A friend has an upholstery shop in Buffalo, NY. A customer brought her a set of seats to re-do more than a year ago. The project was completed and several attempts have been made to contact the customer to pick them up and pay for work done, to no avail.

Can she sell the seats at this point to recoup her investment without running into a problem, should the customer resurface down the road?

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    Obvious question but needs to be asked - is there any written agreement between the shop owner and the customer? If there is an agreement, is this situation contemplated at all?
    – jqning
    Commented Sep 21, 2015 at 2:45
  • @jqning: No written agreement. Only an invoice of how much the cost will be. Doesn't state how long items will be held after work is done. Commented Sep 21, 2015 at 2:47
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    Also, does she have a way, or has she attempted to contact the person? If she has the address (assuming they are nit answering the phone/messages) I would sent a certified letter to the last known address, addressed to the customer, stating if it is not picked up by X date there will be a sale pursuant to New York law. If it comes back undeliverable you'll have to give notice by publication., as @jqning cites. The value of the work (the lien) should exceed the amount of value if the item. If not, if hang unto it until it's legally abandoned. I'll try to check when that occurs when I have a sec
    – gracey209
    Commented Sep 21, 2015 at 17:37
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    Ya, the law is a bit complicated when it comes to unclaimed consumer goods/. I know you are at least responsible for sending a certified letter to the customer letting them know their item will be sold. Then, if no response, a public notice must be placed in the local newspaper and then the items can be sold. Then she can keep what's owed. In most states the remainder goes either to the public coffers or to charity if it cannot be returned to he owner of the property. Some states let you charge storage fees. If she has room, the best thing to do is hang on to it, unless it's valuable.
    – gracey209
    Commented Sep 21, 2015 at 17:46
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    I say this only because by the time she pays for certified mail, and publication of a notice (usually needs to rune 3 weeks) then, she will be in it for another $200, and then if the person comes back in 5 months, she will probably get sued (she will win if she follows all the steps, but will probably get sued none the less.
    – gracey209
    Commented Sep 21, 2015 at 17:48

1 Answer 1


A person who repairs property has a lien on the property and can sell the property to satisfy the lien. There are notice requirements and the property must be sold at auction if it is worth more than $100.

I pulled this off of FindLaw, I have no idea of this law is current.

http://codes.lp.findlaw.com/nycode/LIE articles 8 and 9

N.Y. LIE. LAW § 180 : NY Code - Section 180: Artisans' lien on personal property

A person who makes, alters, repairs or performs work or services of any nature and description upon, or in any way enhances the value of an article of personal property, at the request or with the consent of the owner, has a lien on such article, while lawfully in possession thereof, for his reasonable charges for the work done and materials furnished, and may retain possession thereof until such charges are paid.

N.Y. LIE. LAW § 200 : NY Code - Section 200: Sale of personal property to satisfy a lien

A lien against personal property... if in the legal possession of the lienor, may be satisfied by the sale of such property according to the provisions of this article.

N.Y. LIE. LAW § 201 : NY Code - Section 201: Notice of sale

Before such sale is held the lienor shall serve a notice on the owner... or mail ( certified mail, return receipt requested, and by first-class mail)the notice if the property is of a value of less than one hundred dollars. The following must be included in the notice.

  1. The nature of the debt or agreement which gave rise to the lien.
  2. Description of the property
  3. Estimated value of the property
  4. Amount of the lien and the date of the notice

Give them ten days to pay, tell them when and where the sale is happening, and tell them they can bring as action under section 201a within ten days.

N.Y. LIE. LAW § 202 : NY Code - Section 202: Sale to be advertised; exception

Each sale of personal property of a value of one hundred dollars or more, or of any security, to satisfy a lien thereon shall be at public auction to the highest bidder, and shall be held in the city or town where the lien was acquired.
Each sale of personal property of a value of less than one hundred dollars, other than a security, to satisfy a lien thereon, shall be made pursuant to the provisions of subdivision one hereof (auction), or at a bona fide private sale in the city or town where the lien was acquired. A bona fide private sale pursuant to this section shall not be made until the expiration of six months after the time for the payment of the amount of the lien specified in the notice required to be served by section two hundred one or two hundred one-a of this article.

Section 204 - keep the money to cover the lien but hang onto the balance. Serve notice on the owner and then in six months if the owner does not claim the money deposit it with the treasurer or chamberlain of the city or village, or the commissioner of finance in the city of New York, or the supervisor of the town, where such sale was held. You don't get this money back, it goes to the owner or to the town eventually.

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