Liens on Your Motor Vehicle

The topics in the Dial-A-Law series provide general information on legal issues within the Province of Alberta. The purpose of this topic is to inform you of your legal rights and responsibilities. This is not legal advice. If you require legal advice, you should contact a lawyer.

This topic discusses liens that can be placed against your vehicle if you do not pay for the repairs or services you authorize to have done to it. A lien will have two effects: the garage keeper can physically keep your vehicle in their garage, and/or the garage keeper can register their lien against your vehicle, which will prevent you from selling your vehicle. All of the information provided below is current as of July 29, 2020.

If you authorize repairs or work to be done on your motor vehicle or farming vehicle, a vehicle repair facility or garage keeper is entitled to keep your vehicle until you reimburse the garage keeper or pay the service or repair costs. If you did not authorize the repairs you are being charged for, you may be the victim of Unfair Trading, and you should contact the Consumer Contact Centre at 1-877-427-4088. The garage keeper cannot drive your vehicle or damage it when keeping the vehicle.

Given that your vehicle takes up space in the garage, the garage keeper may release your vehicle if you acknowledge the debt by signing the invoice for repairs. The garage keeper only has 21 days to register a lien against your vehicle at the Personal Property Registry from the day that either: (1) the parts were furnished for the vehicle; (2) the repairs were completed; or (3) possession was surrendered to the owner and the debt was acknowledged. You will receive a copy of the documents to confirm the registration of the lien unless you waived the right to receive the copies. The registration lasts for 6 months from the date it was filed. The lien can be renewed by Court Order for a further 6 months.

As soon as the lien is registered at the Personal Property Registry, the garage keeper may start proceedings to collect the debt. The garage keeper can have your vehicle seized and sold to pay for the debt. The seizure and sale must be done by a registered civil enforcement agency. You will be served with a notice of the seizure. The Notice of Seizure may be served at the place where the vehicle is located (if the garage keeper surrendered possession of the vehicle), to the owner or to another adult member of the owner’s household, or by leaving the Notice posted in a conspicuous place. The Notice may also be posted on your door. Once the Notice of Seizure has been served, you may file for a Notice of Objection at the Court of Queen’s Bench if you have valid reasons to object to the seizure and sale of your vehicle. The reasons must be clear and valid (for instance, the vehicle is leased), otherwise the Notice of Objection will be disregarded. You must serve the Notice of Objection on the same civil enforcement agency within 15 days after service of the Notice of Seizure. Once the Notice of Objection is filed and served properly, your vehicle cannot be sold or disposed of without a Court Order.

If no Notice of Objection is served with the civil enforcement agency within 15 days then your vehicle may be sold. The money received from the sale of your vehicle will pay the costs of the sale first, and the debt of the garage keeper second. If there are other liens or encumbrances against your vehicle, the money will cover these next. If there is money left over from the payment of all liens, the remaining amount will be returned to you.

You can prevent the sale of your vehicle by paying the civil enforcement agency the amount of the debt before your vehicle is sold. Once you pay the debt to the garage keeper, then the lien will be discharged from the Personal Property Registry. After a registered lien has been cleared, it is important to do another search at the Personal Property Registry office to see if the liens have been properly discharged. If the liens have not been discharged, you should send and serve a written demand to the garage keeper requiring the garage keeper to discharge the lien registration. Serve the demand letter by leaving it with the garage keeper or sending it by registered mail. If the garage keeper does not discharge the lien registration, you should make an application to the Court of Queen’s Bench to confirm that the registration should be discharged. You must prove to the Court that the demand letter was properly served to the garage keeper. It is possible to avoid these added complications by making sure that your payment of the debt is contingent upon receiving confirmation that the registered lien has been discharged.

The law dealing with liens can be complex and you are advised to seek legal counsel when you have concerns. You may also contact the Consumer Contact Centre at 1-877-427-4088.

Dial-A-Law is a Calgary Legal Guidance public service project funded in part by the Alberta Law Foundation.