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The type of lien you are looking for is called a "Repairman's Lien." Once you establish the lien you can then Petition the Court for an "Involuntary Transfer of Title."
Pennsylvania law permits a repairman who has obtained a common law lien for labor and material to give notice to the owner of the amount of indebtedness and if the indebtedness is not paid within thirty (30) days, to proceed to sell the property. 6 P.S. § 11 et. seq. With respect to motor vehicles, ownership may not pass without a valid certificate of title being obtained. 75 Pa. C.S.A. § 201 (a). Penn DOT will not, however, issue a title to a repairman without an Order of Court. Indeed, Penn DOT has established a specific procedure wherein the ownership of a motor vehicle may be involuntarily transferred by a Court Order.
You must provide written Notice of your intent to place the lien on the vehicle. Send the notice to the registered owner by certified mail. The notice must include an itemized statement of the work done and the materials furnished.
If the charges due are not paid within 30 days of the notice, then you Petition the Court for an Involuntary Transfer of Title. Once you have the Order granting the Petition you can take that to PennDot and obtain Title to the vehicle.
If the amount at issue is less than $12,000.00 you can file the Petition in Small Claims Court. You will have to serve the registered owner the Petition as well.
This case describes the law on this:
This is the applicable statute:
6 P.S. § 11
§ 11. Procedure for sale of personal property under common law lien
Hereafter where any person, corporation, firm, or copartnership may have what is known as a “common law lien” for work done or material furnished about the repair of any personal property belonging to another person, corporation, firm, or copartnership, it shall be lawful for such person, corporation, firm, or copartnership having said common law lien, while such property is in the hands of the said person, corporation, firm, or copartnership contributing such work and material, to give notice in writing to the owner of the amount of indebtedness for which said common law lien is claimed for the labor and material that has entered into the repair, alteration, improvement, or otherwise, done upon the said property. If the said claim for said work or material is not paid within thirty days the said person, corporation, firm, or copartnership to which said money is due, may proceed to sell the said property, as hereinafter provided: Provided, however, That the owner of said property, if he disputes said bill, may issue a writ of replevin, as provided by law, within the said thirty days, and the said dispute shall be settled in said action of replevin.
You can find the other pertinent statutes here:
Here is an article that describes the Small Claims Court Process:
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