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6 Investigates: What to know if your car dealership is causing title troubles

Posted: 6:05 PM, Aug 15, 2018
Updated: 2018-08-15 19:45:01-04

A 6 Investigates story earlier this week reported that a local car dealership is under investigation for selling cars and failing to transfer the titles.

That’s left dozens of people driving a car they do not own.

Since that story aired on Monday , KRIS 6 News has received a flood of emails, calls and messages from people in a tough situation.

People like Angela Clifton who bought a 2010 used Subaru Forester about a year ago. Ever since then, she’s been driving on temporary license plates. Until last month, when those plates expired.

Clifton won’t drive the vehicle anymore, she says out of worry for what could happen, since the plates are expired and the car is not in her name.

Vehicle identification records show the car is titled and registered to another person who lives in Corpus Christi. The car still has a lien on it from the previous owner, Clifton said.

The dealership still hasn’t turned in the title transfer paper work since she bought it last fall.

“I really just don’t know what to do with it,” Clifton said.

For those in a similar situation, there aren’t many options, said Kevin Kieschnick, Nueces County Tax Assessor Collector. His office handles car title transfers in Nueces County.

Here’s what can be done:

The dealership can apply for a 30-day temporary permit from his office.

If that doesn’t work – the person who purchased the vehicle can apply for what’s called a bonded title. That scenario requires the buyer to purchase an insurance bond through a private company.

The buyer can file a complaint with the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles.

Or Kieschnick said to hire an attorney.

He acknowledged those options are limited.

“Unfortunately, it is and these dealerships need to really take ownership of this and do what they’re required to do. It’s illegal to transfer a vehicle without a title,” Kieschnick said.

Kieschnick also offered tips on what to do if you have a problem with a car dealer. 

As for Clifton, she’s going to fight for the car. So far, she’s paid the dealership about $10,000 for the vehicle.

But the situation has left her apprehensive about her next car purchase.

“You trust people, you know,” Clifton said. “When you go down to the dealership, you don’t ever think this kind of thing can happen, and it’s pretty sad that people are willing to take advantage of other people like that.”

Under state law, a dealership has 30 calendar days from the sale date to send the title paperwork to the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles. Or 45 days if the dealership financed the car purchase.

If the paper work is turned in – the new license plates and registration information should arrive before the dealer-issued temporary plates expire.