We've been screwed by a vehicle buyer. What should we do first?
July 24, 2014 1:56 PM   Subscribe

My partner and I currently live in PA. Before moving here from CA, my partner sold a vehicle to a private party (I was not a part of this transaction). That guy never registered the vehicle and collected a ton of tickets.. which he never paid. The state of CA just auto-deducted over $800 from his bank account to cover these tickets. Rent is due next week, and our landlord is kind of a drag. We're a little overwhelmed. This is terrible! What happens now?
posted by ElectricGoat to Work & Money (15 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Did you file a REG 138 with the California DMV when you sold the car?
posted by zachlipton at 1:59 PM on July 24, 2014 [5 favorites]

But you took the plates off the old vehicle, correct? And cancelled those plates?
posted by St. Peepsburg at 2:05 PM on July 24, 2014

But you took the plates off the old vehicle, correct? And cancelled those plates?

No. When you sell a car in California, the license plates go with it. zachlipton is correct, though.
posted by primethyme at 2:09 PM on July 24, 2014 [3 favorites]

In CA, the plates go with the vehicle upon a sale.
posted by mollymayhem at 2:09 PM on July 24, 2014

Yeah, you need to file your release of liability (a/k/a REG 138) ASAP. I don't know if California is ever going to let you off the hook for those tickets, but you can sue the buyer if you got his information. I am guessing this was a cash or cashier's check type purchase though, and you may find that he doesn't live where you think he does...

St. P, I think the plates stay with the car in CA? It's been almost a decade since I sold a car here, but I recall being disappointed I didn't get to keep the plates. I can't find any official statement on this at the moment but various unofficial Google results are consistent with this.
posted by Joey Buttafoucault at 2:10 PM on July 24, 2014

Yeah, the plates go with the car. But OP's partner should have filed a REG 138 which is made specifically to prevent this issue!

If OP's partner didn't file they are either gonna have to pony up the cash or talk to a lawyer. I have no idea if talking to a lawyer is worthwhile but I don't know that it isn't, either.

But make sure to follow the correct procedure next time to prevent this from happening.
posted by Justinian at 2:18 PM on July 24, 2014

I just had this happen (on a much lesser note) in Arizona, and I went to the court date with copies of my insurance records showing me changing the coverage off that vehicle since that was the only documentation I had (hindsight, alas). The cop dismissed the ticket. But if he never got a court date, or didn't go... Yikes. I dunno.
posted by celtalitha at 2:24 PM on July 24, 2014

I've been through this with an Oregon-to-Washington motorcycle sale, and it sucks; and there's not a lot of recourse for the tickets already accrued. . This exact same situation happened to my brother-in-law in California; it is kind of a nightmare.

Yes plates stay with the car in CA. If you haven't already you need to file the release of liability, today. Make a copy and send the original certified overnight, signature required, to wherever they need it sent. Keep your receipt, and your copies. Unfortunately, even after you file the release of liability, you're going to get contacted by the California DMV for a very long time about tickets on this car, because you were supposed to do this when you sold the car; they still think you own it and the paperwork on their end is now going to be a bit of a mess. Technically, since the DMV wasn't notified you are on the hook for those tickets. As far as I know, even with lawyer interaction, my brother in law was not able to correct that part of the equation.

The only confusing part about this is that the state of California shouldn't have access to your bank account. Change your bank accounts ASAP- that's kind of bananas.

When they send you new tickets for the car, you send them another photocopy of the release of liability, and a copy of the delivery. This should help with future tickets, but get ready, you'll probably get more. You just need to prevent them from taking any more of your money automatically.
posted by furnace.heart at 2:24 PM on July 24, 2014 [1 favorite]

Make a copy and send the original certified overnight, signature required, to wherever they need it sent.

You can do it online in California pretty much instantly.

The state of CA just auto-deducted over $800 from his bank account to cover these tickets.

This is the part I'm really confused about. Do you mean they put a levy on his bank account because he didn't pay the tickets? If so, that's something that wouldn't happen until many many letters and other steps happened first. Did he receive anything like this?
posted by zachlipton at 2:32 PM on July 24, 2014 [6 favorites]

The state might have his bank account information if he's ever gotten a state tax refund by direct deposit. Still, I would think they would have sent him tons of nastygrams threatening to do that first.

In a few West Coast states (like California), the plates follow the vehicle rather than following the registrant like they do in most other states. This is an argument against that practice: the new owner already has plates on the car, so what incentive does s/he have to re-register it in his/her name legally? Then the old owner is presumably on the hook for any tickets received (including, I would think, expired registration sticker tickets).

You ought to have him file that REG 138 form ASAP. The "Date of Sale" block of the form would lead me to believe that he MIGHT be let off the hook for those tickets, though it does say you're legally required to return that form within 5 days of sale. He may be liable for a fine or something for non-timely submission of the form. I would imagine, however, that this is a pretty common occurrence: Person gets a bucketload of tickets for a car they sold, calls DMV to complain, and they say "well you were sposta file that REG 138 form."

Even if it's late, it couldn't hurt to file it. He might even get the money back as a result.
posted by tckma at 3:03 PM on July 24, 2014

Call the DMV and speak with an actual human. File whatever paperwork you need to file with them and ask about an appeals process. They may reverse the debit while your appeal is pending.

Agree, this didn't happen all of a sudden, there were lots of notices sent before the deduction was made. Did you not forward your mail?

Learn from this. Find out what you need to do when transacting this kind of deal and don't get hosed again.

If any case screamed out for filing a law suit this one does. Here's the website.

Another thought is that you can repo the car. If you know the guy it was sold to and have his name and address, you may be able to pay a repo company to do this for you.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 3:08 PM on July 24, 2014

Best answer: Yeah, State of California Franchise Tax Board can do bank levies and wage garnishments on behalf of the DMV. If the title transfer was mucked up, then you may also get hit with registration fees.

You can try contacting these folks for information about your specific case.

Franchise Tax Board
Court Ordered Debt Collection Program
P. O. Box 1328
Rancho Cordova, CA 95741-1328
(916) 845-4064
posted by 26.2 at 3:20 PM on July 24, 2014 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Call that 916 phone number above. When this happened to me they (eventually) gave me my money back.
posted by jbenben at 6:49 PM on July 24, 2014 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thank you so much for your advice, everyone. Fingers are crossed that things will get sorted out in his favor.
posted by ElectricGoat at 7:08 PM on July 24, 2014

Also call and or email your bank and state clearly that this was an unauthorized withdrawal.
posted by Gungho at 9:02 AM on July 25, 2014

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