Where is the title to my father's Lexus?
February 18, 2007 7:06 AM   Subscribe

My father has a 99 Lexus without a title. Florida has records of a lien on the car. The lien holder is a company went out-of-business years ago. Where is the title? How can my father get one in South Carolina? What are his options if Butthead (explained inside) never had the title?

My father bought a car that he cannot drive because he cannot get its title and therefore: no insurance. Five years ago in South Carolina, my father knew of a colleague, henseforth known as 'Butthead', who was moving and needed to sell his '99 Lexus. Butthead and my father traded cars (Dad drove a Taurus) and my father took over payments on the Lexus. At the end of three years of payments Butthead wouldn't give over the title. He lives somewhere in California, to the best of our knowledge, but sent Florida plates that were bogus and refuses to respond, even to an attorney.
We've learned that Florida has records of a lien on the car. The lien holder is a company went out-of-business years ago. Where is the title? How can my father get one in South Carolina? What are his options if Butthead never had the title? We ran a VIN check and the car is not stolen, apparently.
posted by Tasanova to Law & Government (12 answers total)
Can you find out who acquired the assets of the company when it went out of business? The Secretary of State usually has knowledge of the bankruptcy proceedings, which would then tell you who any assets (including the title) went to.
posted by SpecialK at 7:14 AM on February 18, 2007

Oh, and did your dad get a written bill of sale? or ANY paperwork?
posted by SpecialK at 7:15 AM on February 18, 2007

And how has Dad been driving the car for three years?

Dad gave the other guy a title for the Taurus and didn't get one in return or any paperwork for the Lexus?

If there's a lien on the car, Butthead wouldn't have had one, I presume... having handed it over to the lienholder.

Dad's been making payments to a non-existent company for three years? He's been making payments ("took over payments" to the lien holder, I presume?).
posted by FauxScot at 7:40 AM on February 18, 2007

He has a written bill of sale, old registrations, and cancelled checks. The money went to Butthead directly. While my father was making payments, Butthead provided registration and plates from FL. The FL DMV tells him that those plates aren't registered.
posted by Tasanova at 8:22 AM on February 18, 2007

There's usually a complicated procedure that provides for registering cars when the previous owner cannot be found. I think such procedures often require the filing of a sworn affidavit that one has not been able, after reasonable effort, to find the previous owner -- the procedure may also require you to get an appraisal of the car and submit a statement of the odometer reading. Check with the agency that handles vehicle registrations in your state or county -- trust me, they deal with this all the time.
posted by jayder at 9:08 AM on February 18, 2007

Do you know for sure that the lien-holder did not sell off all their assets prior to going under? There may yet be a legitimate owner of the car who could help clear this up. Though I don't imagine very satisfactorily to your father who probably needs to sue the former non-owner of the car to recoup his money.
posted by mzurer at 9:09 AM on February 18, 2007

(in my answer, "previous owner" also applies to "lien holder")
posted by jayder at 9:09 AM on February 18, 2007

I went through this with another Florida company about a year ago. I had paid off the loan on a car some years before, but never received the title or the release of lien paperwork. In the meanwhile, the original loan company went belly up, leaving me no one to contact to get it straightened out.

I first started by contacting my own state's (Georgia, for what it's worth) motor vehicle's bureau, who provided the name and address of all registered lienholders on my car. That information led me to call the Florida Sec. of State's office, who was able to provide me with the name of the company that bought most of the original lienholder's assets when they went bankrupt. Then, I was able to contact that company (in Indiana, via their service bureau in Missouri) and get the lien released.

A big hassle, but it got my old junker out of my driveway.
posted by deadmessenger at 9:36 AM on February 18, 2007

I think Butthead had an actual loan on the car, gave your Dad the car to drive, and pocketed all of the payments. There may still be a lien on the car.
posted by lee at 11:56 AM on February 18, 2007

I found these guys on google, maybe they can point you in the right direction.
posted by lee at 11:58 AM on February 18, 2007

I am thinking the same thing as lee.
posted by qvtqht at 3:36 PM on February 18, 2007

Sue the guy. If he doesn't respond, you win.
posted by electroboy at 7:22 AM on February 19, 2007

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