If you bought a car but the dealership still hasn’t provided the title after months, you likely have legal options. Most states require dealers to transfer titles within 15-90 days. Not complying can open them to lawsuits.
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Why Wouldn’t a Dealer Give You the Car Title?
There’s usually an underlying issue when a dealership stalls on the title:
- They didn’t get proper title from the previous owner on a trade-in
- They failed to pay off a loan or lien before reselling the trade-in
- They engage in outright title fraud
Dealers may also use COVID delays as an excuse when they actually sold you a car they don’t legally own yet.
State Laws For Dealer Title Transfers
Most states mandate dealers transfer titles within a set timeframe after sale:
- California – 15 days after full payment
- Florida – 30 days after sale (60 for Military)
- Texas – 20 days if registering in-state; 45 days dealer-financed
- Georgia – 30 days from sale date
See a guide to your state laws. Violating these dealer regulations can warrant fines or license suspension.
Can You Sue a Dealer That Doesn’t Provide the Title?
Yes, you can take legal action if a dealership breaches its obligation to supply title. Typical legal claims include:
- Breach of contract
- Violation of state dealer regulations
- Breach of implied warranty of title
- Consumer fraud
Many states also authorize suing for 3x damages plus legal fees.
Key Steps to Sue a Dealership Over No Title
Follow these key steps to build a strong case:
1. Send a Demand Letter
First, send the dealer written notice demanding they supply the title within 30 days or face a lawsuit. Keep records of this and any communication.
2. Confirm the Dealership’s Exact Legal Entity
Check paperwork and state databases to verify if they operate as a corporation, LLC, etc. and the registered agent for service. Name them correctly in litigation.
3. Compile Evidence
Gather purchase documentation, communication records, vehicle costs, registration attempts, etc. Thorough proof strengthens your claims.
4. File a Lawsuit in Small Claims Court
If the demand letter fails, sue in small claims court. Outline breach of contract and violations of law. Seek title plus monetary damages.
5. Attend the Court Hearing
The judge will hear arguments and evidence from both sides at a hearing before deciding.
If successful, you’ll win an order for the dealership to provide legal title along with any monetary judgments. Consulting a consumer protection lawyer can also help craft a winning case.
What Types of Damages Can You Recover?
Buyers often recoup:
- Loss related to inability to register the car
- Depreciation if forced to sell without title
- Rental car costs
- Attorney’s fees
States with strong consumer laws may triple monetary damages. You could also get the sale rescinded. Talk to a lawyer about maximum compensation available.
7 FAQs: Can You Sue a Car Dealership for No Title?
Can you sue a private seller if they don’t give you the car title?
Yes, private sellers must also legally transfer title in a reasonable timeframe after sale. Your state likely has dealer regulations that apply.
How long should you wait before taking legal action over no title?
Send a demand letter giving 30 days notice once the state time limit expires. This shows you made an effort to resolve it before suing.
Can you report a dealership to the DMV for no title?
Yes, contact your state DMV dealer licensing board to file an official complaint for violating regulations. This can prompt investigations and penalties.
What if the dealership says COVID or supply issues are delaying the title?
That may be a valid excuse for brief delays early on, but not for many months. Follow notification procedures above before pursuing damages in court.
Can you sue a dealership in small claims court?
Small claims court handles cases below a monetary limit, often $10K or less. It offers a faster and more affordable option vs. higher courts for individuals.
What damages should you ask for in a car title lawsuit?
Typical damages are loss of use, rental costs, depreciation, legal fees, etc. Some states allow 3x monetary damages. Discuss compensation limits with an attorney.
Who should you name as the defendant in a dealership lawsuit?
Accurately identify and serve the dealership’s registered legal entity name such as ABC Motors LLC. Check state business records for this info before filing suit.
My Final Thoughts
By understanding dealer title transfer laws and taking the right legal steps, you can hold an unscrupulous dealership accountable for failing to provide your car’s title.
Consulting a lawyer can further strengthen your case. Don’t hesitate to act once a reasonable notice period expires.
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Legal Disclaimer: This article provides general information about legal options for buyers who have not received a title from a dealership. It does not constitute formal legal advice or create an attorney-client relationship. Laws vary by state and the specific facts may impact available claims or remedies. You should consult an attorney licensed in your jurisdiction for advice regarding your particular situation.