What do I need to do to get in the clear with my car title?
December 31, 2007 11:12 AM   Subscribe

This september I was given a car by a friend of mine who was moving out of state (the car and I are in Ohio). We both signed the title and thought we had done everything right, but we did not realize that we had to sign the document in front of a notary or have it notarized to complete the transfer. (more inside)

Now I'm having trouble tracking him down and when I called my DMV and explained to them my situaton they told me I either needed a power of attorney document or to have the title notarized with the original owner present, both of which require me to know where he is.

So basically, I have a car with the title, signed by both me and the original owner but not notarized. It's insured under my name, and if it helps prove a right to propery ownership I have recipets for repairs I put into the car. The DMV wasn't terribly helpful and I'm not sure where to go at this point since this is the first time I've really had to deal with this type of thing and my knowledge of ohio law is limited. The tags also expire Jan 18th, which might complicate things even further since I can't get new ones until all of this paperwork is settled. If there's any other information that would help to answer my question I'll do my best to provide it.
posted by mdienno to Law & Government (15 answers total)
Maybe obvious, but you ought to do everything you possibly can to get in touch with your friend.
posted by box at 11:38 AM on December 31, 2007

Response by poster: That's what I'm doing right now, but I'm not having a lot of success. Really I don't know what to do if I'm unable to locate him.
posted by mdienno at 11:48 AM on December 31, 2007

Find a receptive notary and explain the situation. Maybe you can find one who'll bend the rules just a bit. Ask your friends if they know one. Notaries are pretty common.
posted by wsg at 12:02 PM on December 31, 2007

2nding wsg's suggestion. Helpful notaries have eased a few situations for me in the past when having all parties present for signing a document was difficult or impossible. It's worth a shot.
posted by owtytrof at 12:12 PM on December 31, 2007

3rding the notary. If you work in an office setting (or if a friend or family does) there may be a notary there. I've had the best luck with coworker notaries being helpful rather than, say, someone at the bank.
posted by cabingirl at 1:20 PM on December 31, 2007

If not at work, how about your insurance agent? They, after all, would at least be familiar with the story, and most insurance offices have at least one notary.
posted by Doohickie at 1:24 PM on December 31, 2007

The DMV is going off this set of rules.

What a nightmare. Will you be in Ohio for a while? -- lots of states don't require notarized titles. See here.
posted by ClaudiaCenter at 1:46 PM on December 31, 2007

Hey, this might help. It's not exactly your situation, but it sounds like it's the place for you to petition. Excerpt:

I purchased a vehicle in-state or out-of-state and the seller did not provide me with a title. I have a bill of sale, what do I do?

Contact the title division by letter. Compose a sworn notarized statement as to the facts pertaining to the purchase of the vehicle. Next, obtain a completed Out of State Inspection form. Make a copy of all papers that you have on the vehicle from the seller and mail to the Ohio BMV, Title Division, P.O. Box 16520, Columbus, Ohio 43216-6520. The inquiry will be reviewed by the Title Section and if approved, a letter of authorization will be issued.
posted by ClaudiaCenter at 1:53 PM on December 31, 2007

When you do call a notary, don't mention the circumstances surrounding the documents and your missing friend. Just make an appointment and show up with the documents. Hand them over and say, "Yeah, here it is, this is what I need you to notarize."

I think there is a good chance that the notary will just shrug and stamp the damn things without asking where the other guy is.
posted by wfrgms at 2:40 PM on December 31, 2007

I made the same mistake myself at just went to a notary. They told me I screwed up and they couldn't notarize it as she did just that.

Dress nice, shave, don't look poor.
posted by Mick at 2:52 PM on December 31, 2007

(As I'm sure you know,) there are civil and criminal penalties for notary fraud.

I'm sure it happens all the time, but FWIW I have friends who are notaries and I wouldn't want someone trying to trick them.
posted by ClaudiaCenter at 3:06 PM on December 31, 2007

Yeah, I'm a notary and I would not notarize something three months later, especially if only one person who signed it was present.
posted by Lucinda at 3:22 PM on December 31, 2007

Seconding Lucinda - you may be able to find a notary willing to bend the rules for you, but when I took my notary class, they put The Fear in us pretty well, so that I often turned people away for asking me to notarize something where everyone was not present to sign.
posted by pinky at 3:32 PM on December 31, 2007

It might help your case with the notary if you are able to get the friend in question on the phone while you're there, especially if you can verify the friend's phone number from a public database.
posted by aeschenkarnos at 9:27 PM on December 31, 2007

Response by poster: thank you all for your help. I'll try to find a helpful notary (all of the ones I've talked to so far haven't been willing really but I can hope) and I'll keep trying to track down the owner as well. If anything develops within the next few days I'll keep you posted.
posted by mdienno at 8:52 AM on January 2, 2008

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