When and how should you operate a lien?
Operating a lien can be an effective way to protect money owed to you … or it can be a costly experience. 

First of all and before we go any further, let’s define the exact meaning of the word ‘lien’. This is the definition as listed by the Oxford English Dictionary: Lien, a right to keep possession of property belonging to another person until a debt owed by that person is discharged. 

On the surface operating a lien appears to be very straightforward, but beware, there are a great many potential pitfalls that you have to guard against.  Most importantly the first action you should take is to advise your customer that the goods are being held due to the exercise of a lien rather than because of any other reason, such as a delay.  This should be done, in writing, as quickly as possible, particularly if you suspect that your customer may be about to go into administration. 

Once an administrator has been appointed and if you have not given notice that you are operating a lien, then they will put you under immense pressure to release the goods. 

The other point to bear in mind is that if you do intend to sell the goods then you must give 21-days written notice of your intention. Note, however, that this notification does not apply to perishable goods and you may sell immediately if the money owed to you is due and you have notified your customer of your intentions. 

While it is possible to prepare the lien notification yourself, it may be prudent to seek the assistance of a solicitor or other experienced partner who fully understands this complex procedure. 

There is no getting away from it that operating a lien can raise a number of potentially difficult legal and practical issues. Primarily, in order to operate a lien you must be certain that your customer really does have title to the goods in question; or alternatively that they have the authority on behalf of the owner of the goods. 

If you find yourself in the situation where you feel that operating a lien is a sensible, legal and practical proposition, we would advise that before you put it into operation you have a quick word with Aerona (Air & Seas) Customs Clearing Agents. Our extensive experience in import and export freighting, plus the storage and onward transfer of goods could prove to be most valuable. 

Better still, working in partnership with Aerona to manage the entire shipping and distribution process would mean that you have one of the UK’s most experienced and respected specialists working on your behalf and helping to protect your interests. 

Operating a lien can be an effective strategy when you are owed money. Getting it wrong however, can prove to be extremely costly.  Our advice is always to seek expert assistance. 

If you would like to discuss this with us please do not hesitate to contact us.You can call us on: 0161 652 3443. You can also email us at: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., or you can send us an online message using the form that can be found on our Contact page.