Legal Eagle: Can you do anything if your ex sells your belongings on eBay?

You’ve just broken up with your partner and are faced with the task of going back to their house to pick up the remnants of what was your relationship. 

As you’re greeted by the frosty reception of your former flame, they then kindly inform you that your beloved Playstation currently has 15 bids on ebay. What do you do?

Is it still classed as theft if the items were not physically stolen from you?

MM have teamed up with Olliers Solicitors, a leading criminal law firm based in Manchester, to answer your questions.


Hello, a friend of mine says his ex-partner has sold some of his stuff on ebay without his permission during their breakup. It was stuff he actually would not have wanted to sell and some of it he will even have to re-buy.

He’s really angry about it but doesn’t think there is much he can do and isn’t eager to cause more arguments with his ex but I think it’s outrageous as she knew it was stuff that was his and that he would want it. Is there any laws against this?

And is there anything my friend could do? I’m sure she has committed a crime here, but what would it be because she didn’t exactly steal them from him.


The law in relation to selling your ex partners belong without their consent follows:  

There are two issues raised by your question here, the first being whether or not the ex-partner has committed theft and secondly what your friend can do about it.

The Theft Act 1968 states:  A person is guilty of theft if he dishonestly appropriates property belonging to another with intention to permanently deprive the other of it”.

Under the legal definition then the ex could in fact be charged with theft as:

     1. They dishonestly appropriated the property (i.e they took it without your friend knowing and without permission); and

      2. They intended to permanently deprive your friend of it by selling it on 

 The police may be a little reluctant to pursue theft on this basis however as it is more of a civil dispute particularly when it is between couples or ex – partners.

Also, having this parson charged with theft would not be any kind of remedy for your friend however that is where the Sale of Goods Act 1979 comes into play.

Section 12 addresses the implied term of any sale and clearly states that the “seller” must have “the right to sell the goods” which in this case they clearly do not as they are selling property that does not belong to them. Due to this breach, your friend would be entitled to seek damages and can file a claim through the small claims court.

Whenever a claim is made this way the court will want to see that you have made efforts to resolve the issue between yourselves prior to bringing the matter to them and they will obviously want proof of who the items actually belonged to.  

Whilst filing a claim itself costs money, if the claim is successful then the court will order the ex-partner to pay court costs in addition to a sum for damages.

Do you have a question for the legal team at Olliers Solicitors? 

Their specialist criminal lawyers – including a specialist motor law department – are ready to answer your questions for FREE. All you have to do is email them in to our newsdesk here: newsdesk (at) mancunianmatters (dot) co (dot) uk

You can find more about Olliers Solicitors here.

Image courtesy of Michel Ngilen, with thanks.

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