There are many reasons why you’d want to check if a vehicle has a lien. If you bought the car, you should be able to find out if there is a lien. Unfortunately, if you’re not the titleholder, you may have problems finding out the lien status of your vehicle.
What is a lien?
A lien is a legal claim on property or assets to ensure payment of an amount owed. With vehicles, this means that if someone has borrowed money from a bank or other lender to purchase their car, truck, or motorcycle, that lender will place a lien on the title until the debt is paid in full. Liens on vehicle titles are very common and can only be removed by submission of a vehicle lien release from the lienholder.
Why is it hard to check if a vehicle has a lien?
It’s difficult to check the lien status of a vehicle because liens are considered private banking information. The DMV is not supposed to give out this information to anyone other than the titleholder. This does not mean that you cannot get this information at all, but it does mean that it won’t be easy.
Two ways to check if a vehicle has a lien
Check the title
If you have access to the old title, check the front of the document for the lienholder’s name. If the vehicle has a lien, the lienholder will be listed as the owner or one of the owners on the front of the certificate of title.
Ask the DMV
Technically, they’re not supposed to give out any lien information. However, if you come prepared, you may be able to get the information you need. When going to the DMV, bring all supporting ownership documents such as a bill of sale or other documents. You’ll need to provide your DMV agent with a valid reason for requesting this information. Similarly, you can also submit a motor vehicle record request with your local DMV to obtain prior title information. It’s very unlikely that they will give you the amount of the lien, but they may be able to provide you with the name of the lienholder.
How to release a vehicle lien
Once you’ve determined the lienholder by looking at the title or information from the DMV, you can begin the vehicle lien release process.
A lienholder is the only authorized agent to release a lien from the title. Research the address of your lienholder along with any other address locations you can find. By certified mail, send the lienholder the state’s lien release request form along with a letter of non-interest. A letter of non-interest is a document that states the lienholder no longer has any interest in pursuing the unpaid loan amount on the vehicle and can be sufficient to release the lien. It is important to start as early as possible, as sending incomplete documents may result in either a delay or denial of your request. Make sure that all portions of the forms are completed in their entirety and notarized if needed. The lienholder is more likely to return the forms quickly and without issue, if you provide them with the already completed forms only in need of a signature.
It’s important to find out if your vehicle has a lien on it, especially if you were not the original borrower. It may be difficult to find lien information, but the tips in this article will help you find success. If it’s your car, you deserve a clear title in your name.