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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Apr 2011
    Posts
    3

    Default Limits on Storage Fees for Vehicle Abandoned With a Mechanic

    FIrst time to post, so forgive me if I posted this in the wrong place...

    (BACKGROUND)
    I owned a motorcycle shop for several years, here in Alabama. I had a regular customer bring me his wrecked bike for repairs. This customer wanted to customize the bike as we repaired it. We quoted him a price for the parts, for the labor, and as he was having many of the parts custom built/modified by several other specialty shops, we added a daily storage fee, to be charged while we waited on the customization of the parts to be completed. We ordered numerous repair parts for the bike, which the customer paid for as these parts arrived. We removed all of the parts, from the bike, that the customer was taking to the specialty shops for customization and he incured the labor charges for this work which was to be paid after we completed the assembly of the bike.

    The customer came by the shop or called on occassions over the next 6 months or so, to ensure us that he had not forgot about his bike, but that the fabrication of some ot his customized parts was taking longer than he expected.

    At eight months, a lady stopped by the shop and provided us with a copy of power of attorney, from the customer, giving her authority to handle his affairs. We provided her with an up to date total of what was owed. She explained that our customer was involved in some legal problems and that she needed us to continue storing the bike until she could round up the custom fabricated parts so that we could complete the assembly of the bike. We agreed to do so.

    Approx 6 months later we got a call from this same lady who said she just wanted to make sure we were still storing the bike. We explained that we were but that the we were and we gave her an updated cost of the current charges. Again we were asked to continue storing the motorcycle until she could get someone by the shop to pick it up. We offered to deliver the motorcycle to her but she did not know where she was going to put it and that she would have someone contact us to arrange payment and pickup.

    Approx 4 months later a gentleman came by the shop and said that he had been sent to get a current total of the charges and to see what he would need to haul the bike with. We provided him with a total of the charges and explained to him what he would need to securly haul the motorcycle.

    Approx 3 months later we called the numbers we had for both our customer and the lady which he had provided the power of attorney to. We left several messages that we were moving the busines and we informed them how to contact us.

    Approx 4 months later we were contacted by a gentlman who said he had been sent to get the motorcycle. We explained to him that we would have to get him an updated invoice and for him to return on the following date. We have not heard from or seen anyone in regard to this bike since.


    (LAW IN QUESTION)
    Alabama Law Section 32-13-3(2) States:

    (2) Any person or firm on whose property an abandoned motor vehicle as defined in subdivision (2) of Section 32-13-1 has been lawfully towed, or the owner or lessee of real property or his or her agent upon which an abandoned motor vehicle as defined in subdivision (2) of Section 32-13-1 has become abandoned, and who has the abandoned motor vehicle as defined in subdivision (2) of Section 32-13-1 on his or her property, except vehicles which have been claimed within seven days after being towed, and who has notified or attempted to notify by certified mail, return receipt requested, the owner or lienholders of record, if any, after the abandoned motor vehicle was lawfully towed onto his or her property, may, 60 days after the abandoned vehicle was lawfully towed, sell the vehicle at public auction. In addition, if notice was not given or attempted to be given as provided herein to the owner or lienholders, no additional storage charges may be added after 30 days.
    (PROBLEM)
    After waiting a year, with no contact from anyone, we deceided to declare the vehicle abandoned and to have the paperwork processed with the state so that we could sell the motorcycle to pay for the labor and storage charges. We hired a company that processes abandoned vehicle paperwork to do this for us. In the process, they learned that there was a lein holder, which they notified along with the registered owner. The lein holder objected to the sale and is claiming that we can only charge 30 days of storage, since they had not been notified until recently. We have been ordered to appear for a "status conference" at the court house.


    (OPINIONS/ARGUMENTS REQUESTED)
    I am looking for opinions/Arguments as to whether we can or cannot charge these storage fees and if we can, for how long. I also would be interested to know, what we should/should not take to this "staus conference" and what we should expect to take place during this conference..


    Any Help would be greatly appreciated..

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Sep 2005
    Location
    Behind a Desk
    Posts
    98,846

    Default Re: Limits on Storage Fees for Vehicle Abandoned With a Mechanic

    The statute you quoted says, "In addition, if notice was not given or attempted to be given as provided herein to the owner or lienholders, no additional storage charges may be added after 30 days." You have told us that you did not attempt to give notice to the lienholder, so it would appear from what you've told us that they're correct that their claim has priority over yours beyond the cost of repair and thirty days storage.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Apr 2011
    Posts
    3

    Default Re: Limits on Storage Fees for Vehicle Abandoned With a Mechanic

    Thank You for your response.. I really do appreciate it..

    I guess my confusion is:

    a. that the storage was part of the mechanic work being done opposed to being added on after a certain period of not having contact from the owner.

    b. The law says (as I read it), "notify by certified mail, return receipt requested, the owner or lienholders of record, if any, after the abandoned motor vehicle was lawfully towed onto his or her property,". The vehicle was not towed onto the property, it was actually rode in to the shop by the customer and we did not consider the bike abandoned as we had a workorder for this work as well as we had regular contact with the owner (and/or his legal representative). We considered the bike to be a work in progress, as we've had several project bikes that have taken several years to complete. Luckily, all those customers paid for the work and the storage fees without any problems. Once we could no longer contact the owner (or his legal representative) we did consider the bike to be abandoned and we notified both, the owner and the lein holder, via certified mail as was required..

    I understand that once the bike was "abandoned", that without sending the certified letter we could not continue adding storage fees to the bill. We considered the bike abandoned as of the date we last had contact with the owners representative. So if we credit those months back, there would still be 25 months of storage that was part of the mechanics original workorder. Could we not be entitled this storage?

    re. I enter into a three year contract to store my car, at a long term parking garage, while I'm gone to Iraq for Duty. After 3 years, the garage owner spends 1 year trying to contact me, the owner of record. At 4 years, he gives up and sends me, and the newly learned about lein holder, a certified letter with his intentions to sale if the bill for services is not paid. Is the garage owner only allowed to collect on 30 days of storage from the unknown Lein Holder? Or could the garage owner collect on 3 years and 30 days, as the car was not considered abandoned for the first 3 years?

    Under these circumstances, is your opinion the same? Would it be your opinion that we should of also filed a mechanics lein?

    Once again, thank you very much for your time and opinion. It is very much apprciated..

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jan 2006
    Posts
    38,867

    Default Re: Limits on Storage Fees for Vehicle Abandoned With a Mechanic

    The argument the lien holder is arguing is against storage due to abandonment, not contracted storage.


    I believe this defines the time allowed to charge under the contract:

    Section 32-13-1

    Abandoned motor vehicle defined; posted notice.

    For the purposes of this chapter, an abandoned motor vehicle shall mean a motor vehicle as defined in Section 32-8-2:

    (1) Which has been left by the owner, or some person acting for the owner, with an automobile dealer, repairman, or wrecker service for repair or for some other reason and has not been called for by the owner or other person within a period of 60 days after the time agreed upon and within 60 days after the vehicle is turned over to a dealer, repairman, or wrecker service when no time is agreed upon, or within 60 days after the completion of necessary repairs.
    since each contact effectively started a new time for considering it as abandoned, I believe you have a valid argument up until the last guy spoke with you. Then you can add the 60 days, or since you didn't notify the lien holder, 30 days on top of that.

    Basically, it appears the law is designed to the shop cannot simply continue to store the vehicle with the intent of running up storage fees. As such, the state limits it to 60 days after abandonment. So, I would accept the last time of contact as the point of abandonment. Add 30 days storage to that and claim that at the contract fees plus the allotted 30 days additional storage.

    They may come back and argue that any time there was more than a 60 day period without contact or specific direction to store the bike (continuation of the contract), the bike should be considered abandoned at that time.



    In any case, your absolute limit would be from the time of last contact plus 60 days reduced to 3o days due to your failure to notify the lien holder.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Apr 2011
    Posts
    3

    Default Re: Limits on Storage Fees for Vehicle Abandoned With a Mechanic

    Thank You for your input..

    Yes, I think you are correct on the point that the law was intended to keep a shop from running up an unpayable storage charge, on a customers vehicle, without notifying the owner, and/or lien holder, so as to give the owner, and/or lien holder, the opportuity to pay the storage fees while these fees were still reasonable.

    I'm not sure that the law was meant to void the shops contract, with the owner of record, for services rendered, in this case the customer ordered mechanic work and the storage of his bike while this work was being completed.

    I think you also bring up a good point, under AL Sec 32-13-1(1), "60 days after the time agreed upon". As this was a regular customer, we agreed to store the bike from the time we started the repairs until the date the repairs were completed. I believe this to be an "agreed upon" time period, so the service fees should be paid thru the time that we no longer had contact with the owner, or his legal agent, plus 30 days, and, if the judge agrees with this argument, I think that we would be due the additional 30 days of storage from the date that the lien holder was notified by certified mail, as well...

    Again, I very much apprciate your opinion and I welcome opinions from anyone who may want to weigh in...

    A whole other point of view, or a much clearer view of ones own point, can only be realized through the eys of an unbiased party...

    I appreciate anyones help in seeing these points of view..

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