Somehow my wife never got her car title. Twist: then she changed states.
January 3, 2014 11:25 PM   Subscribe

My wife bought a car in 2010 in Georgia, and somehow never saw a title. All the paperwork is legit, and it was registered correctly in Georgia, but she has no memory of a title. It seems she never got it. We kind of forgot about the complication until now, when we're trying to sell it.

She moved to CA and was able to get CA plates and registration, etc, but no title. And her registration says on it:


Crap. Oh, and did I mention that her name changed since we got married, and so the registration is in her old name, since she didn't have the title?

Anyway, we're trying to sell the car, we have three offers on the table (who knows how long they'll last when they find out there are title complications), but we have no idea how to make it happen.

If we apply for a replacement title from CA, I think they'll say "you never had a CA title, so we can't replace it." If we do the same from GA, they'll say "your car isn't registered here, we can't issue you a title."

posted by brenton to Law & Government (17 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Where did she buy the car? New from a dealer in GA? Was a loan involved?
posted by zachlipton at 11:56 PM on January 3, 2014

If we do the same from GA, they'll say "your car isn't registered here, we can't issue you a title."

Are you 100% sure on this? have you tried and bumped into this wall already? have you talked to a local attorney there who deals with this sort of thing? Every time i've heard of/seen/been remotely near a situation like this much less involved in one the state you were trying to register it in wouldn't budge without a title from the old state. I've heard of people having to essentially give up on ever titling cars because of this SNAFU. The #1 thing would be to try and get one from there before you tried anything else.

The only other option i know of is one of those title services, And i'm going to have to go through it again with my personal vehicle(it happened before on an RV) since i realized i have the receipt-type form from the registration/tabs office but they never mailed me the actual new title with my name on it.

The last time it happened, the previous owner had lost the title and didn't send it up until way after the purchase and then right after it showed up... the house burned down. Bam, no title, this situation.

So yea, What you need to do is pay one of those cheesy and sketchy "Lost title reclamation wizards!" companies that are all over the web. The one we used was in florida, but googling it just shows a bunch of shady payday loan places because it had a VERY generic name.

Regardless, i remember them having "expedited" services. We just got the most basic one... but it was ~$500ish. The regular-speed service took seriously months though. They do some finagling, get the car registered to them in florida, then transfer the title to you.

I was skeptical, but it did work. And it's at least an option if other methods fail here.
posted by emptythought at 11:57 PM on January 3, 2014

I think they'll say

Make an appointment at the DMV and ask. A cursory look at the California application for a title document indicates that you can apply for a title on an out-of-state car.

Correction: per this link the duplicate title must be requested from the state of origin. So GA should issue a replacement title even if the car isn't registered there any longer.
posted by phaedon at 1:36 AM on January 4, 2014

Some states keep the title of the car when you register it. This happened to me... (cant remember if it was in VA or MO) when I bought a new car and had it financed. It was weird, but apparently they said I didnt need the title...the registration was what kept it legal. I never tried to sell it while it was financed though, so I dont know how that would work.

First step would be to call GA and ask how they handle titles and such. They may have it in a file and can send it to you if you prove you are registering it in another state.
posted by MultiFaceted at 2:31 AM on January 4, 2014 [1 favorite]

If we do the same from GA, they'll say "your car isn't registered here, we can't issue you a title."

Why? The last place the car was titled would seem to be in Georgia. Titling and registration are entirely different things. The fact that the car is now registered in California shouldn't affect your ability to get a title issued/re-issued from Georgia.

You may have to hire someone local to do this for you--probably an attorney--but I see no obvious reason why it couldn't be done.
posted by valkyryn at 4:40 AM on January 4, 2014

Maybe this previous question of mine will help? At the least, my sympathies.

I did eventually get the title and get rid of it but holy cow was it a headache.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 4:54 AM on January 4, 2014

How old was the car when you bought it?

Some states do away with the need for a title after a certain number of years. We experienced this problem trying to register a car from Maine in Massachusetts. MA demanded a title, but Maine didn't deal with titles for cars as old as that one, so I had to have the Maine DMV send me a letter to that effect to present to the MA RMV.
posted by zizzle at 5:04 AM on January 4, 2014

If the car was financed, talk to the lender. If purchased outright, maybe talk to the dealer where it was purchased? I spent a couple of months in interstate no-title limbo after moving from California to Massachusetts, and it turned out that the lender had filed an "Electronic title" with the California DMV. After going around and around on the phone with all of the parties involved (California DMV, Mass RMV, Lender, insurance company) it got straightened out. Good luck.
posted by usonian at 5:07 AM on January 4, 2014 [1 favorite]

Did she buy it new? When I bought a new car in Virginia, the lien-holder held the title until I paid off the vehicle. When I moved to Michigan, a state where title is given to the purchaser, I was able to register the vehicle no problem. When I totaled the car, that's a different story . . . but why does she need the title? It sounds like it's good to drive with plates and registration. My guess is that the actual title is on file with the lien-holder back in Georgia, so once it's paid off they'll send her the title and she can file it with CA.
posted by mibo at 7:32 AM on January 4, 2014

I think the authorities in Georgia are your best bet for getting a copy of your title.
posted by dcjd at 8:20 AM on January 4, 2014

Response by poster: Hi all.

The car was purchased in GA from a used car lot with cash. My wife has made many trips to the CA DMV trying to resolve this issue, and many phone calls to the GA DMV and even the lot she bought the car from. Nobody seems to be able to help, and nobody has been able to tell her what to do next.

> Some states keep the title of the car when you register it. [...] It was weird, but apparently they said I didnt need the title...the registration was what kept it legal.

This sounds really familiar. Obviously it was confusing and my wife was confused, but she kept saying things like that and I wouldn't believe her since that makes no sense in CA. I'll have to follow up the GA DMV on Monday when they open.
posted by brenton at 9:06 AM on January 4, 2014

My city gov't and chamber of commerce ties always make me think of which elected official you can rope in on a problem like this.

Assuming Georgia works like Alabama, and you're not getting help through channels from the people on the phone, call and ask to speak to the probate judge of the county you registered the car in. They may direct you to the revenue commissioner's office, as it boils down to being a tax matter, but in my county the probate judge's office is where you handle tags and titles, so start there.

They may hit you with some interest and/or penalty since it doesn't sound like the dealer did the job right when you bought the car.

Moral: if you buy a car for cash you should get a title within days, or if financing you should make sure the application has been made out such that the lienholder has it (lienholders are real good about making sure this gets done). When a car is paid off, you should get this document within days of the payoff. If you don't have a title, you don't really control the car, legally.
posted by randomkeystrike at 9:15 AM on January 4, 2014

Response by poster: So my thinking now is that Georgia will issue us a replacement title if we ask them for one. I don't know why the CA DMV didn't make this suggestion to us after our many hours of trying to get this fixed, but that seems to be the obvious solution... thanks hivemind!

This page explains how to do it. Step 1 seems simple enough, but I'm not sure if step 2 means we need to get the previous owners involved?
2) An original Form T-4 Lien or Security Interest Release from each lien or security interest holder recorded on the original title that has now been satisfied or paid.
Or does "original title" just mean "the title that was lost," in which case, there are no lien holders?
posted by brenton at 9:20 AM on January 4, 2014

If you bought it from a used car lot, it seems like there wouldn't be a lien on it (unless someone somehow sold the car to the lot without actually having paid off a bank loan on it first), so that provision wouldn't apply to you. You or the previous owner would only have had to get a lien released if there was a bank loan outstanding on the car, in which case the bank would technically own the car.

The simplest explanation is that the title was lost, one way or another.
posted by limeonaire at 10:40 AM on January 4, 2014

If your wife paid cash for it, there's no lien holder. Treat it as though the title was lost, don't confuse anyone with details that aren't important. Just call the DMV and ask for a replacement title.

Only once you have the title can you sell the car.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 11:26 AM on January 4, 2014

I "enjoyed" a similar process myself. I purchased my car on a loan in WI. I moved that loan to another bank. I moved to CA. A year later, I paid off the loan. A year later, I realized I never got a title as my registration still showed the bank as a lien holder. A few years later I decided to finally do something about it. The crux of my issue is that I needed to remove the lien holder from the registration, which required a title. But as no title in CA ever existed, and WI couldn't help as the registration was more then a year expired, I needed to request a duplicate title. But to request a duplicate title, you can't have a lien holder on the registration.

I was advised by a DMV supervisor to bring to the DMV; an application for duplicate title. The application to remove lien holder. Notarized statements from banks that the loans were paid off and they were not issued paper titles at anytime. And several checks in case they wanted to run multiple transactions. And indeed, that all worked out.

With that as background, I would bet the following would work; Fill out form REG 227 which is an application for a duplicate title. Bring to the DMV appointment [1], proof of her current name (driver license), proof of previous name (preferably previous driver license or passport as well marriage license (or other certificate if the name wasn't changed as part of the marriage license process)), proof she owns the car (original purchase agreement).

[1] You want to make an appointment to do this. While an appointment should get you preferential treatment even if the appointment line is behind, you want an early morning appointment just in case to minimize the time spent at the DMV.
posted by fief at 12:00 PM on January 4, 2014

many phone calls to the GA DMV and even the lot she bought the car from. Nobody seems to be able to help, and nobody has been able to tell her what to do next.

That's because what she's asking is a pain the ass, and no one can be arsed to deal with it over the phone. She--or someone--is going to need to show up in person.

But I think your best bet really is just to apply for a new title in Georgia. Should be pretty straightforward. If not, you're going to need to pay someone to take care of things in person.
posted by valkyryn at 4:51 AM on January 5, 2014

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