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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?

11 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
3 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...
0 likes
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...
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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?
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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.
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