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Abandoned vehicles: what are your rights?

A vehicle has been left uncollected in your workshop for months now. What’s going to happen if you sell it to defray costs? Find out here...

We receive queries regarding abandoned vehicles from many workshops, asking what their rights are in this regard. Typically, workshop owners want to know if they are legally entitled to keep a vehicle if repairs have not been paid for; if they are allowed to charge for storage if a vehicle is not collected once repairs have been carried out; and what their rights are when it comes to disposal, should the vehicle remain uncollected.

One of the most important things to know is that you are, indeed, able to keep a vehicle until such time as repairs have been paid for in full. You may also be able to claim storage costs and release fees, so long as these terms are included in the initial contract signed by the customer. With this in mind, it is vital that your contracts are carefully crafted, easy to understand, and comprehensive enough to cover all considerations.

The subject becomes more complicated if a bank or other financial institution claims the vehicle because the customer has also lapsed on car payments. In these cases, it’s best to seek legal advice, as there are a number of factors to consider.

As for storage fees: workshops are able to charge such fees when vehicles have not been collected but, again, it’s a good idea to ensure that this is communicated to the client and that they understand how much they will be charged.

Finally, if a vehicle remains uncollected, you may need to involve a sheriff for disposal and to claim back costs. There are a number of steps that must be followed before you can take such action, though; for example, you will have to send a letter of final demand and, if this remains unanswered, issue a summons. 

Because this is a complicated issue, we advise workshop owners to refer to the newsflash we recently distributed, which contains more details about the procedures to be followed in each case. Please also visit our website for more information.