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Court orders man to pay towing bill on car he doesn't own

By Amanda Butterfield  |  Posted May 21st, 2009 @ 10:02pm



 

SALT LAKE CITY -- Four years after selling his car, a Utah man got a $1,000 towing bill for it. Even though he hasn't seen the car in years, he was court-ordered to pay it.

Trace Fifield sold the car in 2004. "We sold the car in good faith. We gave the gentleman a bill of sale," he said.

But that gentleman never re-registered the Honda Accord in his name, so it stayed under Fifield's name. When the car was found abandoned last summer in a parking lot, the towing company sent Fifield the bill.

"The original bill was $1,081," Fifield said.

When you sell your vehicle:

1. Remove your license plates from the vehicle. If you do not, you may be liable for any parking or traffic violations occurring while your plates remain on the car.
2. Give the new owner the signed title, current registration certificate and current safety and emission certificates. The new owner may obtain a temporary permit from any Motor Vehicle office by presenting the signed title, proof of insurance and picture identification and paying all applicable fees.
3. Notify the Division of Motor Vehicles in writing that your vehicle has been sold. The notification must include the vehicle year, make, plate or vehicle identification number and the owner's signature. This notification can be sent by fax or mail to:

Division of Motor Vehicles
Suspended Transaction Unit
210 N. 1950 West
Salt Lake City, UT 84134

Fax: 801-297-3570
What really frustrates him is in 2005 he received paperwork from the DMV about the Honda, directing him to shred the paper since he no longer owned the car.

"Instead of saying, ‘If you no longer own this vehicle, destroy this form,' it should say, ‘If you no longer own this vehicle, contact the DMV,'" Fifield said.

Charlie Roberts, spokesman for the Utah State Tax Commission, said, "It happens way too often. We'll get reports of this several dozen times during the year, where people will be victimized by this."

Roberts says Fifield made a mistake when he didn't keep kept a copy of the bill of sale after he sold the car. He also says Fifield should have let the DMV know about the sale and removed his license plates from the car.

"The most important thing we should do is remove our license plates. The reason for that is that identifies the car, who the owner is of the car is," Roberts said.

Fifield found that out too late. For the past year he's been fighting the towing bill and just recently was ordered to pay it after the towing company took him to small claims court and he lost.

"I felt robbed. Every time we got litigation in the mail, those feelings come up every time," he said.

Out $1,000, Fifield now hopes his story helps other sellers. "I hope I've saved somebody money," he said.

E-mail: abutterfield@ksl.com

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