How long to hold onto a repaired instrument


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I've had a cello ($1500 price range) in the shop that had some open seams and needed a re-hair. The work was done in Sept. The client has dropped off the face of the earth. I have called and left dozens of messages. At what point would you write her off and take ownership of the instrument? Would you ever? I don't have the space to keep it indefinitely and I am tired of having it here. Any policy advice would be appreciated. Thanks!

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It depends on where you live and what the laws are.  When I had a similar situation I was guided by an attorney to look into the pertinent situations with auto mechanics.  I dealt with a local "friend of the court" and the short story is that I had to send a registered letter to the last known address of the owner notifying them that the instrument would be actioned at a certain date, place and time if they didn't pay for and collect the instrument.  I never heard back from the owner of the instrument and, the registered letter I sent was returned unopened. The instrument was sold  by simple auction at the local courthouse at the stated time.

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In the US it depends by state and it is often very hard to even find the applicable laws, most of the laws are written about vehicle repair. Usually there is some period of time that has to elapse, then you have to send a registered letter ot the owner, then you can sell it, sometimes it has to be a public auction, sometimes you can only sell it for the cost of the repairs you did. The terms used in the laws are usually something like "constructive bailment" or "mutual benefit bailment".

 

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7 hours ago, glebert said:

In the US it depends by state...

For example, here is the New Hampshire law regarding property left for repair and not picked up:

CHAPTER 471-D DISPOSAL OF UNCLAIMED PROPERTY BY REPAIR BUSINESSES (state.nh.us)

This applies to property worth less than $500; I don't know what NH law says, if anything, about property that is worth more.

I found this by searching NH statutes online.  You can probably do the same for Maine laws.

I have some violins in my shop with completed repairs that haven't been picked up for years.

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What about charging some fee for storing the instrument after some reasonable time after repair, like some repair businesses here do. So if it won't get picked up you will charge $20 (or any reasonable fee) a month and after some time the owner owes you enough to call court executor...

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2 hours ago, HoGo said:

What about charging some fee for storing the instrument after some reasonable time after repair, like some repair businesses here do. So if it won't get picked up you will charge $20 (or any reasonable fee) a month and after some time the owner owes you enough to call court executor...

Again, each jurisdiction is different.  What you describe is a good idea if the law in the jurisdiction allows for it.  These are generally called storageman liens, garagemen liens, and such.  The OP should research the laws in his/her jurisdiction or call an attorney.

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Most of the time when I have had instruments in shops, the repair agreements often have a clause "Not responsible for instruments left after x number of days...." or something like that. Perhaps there no legal ground in many places.

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This is a special time and might have to be sensitive to that. There is so much going on and at home, I do not see so much of what is happening in the surrounding communities.

Visited a friend recently for a hike and was surprised that parking at his apartment complex was easy where it generally took 10min of circling. Many people had moved out. I did not realize how severely people were impacted in more urban areas. 

Also had a bow for several years only to have heard that the owner passed away. That bow was returned to his family once it was possible to established contact and they were grateful. 

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On 1/7/2021 at 6:39 PM, arglebargle said:

I've had a cello ($1500 price range) in the shop that had some open seams and needed a re-hair. The work was done in Sept. The client has dropped off the face of the earth. I have called and left dozens of messages. At what point would you write her off and take ownership of the instrument? Would you ever? I don't have the space to keep it indefinitely and I am tired of having it here. Any policy advice would be appreciated. Thanks!

Do you have a physical address for the owner? I would try snailmail if you haven't already ...

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Thanks for the replies. No physical address, which is my fault. I am conscience of the strange situations these days. Perhaps she has had some family crisis and this cello is the last thing on her mind. But still, one phone call in 4 months is not a lot to ask for. I suppose I am going to get it out of the shop, put it in storage and forget about it. The idea of "taking ownership" of the instrument was kind of a goad to flush her out of hiding. I really don't want to wade into the legal aspects of this at this point in time, so off to the warehouse with it. 

Of course, if I really wanted her to get in touch with me I would only have to sell the cello, and I guarantee my phone would ring the next day with her looking to come and pick it up. ;)

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One thing I am fastidious about is always getting a full mailing/ street adress.  ... required by my accountant.:)

On one occasion I was able to find an additional phone # on facebook... and that led to resolution.

If that is not successful, I would not hesitate to call a relative or family member (found via facebook) starting with a soft lead asking if the person is well and safe. ... Might lead to resolution.

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