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

UPDATED: Aug 19, 2011

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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


Andrew T. Suszek / Suszek Law Offices

Answered 10 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:

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.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.

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