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Mechanic's or Storage Lien (MSL)

The purpose of the Mechanic's or Storage Lien (MSL) process (Virginia Code §§ 43-33, 46.2-644.01, 46.2-644.02, 46.2-644.03) is to provide a business that tows, recovers, repairs, and/or stores a vehicle a way to recover the cost of repair or storage when the vehicle owner does not pay, or refuses to pay, for the service. This process allows the towing, recovery, repair or storage business to sell the vehicle, if the debt is not paid within 10 days after it is due.

Vehicles which qualify for a Mechanic's and Storage Lien may not be processed as abandoned vehicles.

Refer to the "Mechanic's or Storage Application" (VSA 41) for instructions on applying for such a lien and/or the subsequent sale of the vehicle.

If any of the owners of the vehicle is on active military duty or service, you must obtain a court order granting the enforcement of the lien, regardless of the value of the vehicle, as required under the Servicemembers' Civil Relief Act, § 50 U.S.C. App. 535. When you submit a MSL application, DMV will indicate whether any of the vehicle's owners has notified DMV that he or she is on active military duty or service. If DMV is unable to provide that information for a vehicle owner, you will be responsible for obtaining the owner's active military duty status from another source.

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Application Requirements

You must represent a vehicle towing, recovery, repair or storage business to be eligible for an MSL.

Your business and the vehicle must be located in Virginia. If either the vehicle or the business is not located in Virginia, you must contact the state in which it is located to determine how to apply for an MSL in that state.

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Vehicle Valuation

DMV verifies a vehicle's value using the National Automobile Dealer Association (NADA) trade-in value. A vehicle is eligible to be sold under the MSL process based on the NADA value. The NADA online valuation guide encompasses passenger vehicles, pickups and panel trucks 21 model years or newer. It encompasses nine model years of commercial trucks and motorcycles. However, the guide will not include the current model year until November of the current year. DMV will research the Online NADA value of the current model year vehicle and attach the Online NADA Value printout to the Mechanics and Storage Lien Application (VSA 41).

Trailers and manufactured homes are not included as part of the NADA online valuation guide. Instead, you must obtain an appraisal from an independent vehicle appraiser for a trailer and manufactured home. "Vanity" vehicles are assessed according to the NADA Classic, Collectible and Special Interest Car Appraisal Guide.

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Allowable Charges and Notification Requirements

The maximum lien amount a towing, recovery, repair or storage facility owner can request for reasonable charges is $500. To obtain any amount over $300, you must make a reasonable attempt to notify by telephone all of the vehicle owners and lienholders on DMV's records. You also must give written notice by certified mail, return receipt requested, to the vehicle owner and any lienholders within seven business days of taking possession of the vehicle.

If you are a mechanic who repairs a vehicle at the owner's request, you can request a lien for just and reasonable charges up to $1,000 and may retain possession of the vehicle until the charges are paid.

If you intend to sell the vehicle in order to recover the debt owed, you must notify all known vehicle owners and lienholders, by certified mail, return receipt requested, at least 10 days before the date of the sale. Whether you are able to obtain the vehicle owner and lienholder information or not, you must advertise the sale in a public place according to the guidelines listed on the VSA 41.

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Additional Information

The towing, recovery, repair shop or storage facility owner must return the vehicle owner's personal property, if claimed, prior to an auction.

However, in accordance with § 46.2-713, license plates are the property of DMV and are not the personal property of a vehicle owner. If your vehicle is disabled, wrecked or otherwise in the custody of a tow or impound lot and subject to mechanic's and storage lien, you may remove your personal property from the vehicle as allowed by § 46.2-644.01. After removing the license plates from your vehicle, you must return your plates to any DMV or Select office or mail them back to Headquarters in Richmond. If your plates do not expire for at least another six months, you will be eligible for a partial refund of the registration fee.

An individual who purchases a vehicle through an MSL process from another state or the District of Columbia, must obtain a title in his or her name in that jurisdiction prior to applying for a title in Virginia.

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Online Notice of Sale Posting

MSL applicants can expand their posting locations if the owner of the property is a nonresident or the address is unknown. Any notice may be served by posting a copy of any three of the following places in any combination:

  • One or more public places in the county or city where the property is located
  • One or more websites operated by the Commonwealth, the county or city where the property is located, or a political subvidision of either
  • One or more newspapers of general circulation in the county or city where the property is located, either in print or on their websites. For purposes of this section, "public place" means a premises owned by the Commonwealth or a political subdivision thereof, or an agency of either, that is open to the general public.

To post a Mechanic's or Storage Lien Notice of Sale online, click here.

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