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Ask Gerald-Esquire Your Own Question
Gerald-Esquire, Lawyer
Category: Consumer Protection Law
Satisfied Customers: 2850
Experience:  30 years of experience
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We own an automotive repair shop a small one. We have been

Customer Question

We own an automotive repair shop a small one. We have been in business for four years and this is our first encounter with this kind of problem. A first time coustomer dropped off a car in June and he has still not come to pick it up. At first he took our calls and said he was on vacation and then said he had extended his vacation and now the number is ***** and he has not come for his car. The total bill is about 700 and we could make payment arrangements if he needed to but we can't keep the car here forever and would like to be paid for the work.
JA: Because employment law varies from place to place, can you tell me what state this is in?
Customer: WA
JA: Has anything been filed or reported?
Customer: no I called the sheriff a while back because I was worried the customer had been hurt or that the car may even have been a stolen vehicle they did not have any reports on the car at the time, and that is all the info they could give us, they could not even verify if the customer that brought the car in was the legal owner.
JA: Anything else you want the lawyer to know before I connect you?
Customer: no
Submitted: 2 months ago.
Category: Consumer Protection Law
Expert:  Gerald-Esquire replied 2 months ago.

Thank you for using Just Answer. Please bear with me as I verify somethings for you. I will respond fully shortly. Thank you for your patience

Expert:  Gerald-Esquire replied 2 months ago.


Thank you for using Just Answer. I want to provide you the best service I can. Please feel free to ask any follow up questions you have.

I am an attorney with 30 years of experience; I hope to provide you information that will help you in resolving your question.

The proper thing for you to do is to file for a mechanics and storage lien against the vehicle. Once you obtain the lien you may sell the vehicle to recoup your charges, storage fees, and costs for obtaining the lein and selling the vehicle. Any amount above those costs gets returned to the owner.

The process is not that complicated, the Washington State Attorney General's Office has information on this here:

This link has the process for you to follow:

Here is a summary of the law as described by the Washington Court:

In evaluating the existence of a mechanic's lien, it is important to remember that consumer protection statutes like ARA have been adopted "to foster fair dealing and to eliminate misunderstandings in a trade which [has] been replete with frequent instances of unscrupulous conduct." I-5 Truck Sales & Serv. Co. v. Underwood, 32 Wn. App. 4, 11, 645 P.2d 716, review denied, 97 Wn.2d 1033 (1982). As a remedial statute, the ARA is to be liberally construed to further this legislative purpose. See Garth Parberry Equip. Repairs, Inc. v. James, 101 Wn.2d 220, 225,676 P.2d 470 (1984); Nucleonics Alliance, Local Union 1-369 v. WPPSS, 101 Wn.2d 24, 29, 677 P.2d 108 (1984). We will give the plain language of the ARA its full effect, even where the results sometimes seem harsh to the mechanic's interests. I-5 Truck Sales, at 10-11.

The ARA governs the conditions under which a mechanic may claim a valid mechanic's lien. RCW 46.71.040 requires a mechanic to provide either a written price estimate or a *592 choice of written estimate alternatives, prior to the commencement of repairs, where (1) the price of the repairs is estimated to exceed $75 and the mechanic chooses to reserve the right to assert a mechanic's lien, or (2) if the customer requests a written estimate. The choice of estimate alternatives requires the customer's signature or initials. Regardless of the estimate alternative chosen by the customer, including the no written estimate option, any mechanic wishing to assert a mechanic's lien must provide a written estimate. RCW 46.71.040(2). The only time a mechanic need not provide these estimate alternatives is when the repairs are for less than $75, or the customer's vehicle is brought to the mechanic without face-to-face contact. RCW 46.71.040(1).

[6] RCW 46.71.050 establishes the circumstances in which a mechanic is barred from asserting a mechanic's lien.[3] Under this section, when a mechanic is required to provide a written estimate or a choice of estimate alternatives under RCW 46.71.040, a written estimate is always required prior to the assertion of a lien.[4] An oral authorization will preserve the lien for additional work, but only if *593 the initial job is supported by a written estimate. For work performed outside of the written estimate or work exceeding 110 percent of the estimate which is not authorized orally or in writing by the customer, the mechanic may not claim a lien for the unauthorized amounts. RCW 46.71.050.

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Good luck,

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