Boyfriend Took Car Without Permission

My 24yr. old daughter bought a car for her live-in boyfriend. I know..when I found out about the purchase after the fact and we had a long talk about stupidity. Of course, the two of them broke up and he moved out on July 8, 2017. He had been making the payments while they were together, but he and my daughter agreed that he would leave her the new car and taker hers her car being a Camry that her father and I gave her and is paid off Instead, he took the new car when he moved out. He texted my daughter that he will keep making the payments, but he will not give her the account information, the website login information, will not give her his new address, and has blocked her phone number. Is the car now considered stolen and what do I advise her are her next steps?

Asked on July 10, 2017 under Business Law, Georgia

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 3 years ago | Contributor

In whose name is the car titled? The person to whom the car is titled is the legal owner.  If it is in her name and he took it without permission, he stole it: your daughter could look to file a police report for the theft (the police may be willing and able to help her recover it) and/or sue him for the value of the car (which lawsuit could be settled by him returning it). 
On the other hand, if the car is titled in his name, it is his car, and it is therefore his to take. Your daughter has not right to get it back.
If it is in both of their names, then they have equal rights to it: if he doesn't let her make use of it but keeps it for his exclusive use, she could sue him for her share of the car's value and/or for a court order requiring them to share it--but it's not theft, since an owner (someone on the title) cannot steal that which he already owns. A lawsuit, not charges, is her only option.
Independently of ownership, the person(s) who signed the financing or loan agreement are the ones contractually obligated to make the monthly payments, and who could be sued by the lender or financing company if the payments are not made.


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