I need a title!
May 6, 2014 7:51 AM   Subscribe

Many moons ago, my ex and I bought a motorcycle, which was kept in my garage. Before we split, and unbeknownst to me, she took many things from my house, including the title to said motorcycle.

The split was...acrimonious...I cut off all contact with her one fine day and never looked back. However, I would like to sell the cycle, and have no title, and DMV says they can do nothing about getting me an alternate title without her approval. Sigh.

Some details, in case they are relevant.
-The bike is an 86 Honda; we bought it around 1994.
-It has lived in my garage the entire time - I haven't ridden it in years, but kept it in good shape.
-She also stole the keys, but I'm assuming that the ignition can be rekeyed to remedy that.
-I live in Virginia, exact county in profile if that matters.

Any helpful hints?

I know y'all aren't my lawyers :) am putting this under law and government since that's where it seems best to fit. TIA
posted by PlantGoddess to Law & Government (13 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I don't know the answer to your question, but I know from past experience that different DMV clerks will give you vastly different stories. You might just try going to a different DMV office and ask the same question of a different person.
posted by alex1965 at 7:53 AM on May 6, 2014

My SO went through a similar thing, and every vehicle-related official in the state of Ohio that we spoke with said there was nothing we could do if we couldn't get the title. No loopholes, no exceptions. No selling or registering that car without the cooperation of the owner.

Since my SO was confident that he'd never hear from the owner again (and he hasn't) he ended up giving the car away to a junkyard.

You may be out of luck, but maybe there's another solution. In our perspective, it wasn't worth the hassle and we're both glad to be rid of that albatross.
posted by girlmightlive at 8:05 AM on May 6, 2014

sue her. if she doesn't show up, there are circumstances where you can get the judge to order his/her clerk to sign folks' names on documents, and it is as valid as if she had signed it.
posted by bruce at 8:23 AM on May 6, 2014 [2 favorites]

Whose name is on the title? If it's your name, I'd apply to get a new title.
Buying or Selling a Vehicle Without a Title
Can't be done. A title is mandatory. If you're the seller, you must apply for a duplicate title before any transaction can be completed. You can do this online or visit any DMV office and complete an Application for Supplemental and Transfer Liens or Replacement and Substitute Titles(Form VSA 66). A replacement title costs $10.

If you have more questions, call (888) 337-4782.
Go to this page to follow the links for getting a replacement title.

If your name is not on the title then you likely need to buy out your ex for the motorcycle and get the title signed over to you. You might need a lawyer consult about this. Probably some kind of "abandoned" property regulations are in play.
posted by amanda at 8:24 AM on May 6, 2014 [4 favorites]

It seems there's no way around you having to contact her, if you want to sell the bike.

Since you both bought it, offer to split the proceeds?
posted by intermod at 8:39 AM on May 6, 2014

Is there a mutual (neutral) acquaintance you could ask to retrieve the title from her? If it's been a while, the bad feelings may have abated some. It doesn't sound like you are wound up about it now so maybe she feels the same.
posted by Beti at 8:42 AM on May 6, 2014

Hi! I'm a lawyer. And I've helped people in very similar situations to the one you describe here, i.e., the need for a title to be issued without the cooperation of the last person in the chain of title.

Most states have a procedure for this. It's called something along the lines of an "involuntary title transfer". The last guy I helped with this was trying to get title to a pair of classic trucks, the paperwork for which had probably ceased to exist before I was born. Another guy bought a car cash from a vaguely sketchy import/export business and couldn't track them down again when they failed to deliver the title.

Unfortunately, cursory research doesn't suggest that Virginia has such a procedure. But you'd do well to call your local bar association to see if they can put you in touch with a local attorney. I have a sneaking suspicion that this will basically wind up being the tip of a property division iceberg, so you may be better off just contacting your ex and offering to buy her interest in the title off her.
posted by valkyryn at 8:57 AM on May 6, 2014 [3 favorites]

You say you bought the motorcycle together, and that the DMV requires her permission to get you an alternate title, which tells me that the motorcycle is, in fact, half hers, and that considering the keys and the title "stolen" will get you nowhere.

Also, your ex *knows* she has the title. And she knows she's ON the title. If you try to sell something she owns, that you know she owns, and that SHE knows you know she owns, especially by trying to dodge around the state's systems for preventing you from doing just that, you're the one in the position of stealing. From her. And she'll turn up at the least convenient time to take you to task -- or to court -- about it.
posted by endless_forms at 9:08 AM on May 6, 2014 [2 favorites]

She owns half of it, so you should send her a bill for storage and maintenance for the last twenty years or whatever. Offer to take her to small claims court if she doesn't pay up or sign the title over over to you.
posted by mareli at 9:56 AM on May 6, 2014 [2 favorites]

Regarding keys -- my last honda motorcycle had a keycode engraved somewhere near the ignition underneath some sort of plastic body work. There's a good chance yours might too. Your handy neighborhood honda bikeshop can probably take care of getting you a new key, though proving it's your bike may be necessary.
posted by garlic at 1:06 PM on May 6, 2014

I believe what you need is a bonded title. My experience is with "barn find" vintage Vespas where the paper title has looooong since disappeared. I am not a lawyer. This is not legal advice, this is my own experience. I don't live in your state. I am also writing this from memory so take it with a grain of salt.

The procedure in Texas is that you find a surety bond company and apply/pay for a bonded title. They send the VIN number to the police department to make sure the bike hasn't been reported stolen. After a year passes without incident, you can then apply for a real title. (The bond is like a little insurance policy for the titling company.)

The deal in Texas is, YOU won't have to do this, unless you want to wait a year to sell the bike. The new buyer will. All you need to do, at least in Texas, is provide a bill of sale to the new buyer.

Agreed with alex1965 that the DMV will know nothing of the process. Here are some links that might help you.


Here is info on the abandoned motor vehicle process in VA, which sounds similar.
posted by Brittanie at 1:12 PM on May 6, 2014

Do you need the money or do you want it out of your life? If you want it gone, junk it. If you want some money, try selling it part by part.
posted by Foam Pants at 1:24 PM on May 6, 2014

Lots of good answers and food for thought here - thanks to everyone who weighed in.

Both our names are on the title, but I really have zero interest in ever contacting her again - she is quite vindictive and she lives fairly nearby, so that's a can of worms that needs to stay shut.

I think my best, and most prudent bet is to consult a lawyer here and find out exactly what recourse / options I may have.

Thanks again everyone!

I didn't mark any as best answer because they were ALL very helpful!
posted by PlantGoddess at 4:35 AM on May 7, 2014 [1 favorite]

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