What is a registered owner’s liability for a car that they have sold?

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What is a registered owner’s liability for a car that they have sold?

My ex-roommate sold her car. The new owner never registered the car and then abandoned it. She now has a bill for $3700 in storage and towing. The car is to be sold at public auction 05/09/11. She received a notice several months ago that she was the last registered owner and that if she didn’t pay $600 to the towing company, it would be sold. I called the towing company and to ask what to do if it wasn’t her car. The person on the phone said that she didn’t need to do anything. The car was in horrible shape, had been vomited in, and was not worth $600. It would end up being sold and the matter closed. Now the bill is $3700. Our concern is that she will be held liable for the difference between $3700 and the actual sale price of the car.

Asked on April 7, 2011 under Bankruptcy Law, South Carolina

Answers:

MD, Member, California Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

Well if your state allows a deficiency judgment, she very well could be held liable. In every state there is a requirement in a private property sale and trade in to a motor vehicle dealer that both parties update the registration status to the Department of Motor Vehicles.  Since this is now an issue wherein the storage and towing company is calling for a $3,700.00 to be paid, your roommate needs to immediately do one thing: contact your state's office of the attorney general. File a complaint against the tow company and provide proof that the car was sold and to whom and hopefully this will be sufficient enough for the agency's consumer protection bureau to help you out.


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