“I have repaired a vehicle and it is ready for collection but all I have is a telephone number and the owner is now not responding, what can I do”
First things first, your options are limited if you do not have an address as any of the processes will require you to write to the owner. Now is the time to review your processes and re-iterate the point to all staff that no work should be instigated without confirmation of a name and address.
Ok, so how do you get it if you don’t have it?
Stage 1 – obtaining the keepers details
The DVLA can release details of the registered keeper of a vehicle if you can satisfy them that you have a legitimate need for the information. As a company you need to contact the DVLA and request V888/2. You will be required to confirm your details and provide a quick explanation as to why the information is required. It should be sufficient to confirm brief details of the contract and the fact that you require the information in order to pursue legal proceedings. The fee for this is £2.50 per vehicle and you should receive a response within a few weeks.
More information and an electronic version of the form can be found at https://www.gov.uk/request-information-from-dvla
Stage 2 - initial contact
Once you have the address you need to send a letter to the owner requesting payment. It is now time to consider whether you will pursue the matter through court or whether you can sell the vehicle under the Tort Interference With Goods Act 1977
Taking the owner to court - If you are owed money for a repair or diagnosis but the owner doesn’t agree then you will have to take the matter to a Judge in order to get a definitive answer. A court is capable of deciding who is right and how much is owed. Once this is decided then the court will be able to seize the vehicle and sell it to settle any debts. However you have to be warned that a court Order only states that money is due, not that the owner has the money to pay. As you will incur court fees on top of any Judgment, this should be considered.
Selling the vehicle - You cannot just sell someone’s property because it is on your premises or because you are owed money. DO NOT apply to the DVLA to become the registered keeper. You are not the legal owner and will become liable for any TAX.
If you have carried out work that increases the value of the vehicle and the owner is in agreement that the money is owed but cannot, or will not come to pay for it, then you have the ability to require the owner to collect the vehicle and pay within 14 days, and if this doesn’t happen you can then sell the vehicle to settle the debt provided you give him 3 months’ notice. There are a number of requirements to get this right, so we would strongly advise you discuss this with us so that we can take you through the steps required.
Stage 3 - The letter
Either way you will need to write to the owner in order to try and resolve the matter amicably. Any letter should clearly establish what it is you want them to do and why it is you believe they are liable. You should include a copy of any invoice as well as a deadline by which to respond. This should be at least 14 days but can be more.
Don’t forget to carefully document all conversations and to evidence all telephone calls, emails and letters for future reference. Also, this advice is general in nature and will need to be tailored to any one particular situation. As an RMI member you have access to the RMI Legal advice line, as well as a number of industry experts for your assistance. Should you find yourself in the situation above, contact us at any stage for advice and assistance as appropriate.
Motor Industry Legal Services
Motor Industry Legal Services (MILS Solicitors) provides fully comprehensive legal advice and representation to UK motor retailers for one annual fee. It is the only law firm in the UK which specialises in motor law and motor trade law. MILS currently advises over 1,000 individual businesses within the sector as well as the Retail Motor Industry Federation (RMI) and its members.