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socrateaser, Lawyer
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Experience:  Retired (mostly)
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I need to know my options on the following: A vehicle was given

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I need to know my options on the following: A vehicle was given as collateral on a purchase from my retail business - back in 2010. I now have the vehicle. The owner not only never came back to pay his debt or get his car back but he has disappeared... attempts to contact him have come back unsuccessful. I have no way other way of contact than his last known address.
I do have a letter saying this vehicle was given to me to hold for collateral. I also have a vehicle transfer and reassignment form (a bill of sale) signed by the person and the previous owner. The car was sold to this person by way of bill of sale but there was no title involved. He then signed the power of attorney section over to me. He also gave me a copy of the DMV registration from California however it states that the fees were never paid and so it is "incomplete". At the time, I thought he would be back to pay the bill since it was less than the vehicle was worth.
I need to sell or use this vehicle. I need a title in order to do so. I need to know if the car is registered to someone and if so, who has the title or if indeed one was never given due to a lost paper copy as the person claimed.
I have moved from california to florida since that time. I have the paper work with me and need to know what to do with the vehicle. Can I just go to DMV with the transfer bill of sale and get the new title in my name?

Sorry for the delay. If you have the vehicle transfer and reassignment and a power of attorney, then all you need to do is apply for duplicate title (Application for Duplicate or Paperless Title (REG 227)) and indicate that the vehicle title was never transferred from the previous owner. You'll probably have to smog the car, as well, which could be a pain, because it's not currently registered, so you can't drive it to a smog check station. Maybe there is a business that has portable smog check equipment and can come to your location.

Hope this helps.

Customer: replied 3 years ago.

Thank you very much! Simple enough ..if I was still a resident of California. I now live in Florida and need to get the vehicle here and registered/titled here in my name.

So 1. Do I have to pull in a friend in California to take the paperwork on my behalf to California DMV in person? or 2. Can I take all the paperwork here to Florida DMV and have it transferred all at once?

(also, the vehicle is on a trailer so if i need it to be cleared in Cali first i can get it to smog station however, if I can get it towed and get all paperwork done here, Florida does not have smog requirements)

It will obviously cost more to have the vehicle registered and titled in California before transporting it to Florida. However, I see no alternative to doing so, because you cannot get the equivalent Florida paperwork signed by the owner. Once the vehicle is titled in your name, you can transport it to Florida and retitle it easily.

This seems to be the only option in your circumstances.
Customer: replied 3 years ago.

ok. Thank you. It is less about cost of registration/title than my physical proximity across the country and the cost of going back out.

Last question, do you think I can do the paperwork online or via mail??

If not, do you think Cali DMV will allow a third party to do the paperwork on my behalf (the same person willing to tow it here for me can get to the DMV for me)

I don't see why you can't handle the transaction by mail (ceritified/insured return receipt, etc.), because you have a power of attorney. Your friend could submit the forms but he can't sign anything.

One thing you could do to reduce your costs would be to register the vehicle as nonoperational. As long as it's not being driven, that could save you several hundred bucks.

At this point, all I can suggest is that you call the DMV and ask them if there are any roadblocks to submitting the forms by mail. Dealers do this all the time, so I don't know why you couldn't do it as an individual.

Hope this helps.
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