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Dave Kennett
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I am an art conservator and have a client who has not paid

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I am an art conservator and have a client who has not paid their bill and who also has not picked up their artifact which I treated. It has now been over one year since I communicated with her that she needs to pick up the object and pay her bill. Every so often I write her and ask her to fulfill her obligation, but I get no action. At one point is the property considered abandoned? Another alternative for payment is to take the object in lieu of payment. How would I proceed with this?
Submitted: 2 years ago.
Category: Business Law
Expert:  Dave Kennett replied 2 years ago.

-Could you explain your situation a little more?
Do you have a written contract?

If so, is there anything in the contract as to what happens if the property is not retrieved and the work paid for?

Is the value of the property comparable to your fee?

Customer: replied 2 years ago.

Not sure if you received my reply or not. I have a written agreement. Cost of treatment was $1200, she paid a deposit of $200. Object will not be released until complete bill is paid. The object could potentially be worth many times this.

Expert:  Dave Kennett replied 2 years ago.
Dear JACUSTOMER - I did not receive a reply other than this one. If you have an agreement it would appear she owes $1000 on her account. If the property is worth many times what she owes you need to be careful disposing of it and then having her sue you. Basically you have two options. One is to file a suit in the local small claims court for the balance. You don't need an attorney and the court should have all the necessary forms. The second option is to notify her by certified mail that after 30 days you will consider the property abandoned and will sell it at auction. You would be required to pay her whatever amount over the $1000 plus reasonable costs of storage and handling. If you sell it and keep all the money you will likely be sued for the difference on the basis of unjust enrichment. If you use the first option of the small claims court you will avoid the possibility of being sued over the sale of the item but you would be within your rights to declare the property abandoned if it is not claimed within the 30 days of your notice. It's not always what you have a legal right to do but what is the most practical way of achieving success with the least amount of problems.
Customer: replied 2 years ago.

I do not have her address in order to send her a certified letter, just an email address and phone number. How can I legally notify her of either my small claims suit or the option of selling the piece at auction. Also, if I give the piece to a local museum instead of selling it, can I be sued for unjust enrichment?Thank you!

 

 

Will you be answering this? I can't tell.

Expert:  Dave Kennett replied 2 years ago.
If you donate it you can't be sued for unjust enrichment but theoretically you can be sued for wrongfully transferring the property. I'm not saying you would lose but, as the saying goes, "anyone can sue anyone" and this person sounds like problems. If you just want to give it away I would simply loan it to the museum and then you could get it back if she ever pays. Frankly a small claims suit would be the best approach. You can serve her by publication if you have no address or try to find her through the internet or real estate records.
Customer: replied 2 years ago.

Thank you so much. This has been very helpful.

Expert:  Dave Kennett replied 2 years ago.
No problem and thanks for using our service - Dave
Dave Kennett, Attorney
Category: Business Law
Satisfied Customers: 27687
Experience: 25 years practicing law
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