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Donors advised to transfer title when giving cars to charity

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QUESTION: Can you warn your readers to not donate cars to charities because they don’t change the title of ownership, and the next person who buys the car at auction, or whoever, can violate the laws, park incorrectly, and you will be held responsible? I donated my car to Big Brothers Big Sisters on May 19, 2006. It was sold five days later, then ticketed for not being parked in a stall on May 27, 2006. Five years later I received notice that I am in "Default of Judgment" because I didn’t pay the fine or show up in court, even though I got rid of the car before the infraction.

ANSWER: Big Brothers Big Sisters of Honolulu says when someone donates a car, they are advised to do a "notice of transfer" to the organization — a process that’s been in place for many years.

"We don’t turn over the title into our name," said Louisa Theodore, operations manager for the organization.

Instead, the donor is told to fill out the notice, which is attached to the title, and immediately turn it in so that he/she is relinquished of any liability, she said. "That is something we always specify to our donors — don’t forget to turn in your notice of transfer."

At this point the title will still be in the donor’s name. The car is then taken to auction, where it gets sold to a dealer, Theodore said.

"The paperwork comes to us, saying it got sold. Then our company goes ahead and does a notice of transfer out of our name into the dealer who purchased it," Theodore said.

Once the dealer sells the vehicle, "the purchaser gets a new title put in the purchaser’s name," she said.

Theodore said when you contacted her recently, it was the first time she had heard about the problem and has not received any similar complaint in the nine years she’s been with the organization.

"We want to make sure there are no hassles for the owner who donates a car to us. … (People) donate in good faith to us, then we use the money to fund our programs," she said.

The Better Business Bureau advises people to transfer the title to a charity when donating a car.

However, state law — Section 286-52(k) of the Hawaii Revised Statutes — says that filing a notice of transfer, meeting all requirements, does relieve the transferor "from any liability, civil or criminal … which the transferor might otherwise subsequently incur by reason solely of being the registered owner of the vehicle."

The city Motor Vehicle and Licensing Division could not find a notice of transfer from you to Big Brothers Big Sisters, but there was a transfer from the organization to the car dealer, said Administrator Dennis Kamimura.

"I provided the information to the Ombudsman’s Office where (your) complaint originated," he said. "I also sent a certified copy of the motor vehicle record for use when (you have) to appear in court."

Based on the date of citation, the date you released the vehicle on the certificate of title and the date Big Brothers Big Sisters sold the vehicle to the car dealer, "the violation should have been the responsibility of the car dealer or the person that purchased the vehicle," Kamimura said.

DONATING CARS

For tips on donating cars, check the Better Business Bureau: hawaii.bbb.org/Car-Auto-Donations.

AUWE

To the person who is walking their dog on Kiani Street in Kaneohe and not picking up after it. Pick up your mess! — J.

Write to "Kokua Line" at Honolulu Star-Advertiser, 7 Waterfront Plaza, Suite 210, 500 Ala Moana Blvd., Honolulu 96813; call 529-4773; fax 529-4750; or e-mail kokualine@staradvertiser.com.
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