A “mechanic’s lien” is a statutory lien used to secure payment of provided labor, service, material, equipment, or storage. Most people have heard of mechanic’s liens in regards to repairs to their vehicles. Have you ever wondered what your rights are?
CAN A GARAGE KEEP MY CAR UNTIL I PAY THE BILL?
Yes! If you authorized the repairs and do not pay the repair costs on time, an automatic lien can be placed on your car. A “lien” means that the garage can legally keep your car until you pay for the repairs or it can sell the car if you don’t pay. A garage must meet certain restrictions before an automatic lien applies. The garage must comply with the Nevada law on written estimates discussed above. Further, the garage must provide a written statement of charges and notify you in person or by registered mail. They must also notify all other persons claiming an interest in the vehicle. (NRS 108.272(1)(b)) The notice must contain:
- an itemized claim showing the sum owed and when it became due;
- a brief description of the vehicle;
- demand that the amount claimed to be paid on or before a certain date;
- a statement that unless the claim is paid on time, the vehicle will be advertised and sold by auction at a specified time and place.
The written statement of charges must be sent to the last known address of the registered owner and any others known to have an interest or claim in the vehicle. This statement must include:
- The name and signature of the person authorizing or requesting the repairs;
- the total charges;
- an itemization and description of all parts used to repair the vehicle, showing the charge for each part;
- the charges made for labor;
- a description of all other charges.
a garage that places a lien on the vehicle without providing this notice is guilty of a misdemeanor. (NRS 487.690) The garage may not advertise the sale of the vehicle until 10 days after the delivery or anticipated delivery of the lien notice. A sale advertisement must then be published in a newspaper located wherever the sale is to be held. The ad must run weekly for three consecutive weeks. It must describe the vehicle, state the name of the owner or person on whose account it is held, and state the time and place of the sale. The final sale cannot be held less than 22 days after the first publication of the notice. (NRS 108.310 (3)). After the sale, the registration division will issue a certificate of title to the new owner. Note that at any time before the sale of the vehicle, you may satisfy the lien by paying the full amount claimed by the garage. (NRS 108.320) The garage may keep the money from the sale to satisfy the lien amount. Any extra money must be returned to you upon your request. (NRS 108.310 (4)) If the garage violates any of the above requirements, the owner/manager may be guilty of a misdemeanor. You may file a complaint with the District Attorney’s office (702-671-2501) or the Nevada Attorney General’s office (702-486-3420). Further, NRS 108 allows you to file a “motion for an order to show cause” with the district court when you believe that the “notice of lien” is frivolous and was made without reasonable cause or that the lien amount is excessive. You may file this case by yourself or you may hire an attorney. You have the right to contest the validity of a lien claimed by a garage, (NRS 108.350), but if you have already paid the garage the disputed amount to get your car back, you may still file a small claims action in Justice Court for up to $10,000. Copies of all estimates, receipts, and any other documents should be kept for use in court.
I DON’T WANT TO GO TO COURT OR COMPLAIN TO A GOVERNMENT AGENCY. DO I HAVE ANY OTHER WAY TO SETTLE A DISPUTE WITH MY GARAGE?
Yes! You may file a complaint with the Better Business Bureau (BBB) of Southern Nevada. After you file a written complaint, the BBB as a neutral third party contacts the garage to attempt to resolve the dispute. If that effort does not resolve the problem, the BBB may offer the services of a professional mediator, and a professional mediator can be obtained through the Neighborhood Justice Center located at the Regional Justice Center.