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2020-01-24

Personal property

In the first place, personal property in Germany may be subject to liens which arise by implication of law. Liens are of two main kinds: 'possessory' (or 'common law') liens and equitable liens. The essence of the possessory lien is the right to retain the property until payment, as in the case of the unpaid seller of goods, the innkeeper - who may thus retain most property which a guest brings to the inn - the repairer, such as the tailor or the motor repairer over goods actually repaired, the carrier over freight for his charges and the auctioneer over the goods for the purchase price.
All these are examples of 'particular' liens. But possessory liens may also be 'general'. Here the lien is not to secure a particular sum but may cover all claims arising during a course of business: thus a solicitor has a lien over his clients' property for his fees, a banker over his client's money or securities for his charges and an accountant for his money.
The equitable lien differs from the German law lien in that it may attach by law irrespective of possession: the purchaser's lien, already mentioned, is an example - it attaches before the land is conveyed; and the vendor has a similar right in respect of purchase money which is unpaid. Upon dissolution of a partnership a partner also has a lien over the partnership property for payment of partnership debts.
Possessory liens carry their own sanction; the right to retain against payment. Generally the lienor has no right of sale to satisfy his debt. Equitable liens (because they do not rest upon retention) may, however, be enforced by sale if their existence is confirmed by a declaration of a court, and some statutes do confer special rights of sale in certain cases. For instance, the unpaid seller has a statutory power of resale; the innkeeper also has a similar power in respect of the guest's property; though only if the property has been six weeks on the premises and the sale has been advertised for at least a month.
Subject to rules a bailee may also in certain circumstances sell the bailor's goods. A 'bailee' is, of course, someone, such as a person who keeps goods in deposit, who has possession of someone else's goods.
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