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JB Umphrey
JB Umphrey, Attorney
Category: Legal
Satisfied Customers: 20232
Experience:  Explains legal matters based on 14+ years experience.
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I have a marina in North Carolina. I have a customer that

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I have a marina in North Carolina. I have a 'customer' that owes about $1,000 in slip/storage fees and would like to know if I can place a lien on the boat? If so, how do I go about doing it? Also, the customer removed his boat from the premises in the middle of the night (last night). Is that criminal? Can I press charges?
Submitted: 1 year ago.
Category: Legal
Expert:  JB Umphrey replied 1 year ago.
Welcome and thank you for your question!

I am sorry to learn of the facts you've described. Was there a written contract with the customer?
Customer: replied 1 year ago.

Not really. I also have a RV park where the customer also has a RV camper (also in arrears) so I have a written contract for the camper but only a verbal contract for the boat. I also, would like to place a lien on the camper.

Expert:  JB Umphrey replied 1 year ago.
Thank you. If there is no written contract in place on the boat, please help me understand what law the boat owner broke when he moved his boat?

For example, if you parked your car at the grocery store, what law are you breaking if you return in the evening and drive your car off the lot?
Customer: replied 1 year ago.

A grocery store does not charge for storage whereas I do. The customer entered into a verbal agreement to store his boat on my property for a fee. I have sent him invoices and statements every month stating his balance. If not having a 'written' contract for the boat is going to stop me from having any recourse, how about the camper? How do I place a lien on it.

Expert:  JB Umphrey replied 1 year ago.
From the facts you've described and given the timing of events, it is not possible to place a lien on the items. Suit, however, can be filed for the non-payment of monies.

North Carolina allows judgment liens to be placed on real property but not personal property. The relevant law for judgment liens on real property in North Carolina is found here: http://law.onecle.com/north-carolina/1-civil-procedure/1-234.html

An option for consideration is to go to the local district court and file a small claims lawsuit over the owed monies. The process for doing that in North Carolina is found here: http://www.nccourts.org/courts/trial/sclaims/default.asp

Unfortunately, under the facts you've described, there is not a mechanism outside the courts where you can just go and file a lien on someone's personal property.

My goal is to provide you with excellent service – if you feel you have gotten anything less, please reply back. I am happy to address follow-up questions. Thank you for your business!

~~ J.B.
Customer: replied 1 year ago.

But I believe North Carolina categorizes boats and campers as vehicles. Why, then, would I not be able to place a lien on a vehicle, such as a mechanics lien? I did a google search and found § 14‑110 Defrauding innkeeper or campground owner. Why would this not apply?

Expert:  JB Umphrey replied 1 year ago.
Thank you for raising your additional concerns. I am happy to address them.

It is very important to note that the statute that you've cited is a criminal law (misdemeanor). It does not give you a solution outside of the criminal laws. However, a marina is not an inn or a campground. Even if a marina fell within that statute, your sole recourse would be to file a police report and it would be for the police to file criminal charges.

You are certainly free to contact the police for the unpaid slip fee. In all honestly, however, especially because there was no contract on the marina, don't be surprised if they shoo you away and say the criminal law doesn't apply and your dispute is only for the civil courts.

As for the campground stay, you are free to contact the police and file criminal charges on that front. Again, the statute you cited only gives criminal recourse (not civil recourse to file a lien).

From the facts you've described, you are not a garage or a repairman. That is why a mechanic's lien is not an available option. You may find this link to be informative on how mechanic's liens operate in NC: http://www.zlien.com/mechanics-lien/north-carolina-lien-law-faqs/

I hope that this helps to clarify your concerns. If not, please reply so that I may further assist.

~~ J.B.
Customer: replied 1 year ago.

Thank you for your answers. One last question. Can I put a lock on his camper or block it, so it cannot be removed in the middle of the night, legally? Or if he comes to remove it do I have to let him take it? Criminal charges will be definitely be filed if he does but do I have to let him take the camper or can I stop him with no criminal or civil action against me or my business?

Expert:  JB Umphrey replied 1 year ago.
There is no law or regulation which authorizes you to install such a locking mechanism. The law gives you a couple of options (e.g, small claims court for non-payment or filing criminal charges for non-payment in the campground) but it doesn't give you the tool of self-help with such a lock.

My goal is to provide you with excellent service – if you feel you have gotten anything less, please reply back. I am happy to address follow-up questions. Thank you for your business!

~~ J.B.
JB Umphrey, Attorney
Category: Legal
Satisfied Customers: 20232
Experience: Explains legal matters based on 14+ years experience.
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