A mechanic's lien is taken against property to secure the amount of repairs that the property owner has authorized. These liens apply to homes as well as vehicles; both types of liens are called mechanic's liens. An automotive repair facility can place a mechanic's lien against a vehicle, even if the owner of the car has clear title because it is paid in full.
An automotive repair facility has the power to place a mechanic's lien against a vehicle in order to secure an amount due for repairs. Most repair orders state that the customer acknowledges that an express mechanic's lien is placed against the vehicle for this purpose. If the repair facility completes repairs as authorized by the customer, and the customer does not pay for these repairs, the repair facility has the right to enforce its lien and not allow the customer to take the vehicle back. The repair facility with a signed repair order does not have to file any paperwork to enforce such a lien.
If a person places her vehicle in a parking facility or other storage area for a fee, the parking facility may have the same right to claim a mechanic's lien against the vehicle. This situation may be different, however, because the parking attendant usually collects the balance due when the customer is leaving the facility. If the customer refuses to pay, and the attendant retains the customer at the gate, the parking facility operator could be guilty of breaching the peace and be unable to collect the money due.
With a repair facility, the location of the vehicle is critical. The repair facility operator has the right to retain the vehicle with a mechanic's lien in order to collect the amount due for the repairs. Generally, the operator will retain the keys or lock the vehicle inside a fenced in area or in the shop overnight. If the customer leaves the property with the vehicle, the mechanic's lien is considered void. The customer still owes the money, but it becomes a collections matter instead of a property lien.
If a customer who owes money on a vehicle repair does not pick up the vehicle, the repair facility operator can, subject to state law, charge a storage fee for each day that the vehicle is there. After a certain amount of time, the owner of the repair shop can begin the process of taking legal ownership of the vehicle. The process varies by state, but in most cases a certified letter must be sent to the car owner's last address of record. After a certain amount of days, the facility owner can ask the state to issue a new title granting ownership to the repair facility. The mechanic's lien generally takes first position over any other liens against the vehicle. If a lender wishes to repossess, it must pay off the repair bill first.