Garage Refusing to Release your Car? How to Get it Back through Small Claims Court.

Disputes related to the repair of motor vehicles are widespread.  It is hard to find someone who, at least once in lifetime, has not had an awkward conversation with a guy in blue denim, asking him why the car is still stalling while the payment is still being requested. It is even more awkward when the guy refuses to release the car until full payment is provided.  Calling the police does no good. After listening both parties, the police officer calmly explains that whatever is going on is not his jurisdiction, but is a civil dispute for the court to decide.

You are now facing two issues:

  • Does the garage have the right to detain a car until full payment is provided? And,
  • How do I get the car back without paying for the shoddy repair work?

Both of these issues are settled by the Repair and Storage Liens Act, a piece of the provincial legislation enacted to protect repair service providers, as well as their customers. With respect to the first question, the Act does allow a repair shop to keep a car if the work done on the car is not paid for. This is called a possessory lien. However, the Act also provides a customer with certain means to retrieve a vehicle without a direct payment to a repair shop.

 This is a procedure for the Small Claims Court.

To begin, an aggrieved customer or their paralegal must prepare an application to obtain what is called an initial certificate. This application must be accompanied with a deposit for the disputed amount, made payable to the Small Claims Court. The certificate should be delivered to the repair shop, which would then have to release the car if there is no dispute about the amount of deposit.

If there is a dispute, however, the repair shop must file an objection with the court office within three days after the initial certificate was delivered to them. If the repair shop doesn’t file the objection, but still refuses to release the car, the customer can obtain what is called a writ of seizure, which is an unconditional order to release the car, enforceable through a bailiff of sheriff’s office. If an objection is filed, the Small Claims Court office issues a final certificate, which obliges the repair shop to release the vehicle, only upon the customer depositing the additional sum of money requested by the repair shop.

 After the car is released, the repair shop has ninety days to commence a legal action to claim the deposit held by the Small Claims Court. The customer can defend the action in the same way as in all other Small Claims Court matters. A Small Claims Court judge will hear the matter at trial and determine whether the deposit must be paid to the repair shop, partially or in full.

If the repair shop does not file a claim in ninety days, the deposit money must be returned to the client. 


Sylvie, Toronto

I really appreciated your attention to details, your level of preparation which was impressive, and enthusiasm. I am really happy we have Spectrum Paralegal in our corner. Thank you for being the champion of our small claims court!