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.The Code of Civil Procedure provides that Justices of the Peace handle suits for the possession or ownership of moveable property, and the judgments of ownership of vehicles shall be recognized by the Office of Motor Vehicles in accordance with the provisions of Chapter 4 of Title 32 of the Louisiana Revised Statutes. See CCP art. 4912. However, many people assume that a Justice of the Peace Court can issue a judgment recognizing them as the owner of a vehicle where there has been no legal transfer of the vehicle to them. Ownership, as defined by the Civil Code, is the right that confers on a person's direct, immediate and exclusive authority over a thing. Normally, ownership of a moveable is either gratuitous (like a donation) or for money, as in a contract of sale. Some things don't require any real formalities other than a handshake and an exchange of money accompanied by the actual delivery of the moveable property. However, titled things, such as cars and motorcycles, do not fall in this category. In fact, it is illegal to sell a titled vehicle if you don't have a title to it. The Office of Motor Vehicles has extensive criteria they use to determine whether someone has obtained ownership of a vehicle. Usually, OMV requires that the title be properly filled out, signed and notarized and that there be a separate Bill of Sale or Act of Donation, also properly filled out, signed and notarized.

Lost Damaged or Stolen Title

If the vehicle’s title has been lost, stolen or badly damaged, you can get a replacement/duplicate Louisiana title by filling out Form DPSMV 1799 and filling out the Duplicate Title Affidavit that’s on the form. With that form filled out plus a $68.50 fee and a handling fee, you can get a duplicate title.

When selling a car privately in Louisiana, the buyer and the seller both need to fill out the relevant sections on the back of the title. This information includes the legal name, address, and signature of the buyer and the seller(s) along with the date of the sale, the odometer reading, and the purchase price. When this is filled out accurately and legibly, it makes it easy for the buyer to transfer registration and acquire a new plate. If there is more than one owner showing on the title, the following number of signatures will be required based on the connection between the names: And – All persons listed must sign. Or – Either seller can sign, only one signature is required. And/Or - Both sellers must sign. If no connection is listed, it will default to ‘and’ and all owners (sellers) must sign.

In the state of Louisiana, the seller is required to sign the title in the presence of a notary.  The Justice of the Peace can notarize these forms.  From there, the buyer takes the assigned title plus proof of Louisiana insurance, their ID, and money for fees and applicable taxes to their local OMV office and transfers ownership of the vehicle.

If you’re looking to gift a vehicle or transfer a title to a relative, you can follow the same process that is outlined here including the Act of Donation DPSMV 1699.  As for inherited cars, it’s a little more complicated. If you’re inheriting a car, you need a copy of the death certificate, a copy of the will, and possibly an Affidavit of Heirship which is Form DPSMV 1696.

Inherited and Act of Donation

For private car sales, Louisiana requires a document called a Notice of Transfer of Vehicle (Form DPSMV 1697) to be filled out and filed with the state OMV. This document requires information on the vehicle being sold including the VIN, year, make, model, and license number. It also requires information on the seller including your name, address, and driver’s license number. Then, you need to check a box stating whether it was sold, donated, or traded and fill out the name and address of the buyer, the sales price, the date of the sale, and finally a signature from the seller. You can either fill out this form and mail it to the address at the top of that form or you can submit a notice of vehicle transfer online. It’s worth noting that transfer of registration does not officially happen until the buyer takes the title to the OMV and gets it registered in their name.

Depending on the model year of your car, you may need to fill out an Odometer Disclosure Statement (Form DPSMV 1606). This requires information and signatures from both the buyer and the seller showing that the two parties agree on the mileage of the vehicle being sold

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) odometer disclosure requirements were updated in December 2020 impacting certain private vehicle sales in Louisiana: For a vehicle transfer that occurs from January 1, 2021 through December 31, 2030, any vehicle of model year 2011 or newer (2012, 2013, etc.) will require an odometer disclosure. Starting on January 1, 2031, any vehicle that is less than 20 model years old will require an odometer disclosure. Previously, the NHTSA required disclosure was for only the first 10 years. Cars older than 2010 are exempt from odometer disclosures.

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