Who actually owns this 1,000 gallon propane tank?

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On 9/30/2013 10:52 PM, Alex Gunderson wrote:

Comes down to money. Probably made it real property just for the tax purpose.
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On Tue, 01 Oct 2013 13:42:37 -0400, Ed Pawlowski wrote:

You're probably right.
California figured they'd get more money from propane companies if they call propane tanks real property instead of personal property.
I'm not sure how they'd get more money - but - the fact the propane companies clearly argue the contrary opinion should give us a clue.
So, we now know that, in California, the TAX guys consider propane tanks "real property".
The question has merit whether the COURTS also consider it real property.
This is especially important because a house that is sold, transfers the real property, unless something is stated otherwise. Right?
If that's the case, then any real property that was actually owned by the previous owner, was also transferred.
However, in this case, we don't know WHO owned that tank at the time of sale.
The good news is that, if it's real property that is actually owned by Amerigas (at this point), then I have a case to have my title insurance make me whole because this is a real-property ownership issue that popped up well after the sale.
The funny thing is that my searches all show that Suburban actually owned that tank. Yet, Suburban never installed it at my residence.
So, unless Suburban sold it to the Heritage Group (who was bought by Amerigas), I doubt even Amerigas can establish ownership of that tank.
I just wish I could find a single similar California court case to read by way of example - but - Google is failing me.
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On Mon, 30 Sep 2013 06:02:47 -0400, Ed Pawlowski wrote:

I just got off the phone with the California Secretary of State. 916-653–3516(5=ucc)(4=info)(0=human)
We can search, for free, at their "UCC Connect" site: https://uccconnect.sos.ca.gov/acct/acct-templogin.asp
We need to search by a wildcard "debtor name" which would be the previous owner of the residence.
If we find a hit, it costs $5 each to obtain the results.
However, they told me the UCC-1 is for companies who buy things from other companies for the purpose of running companies so, non-commercial debtors, such as a homeowner, would rarely, if ever, show up on the UCC search.
So the whole UCC tack may be a red herring in California. :(
They suggested the "county recorder", whatever that is.
I have to run off to work right now - but I'll report back when I have more info.
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On Mon, 30 Sep 2013 20:03:49 -0700, US President is the Enemy wrote:

This is not even close to a similar example to propane. For one, your water isn't delivered by a commercial truck. Nor is the water stored in a big tank leased or owned by you. For another, you don't have a choice of water companies. For yet another, the water company is a regulated monopoly.
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On Thu, 26 Sep 2013 23:56:06 +0000, Alex Gunderson wrote:
Here is a summary of why there may be so much confusion regarding the status of propane tanks.
The propane tanks are considered real property in some states (notably California & NY), while, the exact same setup is personal property in other states. Also, there is absolutely no example that equates to how propane tanks are treated in all states.
This explains why all the examples proposed so far (e.g., cars, electricity, telephone, garbage, etc., were clearly *not* equivalent examples!). These examples might apply in some states; but they don't in California.
In fact the Western Propane industry argues vehemently that propane tanks are unique, and that there are no parallels (which I've come to appreciate, since I can easily shoot down any example anyone provides).
However, the state of California seems to think the following are equivalent: water softener tanks, butane tanks, propane tanks, coffee makers, soft drink dispensers, water coolers, cardboard box folding machines, sorters and medical test equipment.
http://www.boe.ca.gov/proptaxes/pdf/ip99051.pdf
Yet, the Western Propane industry group clearly says propane tanks are unique in that the propane tank itself is not consumed by the lessee. In fact, the lessee of a propane tank cannot touch or handle the tank in any way, by law. Propane tanks are unique in that they are often located on a lessee's property, but cannot be used or "consumed" by the lessee, unlike gas tanks and water tanks.
Interestingly, for NY state, propane tanks are apparently capital improvements to real property (as in California): "The issue raised is whether the installation of certain liquid propane gas tanks constitutes a capital improvement to real property" http://www.tax.ny.gov/pdf/advisory_opinions/sales/a81_10s.pdf
Yet, in Tennessee, propane tanks are personal property: http://statutes.laws.com/tennessee/title-67/chapter-5/part-5/67-5-501
In Missouri, the propane tanks are clearly personal property: http://www.stc.mo.gov/pdf/078_CHAPTER7.8PROPANETANKS.pdf
In Alabama, propane tanks are considered personal property: http://jeffconline.jccal.org/taxassessor/main/realvspersonal.html http://jeffcointouch.com/jeffcointouch/departments/TaxAssessor/TaxAssessor/rvsp.html
Given that most states consider a propane tank personal property, yet, others (e.g., CA and NY apparently) consider it real property, that now explains *why* there is no need to file the UCC-1 in California.
It seems that, in the states where the tanks are personal property, the UCC-1 needs to be filed; however, the UCC-1 is apparently meaningless in states where the tanks are considered real property. http://www.avvo.com/legal-answers/real-property-issue--can-they-take-equipment--prop-1340149.html http://www.ncagr.gov/standard/LP/LPgasConcerns/ConsumerConcernsAndFAQs.htm
This key distinction between personal property laws in California and NY versus most of the other states explains away all the confusion.
Only in the personal property states do you need to file the UCC-1 to maintain your claim on propane tanks: https://www.secretary.state.nc.us/ucc/
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On Tue, 01 Oct 2013 09:56:18 +0000, Alex Gunderson wrote:

Here's a clear reference showing propane tanks to be considered "improvements" to real property in the state of California. http://www.boe.ca.gov/proptaxes/pdf/ip99038.pdf
To wit: "Propane tanks, unburied but which remain in place, are listed in Rule 124 as an example of an *improvement*"
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On Tue, 01 Oct 2013 10:24:43 +0000, Alex Gunderson wrote:

Why not file an unclaimed property report with the state? http://sco.ca.gov/Files-UPD/outreach_rptg_hol_genrptinfo.pdf
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On Tue, 1 Oct 2013 09:56:18 +0000 (UTC), Alex Gunderson
actually owns this 1,000 gallon propane tank?:

How can "gas tanks and water tanks" be "consumed" by the lessee?
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On Tue, 01 Oct 2013 05:53:41 -0500, CRNG wrote:

I think the propane group was arguing a bunch of points.
One point was that the propane tank isn't allowed to be touched by the owner - so how can you call it "real property".
Gas tanks and water tanks have no such no-touch restrictions.
They listed a few of these things in the arguments (and they pointed to case law a few times).
There arguments do bolster the funny feeling I had with all the examples that were provided, every single one of which was vastly different than the situation with the propane tanks (e.g., cars, garbage, electricity, telephone, satellite dish, etc.)
So, having struggled with this concept myself, I'm a believer that the only case law that will make sense is California (and perhaps NY) case law specifically for propane tanks.
BTW, is there a lawyer in the group? (I can't be the only one on the planet to notice that California apparently treats propane tanks different than most other states.)
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As a followup, I called the county tax appraiser.
He first provided a glib response that nobody taxes residential propane tanks. They ignore them on sight. Ummm... OK.
I then asked for an upgrade to the person answering, and got a county *residential* adviser who first tried to convince me that a tank is a repair, and as such is not taxed.
Allright. I asked for another guy - but I was stuck with this one.
It took me a while to get him to understand that replacing a rented tank with a rented tank, or, replacing an owned tank with an owned tank isn't what I was asking ...
The tax question I was asking was: Q: What is the residential tax consequence when a rented propane tank is replaced by an owned tank (costing roughly $3,000 to $4,000).
He said he'd get back to me.
PS: If someone is paying taxes on it, that's part of ownership (in California, taxes are part of the adverse possession clause).
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On Fri, 04 Oct 2013 19:20:47 +0000, Alex Gunderson wrote:

You might want to ask in the legal groups but it seems to me that you could attempt an adverse possession case if your ownership was continuous for at least 5 years AND you paid your taxes on time.
New California Law Raises Bar on Establishing Ownership Through Adverse Possession April 2011 http://www.glawgroupapc.com/update/April2011-Courtside-Newsletter.pdf
Adverse possession is accomplished when a party acquires ownership to another's real property, without compensation, by holding the property for a specified period of time in a manner that conflicts with the true owner's rights.
Open Possession” means undisguised and conspicuous possession of real property that is generally known or recognized.
“Exclusive possession” means that the person possessing the land must be the only one occupying the property ...
...a party must occupy the real property hostilely, openly, exclusively, and continuously for a period of five years and pay the property taxes on the land.
“Hostile possession” does not mean ill will or actual enmity, but rather is actual occupation or possession of the real property, without the permission of anyone claiming title, and claiming ownership (either express or implied).
AB 1684 amends California Code of Civil Procedure §325 by requiring that the adverse possessor *timely* pay all taxes associated with ownership of the real property.
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On 9/26/2013 4:56 PM, Alex Gunderson wrote:

I can offer only my same experiences in similar situations, and as in one size does not fit all, here goes.
Basically, the best first thing to do is to call the local supplier(s). Those would be the people who you will be dealing with on an ongoing relationship to come and fill the tank, make sure it is up to snuff code wise, and inspection wise.
I am familiar with high pressure vessels, and vessels containing various gases from my welding expertise. Ownership of said vessel may not be what it appears, and by that I mean that if a dealer "owns" a vessel, and has been renting/leasing that vessel to a homeowner, they still retain legal ownership. It does not matter to the legal owner that the possessor of such item "sells" it to another person, that person may not be legally capable of "SELLING" such an item. It would be like selling a leased car. IOW, the seller of the house may have been "selling" something that they did not own, such as a leased water treatment system, or other things that may be in the possession of the homeowner, yet be owned by another person.
In such a case, the seller was obligated to divulge to you under disclosure laws that certain item(s) were not the seller's to sell.
Which brings us back to the starting point. And that is .......... call the company who "may" own the tank, and explain to them the situation. That you want to do the right thing, although the seller might have not. They will want your future business, and I would think they would give a little ground here, wanting your future and ongoing business.
You are in a bad place here, possibly insisting that property that is actually "stolen" from the legal owner is in your possession, which may be the case. Do not insist on yours "rights", and "possession is nine-tenths stuff.
I think that if you approach the company with the right attitude, that they should do the right thing, want your future business, and work out a solution.
Let us know how it shakes out.
Steve
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On Tuesday, October 15, 2013 8:24:06 PM UTC-4, SteveB wrote:

If you read the OP, which you included with your post he's been there and done that. About 3 years ago when he bought the house, he chose a supplier, they came out and inspected the tank before starting service.

Again, we've been through all that a dozen times already.

Again, if you read the thread, the company who he thinks likely owned the tank has been bought by the company who he has had servicing the tank for the last 3 years.

And why exactly is that? He's had a tank for 3 years that he believed was his. No one came to claim it. Surely when the previous owner discontinued gas service that company should have known enough to come get their tank if they wanted it back. He hasn't hid the tank, it's sitting there in plain sight.
Further, the company that he chose and has been using has now bought the original company. They were there recently for another service issue and while there the service guy looked up the tank in their records, which presumably now include records of the original company, and told him that was who owned it. So, if the service guy is correct, the current company owns it and knows about it.
Meanwhile he's had a tank for free for 3 years and so far the company hasn't done anything about it. They might, if the service guy goes back and reports it, etc. But if they do, so what? What "bad place" exactly is he in?
possibly insisting that property that is

Why shouldn't he insist on his rights? Good grief. I suppose he should go down to the police and turn himself in, when he's done nothing wrong.

They have his business. He apparently has their tank. They know it. I don't see any compelling need for hime to do anything unless someone else initiates some kind of action, eg starting to charge for tank rental.

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