An Examination of Florida Titles and Associated Terms

 Some rights reserved by DaveOnFlickrFlorida law requires that you title various types of property, including real estate and vehicles. The title shows the ownership of the property and can change hands over time due to sale or seizure.

The title shows the true owner of the property, not the person using it. For instance, you do not receive the title to a car until you have fully paid for the car. Thus, the financing company is the owner of the car officially until you pay of your car loan. You may have it in your possession, but it is not officially yours until all loans are paid off and you receive the actual title.

Once you pay off a loan, you have what is called a clear title. A clear title means that the title is clear of loans, meaning that none were present or are now paid off. Clear title also means the title is free of other types of liens, such as a mechanic’s lien.

A mechanic’s lien occurs when you cannot pay for repairs and the mechanic gets a court order allowing them to keep the vehicle until the bill is paid off. In fact, the mechanic can even sell the car if the car’s owner cannot pay the bill. (Interestingly enough, mechanic liens have broadened into other types of liens that architects, contractors, or similar can enact.)

It is important to know the ins and outs of a mechanic’s lien if you are beginning expensive repair work to your property and may not be able to pay. Florida State Statutes 713. 585 details the ins and outs of mechanic liens in Florida. It also states the following: “When a vehicle is sold by a lienor in accordance with this law, a purchaser for value takes title to the vehicle free and clear of all claims, liens, and encumbrances whatsoever, unless otherwise provided by court order.” Liens of this nature also have a priority list, depending on who the loan was filed by and why. This lien priority will be very interesting to other lenders who have an interest in the property.

Then there is a quiet title. A quiet title might mean something a little different than you think it would. That is because a quiet title is actually about “quieting” other types of titles—basically shutting others down to assert your own title through actual civil action. It happens when there are multiple parties asserting ownership of, or interest in, the property. They may be said to be “clouding the title”.  A cloud on a title should give everyone pause, since it may mean that the property may not be clearly titled. Clouding can cause problems purchasing property and after the property is already purchased. It can be due to loans, liens, or paperwork errors.

Vehicles also have titles, just as real estate does. We discussed vehicle titles briefly at the beginning of this post. Vehicle titles can be more easily signed over to other parties without a lot of procedures (unlike buying a house), but can still be challenging due to the paperwork involved and because so many vehicles are financed.

The Manatee County Tax Collector discusses vehicle titles (and boats and trailers) on their website. Many titles can be stored electronically, thought physical copies are available. When purchasing cars or boats from others, it is important to make sure you follow the proper procedures for transferring the title. Checking on the title in these types of situations is also a good idea. The Florida DMV discusses used car transactions on their website.

Attorney Christopher D. Smith is a Lakewood Ranch, Florida attorney with SmithLaw Attorneys. He concentrates in bankruptcy, civil litigation, probate, and elder exploitation cases in the Sarasota and Bradenton area. Call 941 907-4774 to learn more and to ask about our free consultations.

Image:  Some rights reserved by DaveOnFlickr

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