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Can a mechanic's lien be put on a car if the titled owner did not request or approve any repairs?

TennesseeRight to Lien

My 26 year old son had my husband's (his stepfather's) truck towed to a mechanic's shop to get an estimate to repair the transmission. Over the phone the mechanic shop told my son that it would cost about $2,500 to fix it. The mechanic shop gave him a phone number to call to try to get a loan, if needed, for the repairs. I do not know if the two businesses are affiliated or not. Regardless, he applied via phone, but was rejected. After my husband and son discussed it further they concluded that since the truck is so old, a 1997 Ford F150, and not of much value they would hold off on the repairs so they could try to find an alternative such as a used transmission that the same or another mechanic could install. He has been looking for a used transmission to no avail while the truck stayed at the mechanic's shop. Yesterday, my husband went to pick up the UNREPAIRED truck and the shop owner said that the truck now belonged to him because it was left there so long. He claims that he sent a certified letter regarding the truck, but no one in my household signed for a letter. The shop owner says that he has filed a mechanic's lien and will NOW repair the truck and sell it, or we could buy the truck back from him for $2500. To me there are several major issues. First, no one received or signed any sort of written estimate or contract to fix it. Second, even if the mechanic claims that there was a verbal agreement between him and my son, my son is NOT the titled owner of the truck. So, how could a lien be put on it. Third, the shop owner admitted to my husband in person at the shop that now that he had a lien he WILL fix it and sell it. According to the law I researched, a lien can be placed only for actual work done, not work after a lien is filed. Furthermore, other claims such as storage fees (which were never disclosed or agreed to) are not considered repairs and cannot be included in the lien. The truck is so old and of such little value that no one would invest $2500 in a transmission for it. I guess that is why the mechanic says that he will NOW fix it and sell it after he has gotten the lien. We received no phone calls, no letters, no written docs of any sort (the mechanic claims he sent a certified letter, but no one in my house signed for it.) How do I proceed?

20 replies

Aug 2, 2018
While we try to focus on construction law question here, and the construction-type of mechanics lien rather than auto-mechanic's liens, I'll try to provide some information you may find helpful.

A general "mechanics lien" for repairs to a conveyance works pretty much like you outlined above. That is, the lien exists "for any repairs or improvements made or parts or fixtures furnished at the request of the owner, or the owner's agent, in favor of the mechanic, contractor, founder, or machinist who makes . . . any repairs or puts thereon any improvements, fixtures, machinery, or materials . . ."

So, a general auto mechanics lien can only be claimed for work performed (at the request of the owner or the owner's agent).

However, there is additionally a lien called a "Garagekeeper's or towing firm's lien." This lien arises when a vehicle legally comes into the possession of the garagekeeper or towing firm and is retained in the possession of the garagekeeper or towing firm until all charges are paid. This particular lien does not require repairs to be performed on the vehicle, although there must be charges incurred and unpaid.

With either type of lien there are specific requirements that must be met by the party attempting to claim the lien and sell the vehicle. It would likely be a good idea to talk with a local attorney who could take a closer look at the particulars of the situation and help you pick a path forward to get your truck back.
7 likes
Mar 28, 2020
here is my question. my neighbor hired me to repair his car, toyota echo. After i have fixed it and hand him the bill, he loses his job and cant pay me for services rendered. so he asks if i would take the vehicle in exchange of paying me. as with anything free i said yes. a week goes by and the neighbor hands me a letter from the finace co. it said that neighbor owes under a thousand. what can i do other than pay this financial co. which lien will fit?
1 likes
Apr 4, 2020
Your neighbor is a piece of shit
10 likes
May 23, 2020
I gave a mechanic 1800 down for parts on my old cj7 jeep. He never touched it for 6 months.He lied to me the entire time he had it. I have my jeep back but he won't give my money back. Can I file a lein against him? If so, what kind? Should I call the attorney Gen office? I think he does this to another of people. He takes the parts he needs from your car to put in someone else's without buying any parts...
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Jun 11, 2020
I paid for mechanic work done on my stepsons truck. His dad and I are going thru a divorce therefore he has stopped paying me.the stepson is 19 and works. There was no reason for him to stop payment. Can I put a mechanics lean on his truck? I do have proof that the work was put on my credit card
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Jul 19, 2020
An acquaintance took my car to his mechanics friend to have the battery looked at. The acquaintance stated it was the interior light. When he went to pick up the car he then said the battery was dead. He left it for further diagnostics on the battery. Days later the acquaintance said it will be $65 to get the car it was the door chime. I asked who gave permission for the repair. He then said the mechanics is fixing air compressor, and struts.. I’ve never gave permission or spoke to this mechanic. Is this legal?
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Sep 27, 2020
I have a lifetime warranty on my fca Jeep. Needs a new engine so they choose to payout. The dealership bill to take apart the engine and diagnose needs to be paid by me. The agreement says I am responsible if pet not converted. It is, they choose to payout because it’s cheaper than fixing. Can I take the check , not pay dealership and let them take my car?
1 likes
Nov 18, 2020
Depending on what state your in you can deposit the bill and fight the shop or let them have the vehicle lein fees and title fees and storage are a duty to charge under state law and you will owe them no matter what you do. many states if they dont lein it within 30 days, your failure to contact shop is the problem here, i bet you missed the notice on the lien these are all bad situations but this is how the legistature in your state made the law here in florida all a shop has to do is expend funds for towing or diagnosis and you will incur fees.. I am an auomotive expert who has leined many cars and most times judges rule for the shop as paymnet was never recieved.. having a written estimate is of no matter you authed a diagnosis and never paid for it.. with lein fees and storage i bet its quite a bill you have raised up by not keeing in contact with the shop..
2 likes
Jan 25, 2021
Call police and have them request reciept of certified letter alleged to have bern dent out...
2 likes
Aug 24, 2021
A mechanic shop misdiagnosed my car overheating, diagnosis is approximately $75. Stated it was the water pump. I bought the car for $500 several years ago. The repair of the water pump was quoted at $1100 initially. The shop has called me repeatedly to notify me of small parts that would slightly increase the cost to a little over $1200. Also, they call me repeatedly because the car won't be ready after several delays. They call me today to notify me the engine block is warped and the total cost will be $4800. The car isn't even fixed and I won't pay $4800. They're saying that I still have to pay the $1200. I'd rather just sell the car off, or leave it to them since it's not anywhere near the new cost. Are they legally allowed to charge me approximately $1200 for a misdiagnosis and a car that was never repaired?
2 likes
Aug 27, 2021
I would never take the word of the first mechanic I visit. First, though they're most of the time more expensive, they're also regulated by the state (usually), so for most things, I use the dealership where I purchased my car. For minor things, such as the oil changes, cab air filters, and other minor things, I YouTube and figure out how to do it myself after the new warranty ran out. I've saved tons of money by not purchasing the extra warranty and by not paying mechanics to do what I can do myself. I'm pretty smart, but I'm not a genius, so there are times when a certified mechanic's shop is necessary - such as a transmission or transfer case rebuild - or a complete flush of all 4wd parts and refill. It's cheaper in the long run because I know what I'm getting into and if something else comes along, they don't do the repair until I authorize it. I've taken my car in for the "free" oil changes and they've had to replace my battery 3 times - it now needs replacing again, along with the A/C condenser. I'll let the dealership do this - not some shade-tree mechanic. I'm not knocking shade-tree mechanics - I married one but he taught me how not to be taken advantage of and how to do things for myself. My daughters could change oil and flat tires before they could drive. They learned to drive on manual tranny's so that if they ever had to drive one to get in a safe situation, they could. The point is, make yourself capable, not victim.
0 likes
Oct 29, 2021
Just go get your truck there's nothing he can do
1 likes
Nov 8, 2021
THIS IS A CIVIL MATTER AND A JUDGE WILL DECIDE
0 likes
Nov 9, 2021
I own a 2017 Rolls-Royce done just moving from Florida to California had a few repairs that needed to be made called the concierge service in my car and it was sent to a repair shop in Los Gatos rolls Royce dealership this then was sent to a farmed out garage garage and I was never called or told about it being moved to anywhere for any type of repairs I then got a message from my roommate stating that they were looking for $6000 to start work on the car we sent them a check as I was in Los Angeles California with my son and my husband was in Pacific Grove closer to the shop Los Gatos which was the closest Rolls-Royce dealership we could find. I then got a phone call after several weeks of not hearing anything and no one calling me back that the check was put in too late and had bounced I had asked him when I could submit the money and they said don’t worry about it we haven’t started on the vehicle yet we’re waiting for some parts. The only second time I ever spoke to the owner of the farmed out garage was when he told me don’t worry about it many people with high and vehicles go out of the country and leave their cars here without remembering or caring about how long and when they get back it’s business as usual. I then come to find out after trying to call several times now this owner of this garage will not answer the phone will not take my calls will not take anyone’s calls that I had asked on my behalf my husband my uncle my son my attorney etc. no one could get in touch with him come to find out that while I was in LA He placed a lien on the car mechanics lien in my husbands name even though we were separated at the time but more so I am the sole owner of the vehicle and the only person on the title no one called me to tell me anything about what was going on with my car and again continued to try to reach this gentleman and was told several times he was out of the office out of the country out in the yard in a meeting on the phone every excuse you could possibly get I then called the original Rolls-Royce in Los Gatos and was told that I gave permission for him to start work on the car and the car was in pieces. Then someone else called and the car had never been touched and was not in pieces then had a friend go and offer to pay any fees for it sitting there just to get it out of their possession since there was no truths being told by anyone and they said that they could not do anything about it in the meantime they had accrued a number of 50,000 K or more for it sitting in his lot. At the time I assumed that everything was fine and it was just taking a while since it is a foreign car but then I realized that every time I tried to call I was being lied to and for some reason I had a bad feeling I then found out that he put out a lien in my husbands name still no calls back several times calling several times having others call The only time he would answer the phone was once when I called Los Gatos Rolls-Royce and they stated that I had given him permission to work on the car I said sir I have been trying to get a hold of this owner and he is not taking my calls and is continually dodging me for several months my Realtor took a picture of the lien that was posted on my front door where my husband was living at the time but he had had a car accident and was actually in the hospital at the time so never received the Lein in person he was never called no one from the DMV called me absolutely nothing was done about the fact that there was a lien and it was in the wrong persons name to begin with finally we got in touch with him when I called los Gatos and spoke to the manager there and he called us back where I had my lawyer my uncle and myself on the phone he said that car is gone it’s been sold I said are you kidding me that’s my car?! He laughed and said no it’s not it’s your husbands car I said this is ridiculous The three other people on the phone we were all staring at the title that stated my name in black-and-white he just said well then I guess you’re going to have to call a lawyer there’s nothing I can do about it and hung up on me what can I do about this because I’ve been trying for months and do not feel I should have to spend thousands of dollars on a lawyer for some thing that guy did not even understand was happening no one contacted me he absolutely knew how to get in touch with me because he spoke to me but out of all the months that he had my vehicle he spoke to me twice I have the Title free and clear still in my name but because it was purchased in Florida and I am in California I am not sure what to do I called the place in Fort Lauderdale where I bought the Rolls-Royce and the man that sold me the car said wow that’s a terrible story Kim sounds like something you are going to need a court for and a lawyer?! My car was paid in full I didn’t owe A single penny and would have given this man anything to just get my car back and deal with the court system afterwards but he refused I am begging someone to help me figure out what to do before I have to spend thousands of dollars on a lawyer and lose the car anyway for all I know because I was told this man has done this before but still don’t know how such a reputable company as Rolls-Royce would do this to me!? Please help Rolls Royce basically took my car after calling from my concierge in my car to have it picked up because of the repairs it needed and farmed it out without letting me even know about it until it was there and it was a licensed authorized Rolls-Royce body shop supposedly even though they do the same work at Los Gatos Rolls-Royce where I originally brought the car not to mention there were two men named Mike that supposedly were managers and I spoke to them both I paid for the added insurance and was refused to be given a loaner car and was treated terribly from the beginning and they wanted money upfront instead of insurance the whole thing is so upsetting and hard to believe I need to know how this happened and what to do next the car was close to a half $1 million and only has 14,000 miles on it and the last time it was seen it was in some type of cage all filthy and dirty and just left there after several people went to attempt to get my car back for me at any cost. Not to mention the countless different stories he told different people that my car was in pieces that was in a cage that they hadn’t even started on it on and on and on and then the best was when the owner was out of the country and they told us not to worry about wiring the money that we begged to wire so there was no issues and starting the car especially for $6000 that they want it down for it this car was in no way. Abandoned if that’s what they’re claiming at this point for all I know it could be anywhere it could be in pieces but doesn’t someone have to do a search for me and find me especially the DMV etc. before they can even do anything like this especially when the person that owns the car which is myself has a free and clear title in my hands. I asked if I should go to the police I was told not to worry about it I asked if I should do 1000 things to figure this out to no avail.
0 likes
Dec 22, 2021
do you also know if a preliminary contract for work agreed upon needs to be signed by titled owner?? my gf had $ issues, but made a partial payment, received no certified mailing of lien being placed, and upon calling to say she has money for rest of bill, they said they're not sure if they want to keep car or take payment (in mi)
0 likes
Jan 12, 2022
some tow my out church parking lot it was auto madicly lock
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Feb 17, 2022
If you don’t mind me asking, what was the outcome of this situation? I have a similar issue..
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Mar 1, 2022
If there was never any work done, they can't legally put a lien on the vehicle.. a lien is for money owed and if no work was ever done, you can't owe money, therefore no lien. Sounds like this mechanic is a conman and I would call authorities and get the care back
0 likes
Jul 13, 2022
Not a Ford person. Although I would say a 1997 f150 is some of the better years. Blue book doesn’t matter, a good truck is difficult to find. The newer it is the more electronic junk fails. Older the better. It’s worth the money.
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Jul 16, 2022
call insurance co snd police for theft
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