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Involuntary transfers

If a vehicle is abandoned, or if the vehicle's ownership is transferred by bankruptcy, police-ordered tow, government seizure, or a mechanic's garage and stored vehicle lien, it is considered an involuntary transfer.

Table of Contents

Abandoned vehicles

A vehicle that has been left on a public or private way without the permission of the private owner or the appropriate authority is considered abandoned. The city or town or state police may dispose of the vehicle after obtaining ownership. The following documents are required for a transfer of ownership for an abandoned vehicle:

  1. Bill of sale from the government entity selling the vehicle which states the statute allowing the sale.
  2. Affidavit of fact if vehicle details are not listed on the bill of sale.

Divorce orders/Judicial transfers

In some cases, a court may order the transfer of a vehicle between two parties as part of a divorce order or another court judgment. The original court judgment document must be presented to the RMV for the transfer. Unless specifically stated in the judgment, the title must be endorsed and assigned from one party to the other.

Mechanic's garage and stored vehicle liens

A vehicle may be acquired and sold by a mechanic's garage, public parking garage and storage entities for non-payment of repair or storage fees. The documents required to transfer ownership may vary according to the instructions set out in the court order. For example, a judge may order the garage or storage facility to either keep the vehicle in lieu of payment, sell the vehicle to recoup losses, or have the Sheriff seize the vehicle and sell it at public auction.

To transfer ownership, a copy of the court order is always required.  Depending on the details of the order, other documents may be required, such as a copy of the execution or a sheriff's bill of sale, will also be required.


When an owner declares bankruptcy, a court may order the transfer of a vehicle as part of a bankruptcy settlement. To transfer ownership of a vehicle following a bankruptcy settlement, the following documents are required:

  • Certified copy of court appointment of trustee
  • Court order of sale of vehicle
  • Title assigned by trustee

Government seizure

Local, state, or federal government agencies may seize a vehicle and transfer ownership though a judicial process or by statute. The following documents are required to initiate the transfer of ownership:

  • A document on official government letterhead or a copy of the court order. Either must cite the statute that relates to or governs the seizure of the vehicle .
  • Transfer of ownership documented on official government letterhead.

Police-ordered tows

A police department or other public authority may order a vehicle to be towed and stored. If the owner does not come to collect the vehicle in a reasonable amount of time, the towing company may acquire ownership of the vehicle and sell it to satisfy a lien for non-payment of storage fees, but only after all of the requirements of the law are met. The following documents are required:

  • Affidavit of sale for involuntarily towed vehicle
  • Certified letter to owner's last known address
  • Newspaper advertisement that appeared for one day per week for three consecutive weeks in the city or town where the vehicle is stored
  • Letter to police chief detailing the facts and indicating the intent to sell
  • Bill of Sale to purchaser

If the owner of the vehicle agrees to the continued storage or repairs of the vehicle, then the garage must follow the procedures outlined in the mechanic's garage and stored vehicle liens section.



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