How long can property be left with someone before it’s considered abandoned?

I own a computer/electronics repair business, and I fixed a piece of equipment for someone. We agreed upon a $200 repair cost, and I notified the owner when it was ready. He never came to pick it up and it has now been months since. I’ve called and left messages a couple of times, but I’ve heard through the grapevine that he was bouncing checks all around town and I think he may have went out of business. It’s an expensive piece of equipment, probably cost $10,000+ when it was new but will only have a resell of around $1,000 now. What’s the proper procedure here?

Asked on August 19, 2011 Illinois

Answers:

Andrew T. Suszek / Suszek Law Offices

Answered 8 years ago | Contributor

It is not a matter of how long it has been since the customer left the property with you. In Illinois, if you perform an agreed service for a customer (such as repair work), a lien on the item repaired automatically arises under the Labor and Storage Lien Act. 770 ILCS 45/1. If the customer does not pay after being notified that the work is complete, your remedy is to foreclose on the lien. The procedure to do that is described in detail in Section 6 of the Lien Act. You can read that description here: http://www.ilga.gov/legislation/ilcs/ilcs3.asp?ActID=2251&ChapterID=63

Unfortunately, the explanation is quite complicated. However, in short, you can request your county sheriff's office to sell the item at auction. Notice has to be given to the owner, and that person has 10 days to object. If they do not object, the sheriff's office will sell the item and give you the amount that you are owed for the repair work, plus interest and costs of collecting the money. Unfortunately, attorney's fees are not included in those costs. See e.g. Estate of Downs v. Webster, 307 Ill.App.3d 65, 70 (3rd Dist. 1999). So, in your case, since you can only recover $200 plus a bit of interest and costs, it may be difficult to hire an attorney without losing most of your recovery to the attorney's fee.


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