Find the right lawyer now

Conversion Claims in California

Find a Local Real Estate Lawyer near You

Conversion Claims in California

When someone takes away or prevents your from enjoying the use of your personal property without your consent, you may have a civil claim of conversion against that person in addition to a criminal charge of theft. There are many situations where conversion may exist, such as a repo man wrongfully tows your car away, a neighbor plants some trees on your property without your consent, a relative refuses to return the cash you had him keep for you, or a friend keeps a ring you had lent her for a day.

What Is a Conversion?

A conversion is the intentional interference with the property of another, which deprives the rightful owner's lawful rights to use the property. In order to bring a claim of conversion in California, you must show the following: 

  • You have ownership, possession, or right to possession to a personal tangible property (e.g. a car, a book, a laptop computer, etc.
  • Someone took possession or prevented you from accessing your property for a significant amount of time
  • You did not give consent
  • You suffered harm as a result of the conversion.

Can Real Property Be Converted in California?

No. Real property (e.g. buildings and houses) cannot be converted. However, fixtures that can be separated from the real property may be converted.

Can Money and Other Financial Instruments Be Converted in California?

Yes. Money and financial instruments, such as stocks and bonds, may be converted.

For money to be converted, it must be a specific sum capable of being identified. However, it does not need to be earmarked.

Is Conversion Limited to the Actual Physical Taking of Another's Personal Property?

No. There are various ways that property can be converted besides being physically taken away. Examples include:

  • Destroying the property
  • Altering the property so that it cannot be used
  • Refusing to record and make a change in ownership after a sale
  • Failure to deliver collected funds for another

Do I Still Have a Valid Conversion Claim If I Have Regained Control of My Property?

Yes. Having regained control over your converted property does not change the fact that it was converted before.

What Kinds of Remedies Do I Have for My Conversion Claim?

Generally, you may recover the value of your converted property, which could be the fair market value or the lost profits. If the property still exists, you may request to have the actual property be returned to you.

Sometimes, interest and punitive damages may also be awarded. However, most litigation costs incurred for the conversion claim will not be recoverable.

Do I Need a Lawyer for My Conversion Claim?

If someone has converted your property, you should speak to an experienced property lawyer immediately to learn more about your rights, your claims, and the complicated legal system. A property attorney can also represent you in court.

Photo of page author Ken LaMance

, LegalMatch Law Library Managing Editor and Attorney at Law

Last Modified: 07-28-2015 04:17 PM PDT

Law Library Disclaimer
  • No fee to present your case
  • Choose from lawyers in your area
  • A 100% confidential service
What is LegalMatch?

We've helped more than 4 million clients find the right lawyer – for free. Present your case online in minutes. LegalMatch matches you to pre-screened lawyers in your city or county based on the specifics of your case. Within 24 hours experienced local lawyers review it and evaluate if you have a solid case. If so, attorneys respond with an offer to represent you that includes a full attorney profile with details on their fee structure, background, and ratings by other LegalMatch users so you can decide if they're the right lawyer for you.