Dear Consumer Ed:

My Grandmother dropped her car off for repairs at an automobile repair shop. She was hospitalized for two months following an accident and when she went to pick up the car she learned they sold it! Can they do that?

Consumer Ed says:

It depends.  Under Georgia law, a car is considered “abandoned” if it was left at a repair shop and not picked up within 30 days after the repairs are completed.  The repair shop has the right to sell an abandoned vehicle to collect money that the owner owes for repairs and storage.  However, the car cannot be sold before the shop makes legally required efforts to notify the owner that the car is considered abandoned and might be sold unless it is picked up within a specified time frame.  

Even if a shop sends the required notice, it cannot sell the car immediately.  Instead, it has to follow other steps required by law, including sending a demand to the owner for the storage fees and cost of notification.  The owner has 10 days to respond to the demand and the right to a hearing before the car is sold. 

If the shop followed all of the steps it was supposed to follow, then it probably had the legal right to sell the car.  If not, your grandmother may have remedies available to her, and should consult with an attorney to see what those remedies may be.

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