Your car has been damaged, so you require repairs to take place. Your damaged vehicle may have been towed to the appropriate body shop, repairs have been made, and may have even been towed/stored in another location until payment is made. You are met with the bill, and prices are a lot higher than what you originally anticipated. The company in question has informed you that they will not return your vehicle or intend on placing a lien on your vehicle should payment not be made. What are your legal rights in these situations, and what are your next steps?
In situations when it comes to retrieving personal property (in this case, motor vehicles), it is critical that they are handled as soon as possible, as they can become incredibly time-sensitive. Storage fees may be continuing to accrue on a daily basis, and you would like to avoid the prospect of having a lien placed on your vehicle or trying to have it removed if this has already taken place. If a lien is already on your vehicle, as licensed paralegals we are not able to assist in the removal of those liens, so you will have to seek the counsel of a lawyer if this has already occurred.
Given the outlined fact scenario, these matters can be complex to handle, so it is critical to ensure that you follow the appropriate steps to avoid any potential recourse down the line. The following guide is to help provide a brief overview of your rights as a consumer, steps you can take to retrieve your vehicle, and the consequences that may follow should the situation not be addressed.
As a consumer, you have certain rights that may protect you in your particular matter. As per the Consumer Protection Act, 2002, several sections cover the discussion of repairs to motor vehicles, towing and storage fees, and liens that are worthwhile noting.
PART VI – REPAIRS TO MOTOR VEHICLES AND OTHER GOODS
Sections 55-65 of the Consumer Protection Act highlights “Repairs to Motor Vehicles and Other Goods”. The discussion focuses on the consumer’s entitlement to the following (but not limited to):
PART VI.1 – TOW AND STORAGE SERVICES
Section 65.1 – 65.21 of the Consumer Protection Act highlights “Tow and Storage Services”. The discussion in this section focuses on the consumer’s entitlement to the following (but not limited to):
PART XI – GENERAL – s. 119 LIENS AND DISCHARGES
Section 119 of the Consumer Protection Act highlights the steps a Director must take to satisfy in order to register a lien under the Repair and Storage Liens Act or the Personal Property Security Act. If the guidelines are not adhered to, the lien may have been illegally obtained. This can also be determined by running a lien search to see if a lien was properly place don your personal property.
Now that you have a better understanding of your rights, you can be in a better position to work with the Opposing Party in question in trying to retrieve your vehicle.
It is always encouraged to try and settle any matter outside of court, and this fact scenario is no different. Review the bill that has been provided and look for the following:
It is always encouraged to retain legal representation for these settlement discussions, in order to attempt to reach a peaceful and amicable solution, where litigation is not required.
The next option to retrieve your vehicle is to pay the balance requested by the Opposing Party but do so by paying under protest. By clearly highlighting this in writing, you are indicating to the Opposing Party that despite making payment you are currently reviewing your options to determine if an unfair value was determined for payment. If you feel that the amount you paid is unreasonable, you can commence a Small Claims Court action for the balance paid, or in the alternative the amount you deem to be unreasonable. Be mindful that there is a two (2) year time limitation for commencing a Small Claims Court action, so you need to ensure your claim is commenced within that limit. It is always encouraged that should you choose to commence a claim, that you hire legal representation to review your matter in advance, to ensure you have reasonable grounds for your claim.
The alternative to paying under protest to retrieve your vehicle is issuing an Application and Initial Certificate under s. 24 of the Repair and Storage Liens Act. In this option, you are paying the full amount of the balance into court as security, and through these issued documents, are retrieving your vehicle from the Opposing Party who is in possession of your vehicle. This can be a complex (and a time sensitive) process, so below is a brief outline:
The benefit to pursuing this route is that (a) there is a guarantee the vehicle is released to you and (b) if a claim is commenced against you, you are given the opportunity to adequately defend why you should not pay the full amount, or if anything at all. Also, a critical point – If you pay the funds directly to the Opposing Party and they were to close shop, there is no way of being able to collect on that company down the road even if you were commence a claim and obtain judgment. By paying the balance into court, you eliminate this possibility. It is encouraged that you seek legal representation if you are to take this route to ensure that all steps are properly followed given the timelines that need to be adhered to.
If you choose not to pay the balance to the Opposing Party or choose not to take one of the highlighted options, you should be mindful of the consequences that may follow. The consequences may include:
It is encouraged that you seek legal representation to speak with someone if you are involved in a dispute with a mechanic or tow/storage company. If the fact scenario outlined sounds similar to something you are dealing with, please give us a call at Precision Paralegal Services to schedule a consultation, and we would be more than happy to review your matter!
We are one of the largest Small Claims Court focused paralegal firms in Canada. The Precision Paralegal team has been representing our clients for over 23 years. With over 150 years of combined experience and having completed over 20,000 court room hours, Precision Paralegal Services is the right choice for your matter.
We believe that using a paralegal firm should be cost-effective and significantly less expensive than using a traditional law firm. Our paralegals charge between $125.00 – $295.00 per hour as opposed to lawyers who can charge upwards of $500.00 per hour.