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LayoftheLand
11-11-2011, 06:47 PM
Hey guys,

I have a quick question pertaining to but not limited to a mechanics lein.

A customer brought me 2 push mowers about 5 months ago, pieces of junk really, I estimated $150 between the two to get them up and running again.
Well, I got them repaired, and phoned the man, and got no response, left a message of course. And so the story goes, I phoned him 2-3 times a week for 4 months, leaving messages every time. Last week a man comes into the shop and asks what the two push mowers over there are. I told him the story, and offered them to him for $150 and sent them out.
Guess who comes in yesterday? HA! You got it! I told him basically what I just told you guys, and I even offered him the $150. He refused it, and "is in the process of filing the papers for small claims court".

I have a large sign in my shop that reads: "Any equipment left for over 30 days will be sold for cost of repairs"

How legal am I in doing this? He claims his two 5.5HP lawnboy non self-propel non bagger mowers are worth $800.
Which we all know is crap.
But, does he even have a case against me?

StihlMechanic
11-11-2011, 07:15 PM
I dont know your laws in NC, but you would of been smart to get a lien before selling. I have had many of these situations and sell the equipment with out one, taking a risk. At this point I would keep the 150 and wait and see if he goes through with it.

I used to charge $5 per day after 30 days of notice of the repairs completion, this usually got them to pay up.

FoghornLeghorn
11-11-2011, 07:18 PM
As long as everything is documented and that "sale after 30 days" sign is in your shop, then you should be fine.

Also, you tried to refund the $150, which shows a good faith effort on your part to resolve the issue. At this point I would just wait for a summons to arrive. 99% says you'll never get the summons because it's not worth his time to pursue the case.

No lawyer will take the case because the cost to push the case to court would cost more than the $800 he says they're worth in the first place...

Patriot Services
11-11-2011, 07:20 PM
Your clearly posted sign should be ample proof in court as well as the original dated ticket. 5 months is way too long. "Take me judge Judy fool"!
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jsslawncare
11-11-2011, 08:07 PM
I use to work in a machine shop and we had a lawyer write a 30 day notice for us that we had made into a sign like you have. We sold alot of things and never had a problem and yes people did come back after their stuff. I would just point to the sign and say "sorry, we tried to contact you". The sign did have to have a date on it. The date was the date it was hung. I do have a question- Why did you offer him the money for the mower's, if he had took it you would still be out of the money wouldn't you? Don't worry about it.

newz7151
11-12-2011, 01:57 AM
When you were calling him, were you calling from a cell phone or a land line phone? Were they local calls or long distance? JUST IN CASE, you need to try and see if there is a way to get your phone records that will help document how many times you were calling to try to get hold of him to pick them up.

thunderthud
11-12-2011, 11:12 PM
This is based on my jurisdiction, this may not apply to your local jurisdiction as each region has unique laws and rules.

If a merchant wants to take possession of an item left for a period of time by a party, you would need to document the rules, and usually give the person leaving their property in your care a receipt with the rules of your business that cannot violate the consumer laws of your state, county or city.

You have a default mechanics lien on the item because it is in your possession meaning the person cannot reclaim them item without either paying for the work or repair, or a judgement for a court authorizing a sheriff or constable to reclaim the item under the courts legal authority.

If a person fails to pick up their items within a reasonable time, you must send a certified letter to the owner of the item for them to cure the problem. If within a certain time they do not respond you usually place an ad in the local paper indicating the last known owner of the item, address and your intention to sell the item to recover your losses and storage charges if applicable.

In a nutshell, simply document each stage of the transaction to prove your lien, and to perfect your lien on the item.

A sign is not enough, you may be asked by the magistrate or judge what you did to contact the person and did you give the person the rules of your business in writing. Also, is the sign actually legal in your jurisdiction? You can put up a 'trespassers will be shot and eaten' but that doesn't actually make it legal. Some states have strong consumer protection laws, others have a 'have at it, boys' set of rules.

They also like proof from a third party like the USPS and a copy of the ad from the local paper if you did sell the stuff to indicate to the court that you did, in fact, try to contact the person. "I called him, like, seven times to pick up his, um, stuff, and I didn't hear back from the dude" doesn't fly.

The beauty of his 800 dollar claim is it will be in small claims court. No lawyers. In fact, most small claims magistrates hate lawyers and will really make it hard on counsel.

Paperwork is annoying but saves your butt in times like these. Good luck.

dtc0207
11-13-2011, 05:42 PM
If I got called in I would also add a 5 dollar a day storage fee so that is 600 plus 150 repair bill so at most 50 out of your pocket if you were to loose which I doubt
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WREBELMACHINE
07-09-2012, 04:51 PM
I have a question. I have what I thought was a friend that I loaned a ztr to. We then agreed verbally for him to buy it at a payment plan of x dollars a month. I have not received any money and he claims to have had to fix the machine and he has now put a mechanics lein on it. Is this even possible when it is my mower and I have not recieved any money towards it.

easy-lift guy
07-09-2012, 05:01 PM
In the state of Florida, based on your details. You are in the right and the case would maybe go to pretrial conference at best. If the person who is suing you wanted to go any further he could, but he better have a judge with a lot of time on his docket and a good sence of humor. In most cases judges are lacking both.
I believe the case will be thrown out based on your evidence. See it through, let the forum know how you made out.
easy-lift guy

Procareope
07-09-2012, 05:16 PM
This one may go either way once into court. His proclaimed value isn't going to hold up, but he may get you for a couple hundred dollars. Posted signs are great, but thunderthud said it best. We have all residential or new customers sign a copy of the work order, under which they are consenting to a set of terms. They are also provided a copy for their records. "Not responsible for loss due to theft, fire etc , storage fees will be assessed after X number of days, after X number of days without claim, the equipment becomes the property of X" "After a certain time period goes by (generally stick to 90 days), the unit will be sold to cover repair and storage cost"
Charging a storage fee allows you to recover some of the cost associated with chasing your money, and having a machine tie up precious storage space. It also encourages people to get in to pick up the machine. This fee is rarely charged, however is necessary if you wish to recover anything more than just the repair charges. Before ANYTHING is sold, a good faith effort is made to contact the customer one final time. We do this with a certified letter to the address provided when the customer brought in the machine. This letter states that if the machine isn't picked up and paid for in X number of days, the machine will be sold. This gives you a documented trail. You have there signature twice, once on the work order, and once on the certified letter.

Under most mechanic lean situations, if you have a $8,000 dollar mower in the shop getting tires put on, and the owner never shows to pick it up, you can't just sell it after you go through the process listed above and sit back and count your profit. After the cost of repairs, parts and storage are covered, the remaining profit has to be returned to the customer, presenting a whole other rat race.

Hope this helps somewhat. It really is a crappy situation for all parties involved, but inevitably continues to happen. You usually see this happen with cheap equipment, but I've seen some expensive pieces of equipment sit for months without any sign of anyone caring to pick it up. :hammerhead:

herler
07-09-2012, 05:21 PM
I find the coincidental timing of the two events just a bit hard to swallow, unfortunately it isn't legally binding and you may still carry the burden...

Way I figure it is the owner of the mowers knew things were way overdue and sent a friend over...
Who inquired about the machines, and bought them for $150.
And the very next day, the owner comes in.
Guess what, free lawn mowers!

Unfortunately if you're asking us after the fact you're likely in trouble, the customer has to be informed BEFORE leaving the mowers about the 30 day thing and a simple sign on the wall is not always enough, you should have had ample documentation before the mowers were ever released, you should have had forms signed and dated and maybe even notarised. The problem is the mowers still legally belong to the customer who left them there, I realize you're not a permanent equipment storage unit but we have to go the extra mile to make sure customer and machine are re-united properly, customers don't always understand 30 days when their mortgage payment is due first.
But at the least you should have gotten the buyer's full name and address and phone number, so you could try and call to see...

What's even more unfortunate is I think there are two guys who might have seen the opportunity to take advantage of a situation, too.
But you might still be held liable so I would see if you can't get the man two mowers for $150 + $150 some kind of way.
Still charge the customer his $150 plus the $150 you sold the mowers for gives you $300 to bargain with...
Granted you'll just break even at $0 and you're still out the labor and parts but at least nobody's getting a free ride.

J&A Lawn Care
07-14-2012, 12:24 PM
I have a question. I have what I thought was a friend that I loaned a ztr to. We then agreed verbally for him to buy it at a payment plan of x dollars a month. I have not received any money and he claims to have had to fix the machine and he has now put a mechanics lein on it. Is this even possible when it is my mower and I have not recieved any money towards it.

My guess would be that if he has no work order signed stating you ok'd the work to be done he has no leg to stand on here