One of the problems most frequently suffered by RMI Members is that of clients handing in a vehicle or engine for repairs, where-after they simply fail to collect the vehicle or cannot afford to pay the bill.
While in possession of someone else’s vehicle or engine on which you have done work and expended money, you have a right of retention over the vehicle while it remains in your possession. This means that you may refuse to hand over the vehicle pending final payment of your bill.
Members should take note that they have no right of retention over a vehicle in respect of storage costs in respect of any retention period and should take care to specify that cost in respect of storage must be paid prior to any costs in respect of repairs or one could inadvertently lose one’s lien.
There are two solutions to the problem of clients who can not afford to pay the bill. The first solution is to enter into an agreement with the client to pay the outstanding amount in instalments. Care should be taken not to create an incidental credit agreement in terms of the new National Credit Act which can cause all kinds of further problems. It is also important to know that once possession of the vehicle is surrendered to the client, you lose your right of retention and cannot regain it. In this regard members are advised to retain possession of the vehicle pending finalisation of all instalments.
Where clients simply fail to collect their vehicles at all, members are advised that they may not sell the vehicles to defray costs as such a sale is illegal and ownership cannot be transferred to the purchaser. The real owner of the vehicle can institute action against any person who came into possession of the vehicle in this manner and can regain possession of his vehicle. The correct procedure would be to institute an action in the appropriate Court, obtain a Judgement, issue a Warrant of Execution and get the Sheriff to attach the vehicle on your premises and sell it in Execution. In the last instance one can recover costs of the account as well as any storage cost in one’s Summons.
It is important not to take the law in your own hands as this will have detrimental consequences and will always end up costing the Member more than following due process.
RMI 4 Law members are entitled to telephonic advice regarding the new National Credit Act.