Introduced by Representatives Bostic of St. Johnsbury, Clark of St. Johnsbury, Hudson of Lyndon, Lawrence of Lyndon, Marcotte of Coventry and Morley of Barton
Subject: Private property; museums; loaned property; statute of limitations; title
Statement of purpose: This bill proposes to create a statute of limitations to clarify title to property that has been loaned to museums.
AN ACT RELATING TO UNCLAIMED MUSEUM PROPERTY
It is hereby enacted by the General Assembly of the State of Vermont:
Sec. 1. 27 V.S.A. chapter 12 is added to read:
Chapter 12. Title to Museum Property
§ 1151. DEFINITIONS
As used in this chapter:
(1) “Lender” means the actual owner or the property who lends the property or the owner’s duly authorized agent, trustee conservator, custodian, or heir capable of having an interest in property.
(2) “Loaned property” means any property provided to and accepted by a museum that is not accompanied by a transfer of title.
(3) “Museum” means a nonprofit or public institution that is organized and operated primarily for the purpose of collecting, cataloguing, exhibiting, or archiving objects of educational, scientific, historical, or aesthetic interest, the collection of which is generally open to the public. “Museum” also includes historical societies, parks, monuments, and libraries.
(4) “Property” means all tangible objects, animate and inanimate, collected or maintained by a museum for educational, historic, or exhibition purposes.
§ 1152. LIMITATION ON RECOVERY OF LOANED PROPERTY
(a) No action may be brought for damages or recovery of any loaned property if:
(1) More than seven years have passed without a written contract between the museum and the lender, and the identity or current address of the lender cannot be known to the museum.
(2) More than 120 days have passed since both:
(A) The museum made reasonable efforts to contact the lender or gave written notice of termination of a loan pursuant to section 1123 of this title.
(B) The lender has not reclaimed the loaned property.
(b) The purchaser of loaned property shall acquire good title free of all claims and defenses when purchased from a museum that acquired title pursuant to this section.
§ 1153. TERMINATION OF LOAN
(a) A museum may give written notice of termination of a loan at any time after the expiration of a loan made for a specified period or at any time if the loan is for an indefinite period. Any loan not evidenced by a written document stating the terms of the loan and signed by the lender shall be deemed a loan for an indefinite period.
(b) Written notice required under this section shall:
(1) Contain a description of the loaned property sufficient to identify it.
(2) Be sent to the last known name and address of the lender.
(3) Indicate the date of the loan or the date the loaned property was accepted by the museum if the loan was not evidenced by a written document.
(4) Indicate the name, address, and telephone number of the appropriate officer or official at the museum to be contacted regarding the loaned property.
(5) Contain a statement referring the lender to this chapter and informing the lender that failure to reclaim the loaned property within 120 days of receipt of the notice shall result in the loss of all rights in the property.
(6) Will be printed in the local and county newspaper in which the museum is located and in the local and county newspaper in the county in which the lender was last known to reside.
(c) Within 30 days after a museum accepts loaned property or receives written notice of a change in ownership of the loaned property, the museum shall provide written notice informing the lender or new lender of the provisions of this chapter.
(d) Loaned property in the possession of a museum at the time of the death of the owner that would otherwise escheat to the state shall become the property of the museum.
§ 1154. RESPONSIBILITIES OF LENDERS OF PROPERTY TO
(a) It shall be the responsibility of:
(1) The lender of property to notify the museum in writing of the owner’s identity, address, and other contact information and to keep that information current.
(2) The new lender of property to notify the museum within 60 days of change of ownership of the new lender’s name, current address, and other useful contact information and to keep that information current.
(b) A lender of property shall, upon request of the museum holding the loaned property, promptly provide evidence of ownership satisfactory to the museum. This section shall apply to all changes in ownership, whether by sale, gift, devise, operation of law, or any other means. A museum shall not be prejudiced by failing to deal with the true lender if the museum in good faith has complied with this subsection.
§ 1155. LIEN FOR EXPENSES
When the lender of property is unknown, a museum shall have a lien against the value of the specific loaned property for expenses reasonably incurred necessary to protect the loaned property from ordinary decay and deterioration due to natural causes, theft, or vandalism.
The Vermont General Assembly
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