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Top 5 Things you Should Know Before Your Next Trip to a Repair Shop

Consumers are not powerless when it comes to disputes with repair shops. In fact, New York consumers enjoy a wide variety of protections and legal remedies in such disputes. In order to protect yourself, here are the top 5 things you should be aware of next time your vehicle is in the shop for repair:

1)      Always Request a Written Estimate

The New York Repair Shop Act requires repair shops to provide consumers with written estimates, if requested. The repair shop may not charge more than the estimated price, unless you agree otherwise. By requesting a written estimate at the outset of the repairs, you obtain a degree of certainty as to cost, eliminating any surprises when the final invoice is presented.

2)      Written Agreement Required to Collect Storage Charges

 Upon completion of the repairs, shops may access storage charges only if the consumer has agreed, in writing (e.g. on the signed estimate), to pay such charges. Even then, storage charges may not be assessed until 2 business days after the consumer has been notified to pick up the repaired vehicle.

 3)      Repair Shops may Assert a Lien for the Value of the Authorized Repairs

New York Lien Law provides licensed repair shops with a lien on the vehicle for the value of the authorized repairs. In order to enforce such liens, repair shops are authorized to auction a consumer’s vehicle. The proceeds of such auction are used to satisfy the lien, with any surplus being returned to the consumer. Consumers, however, must make a demand for the surplus – preferably in writing – as repair shops are not required to automatically return the surplus.

4)      Strict Compliance with the NY Lien Law is Required

Repair shops must comply with each and every applicable pre-requisite to sale, such as proper service of a Notice of Lien and Sale, and timely publication of the auction in a local newspaper. Any minor deviation will render the auction invalid. Catching the failure pre-auction, will force the repair shop to start again. A consumer’s use of an attorney experienced in lien law will significantly increase the likelihood of a discovery of a defect.

5)      Consumers have many Legal Remedies

Within 10 days of service of a Notice of Lien and Sale, consumers may commence a special proceeding to determine the validity of the repair shop’s asserted lien. If such time has elapsed, and the vehicle has already been auctioned, consumers may commence an action for conversion against the repair shop, and the auctioneer. Finally, consumers may file a complaint against an unscrupulous repair shop with the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles or other consumer protection agency.