area or your bedroom may give you the evidence you need to take serious action against them for theft.
3. Protecting Yourself against a Roommate Stealing Your Stuff
Taking protective action to prevent theft by a roommate is best done when you start living with someone, but taking protective action at any time is better than not doing it at all.
You can protect yourself from roommate theft by:
- Communicating clearly with roommates about policies on borrowing each other’s belongings.
- Keeping valuables out of sight and preferably in a lockbox, locking file cabinet, or safe.
- Protecting your personal information, passwords, bank account numbers, and other data from theft
- Taking photographs or a video recording of valuable items and storing this evidence securely along with receipts and credit card statements for purchases of the items
- Engraving your name or initials on high-value possessions
- Storing valuable items somewhere else, such as your parent’s house, with a trusted friend, or in a locked storage unit.
- Being cautious about what you reveal on social media, to friends, and your roommate.
4. Did Your Roommate Really Steal Your Stuff?
Maybe you and your roommate fought right before he or she moved out. Then, as soon as they were gone, you notice some of your stuff is missing.
Did your roommate really steal your stuff? Or is it possible something else happened to it?
When we find something we value is missing, it can be easy to panic and start thinking someone stole it. Sometimes this is true, but other times there can be another explanation for why the stuff is not where you expect it to be.
Before you take any other action, it’s important to verify that your stuff is really missing and that your roommate really is responsible.
Stealing someone’s stuff is a crime, and falsely accusing someone of a crime is almost as bad as stealing from them.
How can you be sure it was your roommate who took your stuff?
Is it possible they mistook something of yours as belonging to them?
Could someone else have taken it?
Is it possible you have misplaced the items?
Before you file a police report, tell the landlord or others that you think your roommate moved out and stole your stuff, do this:
- Relax, and think hard about all of the possibilities of what could have happened to your missing stuff. You may want to write down these possibilities as you try and sort out what happened and what to do.
- Look everywhere you can think of for the missing items. Look in drawers, closets, pockets, the garage, your car. Maybe you put the stuff somewhere and forgot about it?
- Did someone else have access to your stuff? Were there guests or service people in your home who might have taken or moved the missing items?
- Ask friends, other roommates, and even the roommate who you suspect (without accusing them) if they have any idea where the missing items are.
- Is it possible you loaned the item to someone or another person borrowed the missing item without asking?
If you go through all of the possibilities and you are sure it was your roommate who stole your stuff, move on to further action.
However, stay open to the possibility that there is another explanation, unless you have irrefutable evidence, like a security video, a witness, or a confession from someone.
5. Finding Where Your Exroommate Is Trying to Sell the Stolen Stuff
Flickr, Phillip Pessar Vintage Pawn Shop Signage Exposed When Canopy Was Removed
If your roommate stole stuff which has substantial monetary value, such as jewelry, collectibles, fashionable clothing, antiques, expensive tools, electronics, bikes, musical instruments, and similar things; you may be able to find the missing items for sale in places like:
- local pawnshops
- second-hand and consignment stores
- local flea markets and swap-meets
- jewelry stores
- Craigslist, e-Bay, Ruby Lane and other online sales venues
If you find your missing stuff for sale through a third-party, you will probably have to buy back the item. If it is something you truly value, it may be worth the expense, and you could later try to recover your cost from the thief by filing a small claims lawsuit.
Even if you don’t find your stolen belongings for sale, by looking at local resale sites and shops, you may be able to determine the current value of the missing items by comparing them to similar items for sale. This information can be useful if you file a police report or an insurance claim.
6. Filing a Police Report about Your Stolen Stuff
Sadly, many roommates who had stuff stolen by another roommate when they moved out, report that going to the police led nowhere.
Getting the police to take action can be especially difficult if the total value of the stolen items is less than about $500.
The police may not be able to do anything unless you have solid evidence that the roommate who moved out was responsible for stealing your belongings. Ian – beautiful use of natural language that also has derivatives of the keywords that are still on topic.
If you do have substantial evidence,the police investigate and file a criminal charge against the person; the court will pursue the case, and you will probably be called as a witness.
If the person is convicted, he or she may go to jail or face a fine, but you may not get anything except the satisfaction of having justice served. However, it is also possible the court could order the thief to return the stolen property to you or pay you restitution.
Whether or not the police take criminal action against the person who stole your stuff, you can still file a lawsuit yourself in small claims court or civil court, depending on the value of the loss.
Even if you don’t have a lot of evidence, filing a police report may still be worthwhile.
- Filing a police incident report may help you feel better, even if you don’t get your stuff back.
- You can tell the roommate who stole your stuff that you reported it to the police, and this may make them scared enough they return the items or think twice before doing something like this again.
- Having a police report on file may help you or someone else if there is another problem with this person in the future.
- If you decide to file a lawsuit or insurance claim for the stolen property, making a police report is essential for your case or claim.
If you file a police report, include copies of any evidence you have for the stolen property. For example,
- Photographs or drawings
- Credit card statements showing purchases
- Serial numbers or other identifying markings on the item
This information can be vital for the police to return your items to you if they ever locate them.
7. Talking to the Landlord and Changing the Locks
If you are sure it was your roommate who stole your stuff when they moved out, you may want to let the landlord know.
If you live in a college dorm, you can also report the incident to the campus police.
The campus law enforcement can check for missing items in other dorm rooms and areas of the campus – something you should not do by yourself.
If your roommate has moved out and stolen stuff, you may want to change the locks on doors to prevent the from coming back to take more stuff. In many housing situations, you need the landlord’s permission to do this.
The landlord may agree to change the locks at their expense, want you to pay for this yourself, or permit you to do this work on your own.
As an added security measure, you can also install a chain on the inside of the door to prevent someone with a key from entering the house when you are home.
8. Filing an Insurance Claim for Your Stolen Stuff
To file an insurance claim for your stolen property, you must have an insurance policy that covers theft. However, if you have renter’s insurance, there is a reasonably good chance it covers losses due to theft, including items taken by a roommate who moved out and stole your stuff.
If you are living at a college, your parent’s homeowner’s insurance may provide coverage for theft while you are at school.
If you have insurance coverage, call the company and tell them you want to file a claim for stolen property. They will want a copy of the police report and also a complete description of everything that is missing.
The types of documents the insurance company will need for a claim are similar to what you should provide to the police. The insurance company may not require these documents to file a claim, but if you have these documents, provide:
- A copy of the police report
- Receipts for missing items
- Credit card statements showing the purchase of missing items
- Photographs or video records of the missing property
- Serial numbers or engravings on the property
- Video footage or other evidence of the theft
- Written statements from witnesses about the property or theft.
Make copies of these documents and keep the originals for your records. Get a folder and keep all of the records about any insurance claim or police report concerning the theft in this file.
9. Suing a Roommate who Moved for Having Stolen Your Stuff
If you have compelling evidence that your roommate moved out and took your valuables, you can consider filing a lawsuit against the person in small claims or civil court for the value of the property and possibly for loss of use as well.
For a small claims lawsuit, you do not need a lawyer to represent you, but the claim cannot be over a specified amount of money, usually about $5,000. The exact amount varies from one state to another.
A civil lawsuit is for more substantial sums of money or greater damages.For this type of lawsuit, you probably need a lawyer, unless you are a lawyer or you have lots of legal expertise.
Filing either type of lawsuit is no guarantee that you will ever get your stolen property returned or receive other compensation for your loss. However, you could win the case and get back your belongings or monetary compensation.
Before you take legal action against your roommate who moved and stole your stuff, be sure you have as much documentation as possible to support your claim. This includes,
- Statements from witnesses. For example, if your neighbor saw your roommate moving out and taking the couch your grandmother gave you. Ask this person to appear as a witness or make a written, notarized statement to support your claim.
- Receipts, credit card statements, and photographs of the stolen property.
- Security camera footage of the person taking the belongings.
Filing a lawsuit involves fees and other expenses, and it may not be worth the effort.
Consider the value of what you lost and weigh this against the filing fees for the lawsuit or the cost of hiring a lawyer. Also, the time and expense for you to go to the courthouse before you decide to proceed with your claim.
In many cases, the best course of action is to accept the loss, move on, learn from the experience and protect yourself from similar situations in the future.
9. What Not to Do if a Roommate Stole Your Stuff
One thing not to do if your roommate has stolen something from you, is to take some of their stuff in revenge or to hold it hostage until you get your stuff back.
Doing this makes you guilty of theft, and the roommate could call the police on you.
Similarly, it is wrong to go into another person’s room and search for your missing possessions, and doing this may result in you being recorded on a security camera.
Remember, a person is considered innocent until proven guilty, and proof requires solid evidence like a witness, surveillance video footage, or a confession.