Most people know that when they’re buying a car they need to check the title for liens. What they don’t know is that not all liens are listed on the title.
Check out this nightmare that I wrote about in The Arizona Republic:
Kathi Halvorsen is stuck in car title purgatory. And it’s going to take someone in the court system who believes in fairness to rescue her.
It all started when Kathi bought a 2000 Pontiac for $1,800. It’s not much of a car, but it’s all the single mother of two could afford. When she went to register the car she found a major problem. Two years ago, the person who owned the car at the time had a DUI. Apparently he never paid his court fees, so the court placed a restitution lien on the car. The $1,500 lien has to be paid off before the car can be retitled.
But Kathi didn’t buy the car from that person. In fact, it’s possible the car has gone through several owners. Each one bought it, realized there was a problem, and then dumped it on someone else.
Why didn’t they know there was a lien? Turns out that restitution liens are not listed on the title. The only way to know it’s there is to call MVD before you buy and ask if there’s a problem with the title. Kathi also made a mistake by not noticing the name on the title was different from the seller.
Kathi appealed to the court system but has been told tough luck. Until the lien is paid, the car is in limbo. That means she owns a car that she can’t drive and she can’t sell.
It’s not right that the original owner skipped on his debt, but keeping Kathi in purgatory isn’t right either.
This story does have a happy ending. Kathi found a sympathetic employee at MVD who worked long and hard to help resolve her problem. But the lesson here is simple. Make that phone call and ask whether the car has a restitution lien. It’s the only to way to know for sure you’re truly being a car with a clear title.