A mechanic's lien is a legal instrument used by auto mechanics, contractors and materials suppliers to collect debts owed for improvements to vehicles or structures. When an auto mechanic repairs a vehicle’s engine, for example, he has a legal right to collect payment for that work. If the debtor refuses to pay, placement of a mechanic's lien on the vehicle creates a legal claim on the value of the vehicle in an amount equal to the unpaid debt plus allowable costs. The vehicle owner will be unable to sell the car until the debt has been satisfied. The procedure for placement of a mechanic's lien varies widely from state to state. The terminology differs as well. However, in most states you can place the lien on the vehicle’s title by filing the appropriate paperwork with your state’s motor vehicle authority.
Visit the local office of your state’s motor vehicle authority and inquire about the procedure for placement of a mechanic's lien on a vehicle title. Determine whether you need to file documentation showing that you are legally entitled to a claim on the vehicle. In this case, you may be required to obtain legal documents from the local court clerk. Many states, however, do not require documentary proof. Instead, you must sign an oath certifying under penalty of perjury that the debt is valid.
Complete a vehicle title search on the debtor’s name to ensure that the debtor is in fact the owner of the vehicle in question. The local office of your state’s motor vehicle authority will instruct you how to do this.
Obtain the forms necessary for placement of the lien from the motor vehicle authority. In many states, you will require two basic forms, which are titled differently from state to state. The first form is a general application for a certificate of title. The second is a form specific to the placement of liens, often called a lien notice or an entry of lien. The local office of your state’s motor vehicle authority will advise you accordingly.
Complete the forms and submit them to your state’s motor vehicle authority. The vehicle owner will be notified and asked to respond by paying the debt, disputing the debt or turning over the vehicle’s current certificate of title. When the certificate of title has been turned over, a new certificate of title will be issued to you, which you will hold until the debt is satisfied.
William Carpenter began writing professionally in 2004, working with nongovernmental organizations and business clients while living in China. He maintains clients in China while writing for a variety of U.S. publications. Carpenter holds a Bachelor of Science in economics from Portland State University.