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HELP - Title Transfer from Dealer


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I need advise on what I should do, and if I have any legal action that I can take.

I purchase a used boat (2003 16’ Bayliner) in 2004 from a dealer in St. Cloud, I don’t know if I can post their name, but “Think Link”. The previous owners bought the boat new in June of 2004 and traded it in for an 18’ boat. I then bought it in July of 2004 and the dealer still has not transferred the title into my name. I have been calling the dealer every month since April of 2005 when I found out by the DNR that it was titled. I was told in July that the title was transferred into the dealers name and now they had to transfer it into my name, then in October, November & December I was told that I should have it within two weeks. I called again yesterday and was told that they just sent in all the paperwork, because they had to wait for a check from corporate, but I should have it within two weeks. I called the manager of all MN stores from Rogers and he said that he would look into it. I then get a call back from the St. Cloud manager who tells me that the previous owners bank will not sign off on the title. So to my point, I have a three-year-old boat that needs registration that I cannot purchase because it is not titled to me, and the dealer “Think Link” has been lying to me this hole time. What should I do?

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Call the Manager and tell him that "his" boat is being returned in 7 days, if you don't have a clean title in your hand.

I'm not an insurance expert, but I don't think you can collect on an insurance claim for a boat that is titled in someone elses name. If you don't have the title, I don't think you technically own the boat. (Again, I am not expert!)

A letter from your attorney might help them file the title transfer, too.

Good Luck!

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Most likely the reason the previous owner's bank will not sign off is that there is still an unpaid loan on the boat. The previous owner may have pledged the boat as calateral on another loan and never cleared the loan. This is really not your problem and the dealer does owe you a clean title and they might have to pay off the boat. They have an obligation to clear the title before selling it. I would make a personal visit to the dealership and meet with the owner or general manager.

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I went thru the exact same problem with the same dealer. The only difference is the excuse I got was because it was an out of state boat. After five months of phone calls and once stopping in I finally gave them one week or I was going bring the boat back and demand my money back. I got the title then.

I have no idea how these people can stay in business.

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If you do not have any luck from the dealer contact the MN Attorney General's office and document your troubles. They will should be able to help and will probably send a letter to the dealer stating the corrective action they would need to take. You can also send a letter to the Better Business Bureau of MN and get them involved.

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This dealer already has an unfavorable rating at the BBB so I don't know if a guy can threaten them that way or not. These guys are clowns and have no business selling anything. I will never ever step a foot in one of their stores or sales areas again, and I try to pass the word on to as many people as I can.

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DD may have hit the nail on the head. The previous owner pledged the boat as collateral for a loan that hasn't been paid off yet. This is a common problem. Sometimes, it is a matter of the bank not following up on their customers to get the titles and get on the title card as a secured party, or the customer simply wants to defeat any claim of the bank. Sometimes, it is simply a mistake. Either way, after a while, both partys can simply forget about it.

Another alternative is simply that the bank never released its security interest after having been paid off. Again, it may be nothing more than a lack of follow up.

With the first situation, you purchased an item (boat, motor and trailer) from a dealer. As a result, you are a "bona fide purchaser" and therefore the dealer has already conveyed good title to you. But the title card is still in error. Failure to provide you with a good "clear" title card is likely fraud (you paid for it, but they wouldn't give it to you). There may be other claims as well.

You should go to the dealer and ask to speak with the manager, as others have suggested. You should point out to him or her that you paid for the goods (boat motor and trailer) AND a clear title to same. Advise the manager that he has one week to get this matter resolved. Also advise the dealer that your next stop is to the police station to swear out a complaint for fraud, and then after that to get an attorney to sue the dealership. The lawsuit will likely involve various consumer protection laws, and therefore attorneys fees and possible treble damages are available, depending on the conduct. Also make sure you get the name and mailing address of the General Manager (In WI, I think). When you get home, remember to send a letter making the same demands in writing to the manager you spoke with as well as the General Manager. Make sure the letter recounts, to the best of your recollection, the various dates you have attempted to get this matter resolved. Make SURE you send the letter via Certified Mail, and save a file copy for yourself. After the one week period has expired, and if there has been no action or acceptable communication, get your attorney and the police involved. Take the letter with you when you talk to both the police and your attorney.

Likely, the dealership will see the very real possibility of incurring large damages, and significant attorneys fees is greater than the cost to pay off the boat and clear the title. In short, the dealership will make the right decision and clear the title by paying off the loan.

With the second situation, you could go to the DNR and give them the registration number and ask for a copy of the title. If the problem is as described in the first set of facts, the bank or lender's name will show up as a secured party. You can then contact them to see if they will release the security interest. If the loan has been paid off, generally the bank or lender will be happy to clear the title for you.

hope some of this helps, and good luck.


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