Tennessee Code Annotated

Title 55: Motor and Other Vehicles

Chapter 3: Certificates of Title

Part 1: General Provisions

TCA 55-3-103: Application for certificate of title -- Form and contents -- Statement of dealer or bill of sale.

(a)  Every owner of a vehicle, subject to registration under this title, for which no certificate of title has ever been issued by the department, shall make application to the county clerk of the county where the vehicle is to be registered, or directly to the registrar of motor vehicles in the case of either proportional or apportional registrations and state owned vehicles. The clerk or registrar of motor vehicles shall receive the application for the issuance of a certificate of title for that vehicle upon the appropriate form or forms furnished by the department without charge to the applicant. Every such application shall bear the signature of the owner written with pen and ink or captured electronically using a method approved by the commissioner; provided, however, that in the case of a licensed motor vehicle dealer only, in lieu of the signature, the application may be accompanied by a valid power of attorney executed by the owner on a form prescribed by the commissioner granting the licensed motor vehicle dealer authority to sign the application on behalf of the owner. The application shall contain:

     (1)  The full name, bona fide residence, including the residential street address and number or route and box number, or post office box number if the applicant has no residential street address; provided, however, that a post office box shall not be sufficient to establish an individual's bona fide residence;  and the mailing address of the owner or business address of the owner if a firm, association or corporation;

     (2)  A description of the vehicle, including, insofar as the specified data may exist with respect to a given vehicle, the odometer reading, the make, model, type of body, the serial number of the vehicle, the engine or other number of the vehicle, and whether new or used and, if a new vehicle, the date of sale by the manufacturer or dealer to the person intending to operate the vehicle. In the event a vehicle is designed, constructed, converted, or rebuilt for the transportation of property, the application shall include a statement of its capacity in terms of maximum gross vehicle weight rating as authorized by the manufacturer of the chassis or the complete vehicle;

     (3)  A statement of the applicant's title and of all liens or encumbrances on the vehicle and the names and addresses of all persons having any interest in the vehicle and the nature of the interest; and

     (4)  Further information that may reasonably be required by the department to enable it to determine whether the owner is entitled to a certificate of title.

(b)  If the department is not satisfied as to the ownership of the vehicle or that there are no undisclosed security interests in it, the department may register the vehicle, and as a condition of issuing a certificate of title, require the applicant to file a bond with the department upon the form prescribed by the department, executed by a corporate surety company duly licensed to transact business in the state, or a personal bond with two (2) solvent personal sureties on the bond. The bond shall be in an amount equal to one and one half (1½) times the value of the vehicle, as determined by the department, and conditioned to indemnify any prior owner and lienholder and any subsequent purchaser of the vehicle or person acquiring any security interest in it, and their respective successors in interest, against any expense, loss or damage, including reasonable attorney's fees, by reason of the issuance of the certificate of title of the vehicle or on account of any defect in or undisclosed security interest upon the right, title and interest of the applicant in and to the vehicle. Any person with an interest has a right of action to recover on the bond for any breach of its conditions, but the aggregate liability of the surety to all persons shall not exceed the amount of the bond. The bond shall be returned at the end of three (3) years or prior to the three (3) years if the vehicle is no longer registered in this state and the currently valid certificate of title is surrendered to the department, unless the department has been notified of the pendency of any action to recover on the bond.

(c)  When the application refers to a new vehicle purchased from a dealer, the application shall be accompanied by a statement by the dealer or a bill of sale showing any lien retained by the dealer and, in addition, a manufacturer's certificate of origin on a form to be prescribed by the commissioner.

(d)  The county clerk of the county where a vehicle is to be registered shall act as the agent of the department in receiving the application for certificate of title pursuant to the provisions of this section. By receiving the application, the transfer of title and any liens noted on the title shall be deemed perfected, subject only to the action of the department in declining for good cause shown to issue the title or to note such lien on the title.

(e)  (1)  Notwithstanding any provision of this chapter to the contrary, a person may apply for a certificate of title to a vehicle lacking proper documentation, if the vehicle has a fair market value of three thousand dollars ($3,000) or less and the person submits a certificate of ownership signed under penalty of perjury on a form prescribed by the department. The certificate of ownership shall be accompanied by the following supporting documentation:

          (A)  Return receipts from certified letters with a return receipt requested sent to all known parties with a legal interest in the vehicle, requesting an assigned certificate of title or, in the event the previous owner is unknown to the applicant, evidence of notification, in a publication of general circulation in the county in which the application is being made, of the applicant's intent to apply for title on the vehicle. The notification shall contain a description of the vehicle, including make, model, year and vehicle identification number, and a request to any and all parties holding an interest in the vehicle to contact the person in possession of the vehicle by certified mail, return receipt requested, within ten (10) business days of the date of the publication;

          (B)  Verification of the vehicle identification number (VIN) by a law enforcement officer or licensed dealer;

          (C)  A notarized bill of sale from the last registered owner or a notarized statement from the seller stating why the vehicle was not titled or registered in the seller's name;

          (D)  In the absence of documentation pursuant to subdivision (e)(1)(C), a licensed motor vehicle dealer appraisal of the value of the vehicle;

          (E)  Photographs of the vehicle in its pre-repaired state. If pre-repair photographs are unavailable, then post-repair photographs shall be submitted, along with a notarized statement from the applicant that no pre-repair photographs are available and that the person was unaware that pre-repair photographs would be required before the repairs were made. If no repairs were made, the statement should so state; and

          (F)  In the event a vehicle was purchased new and never titled and the manufacturer's statement of origin has been lost and a duplicate of the original manufacturer's statement of origin cannot be obtained from the manufacturer, a complete copy of the original manufacturer's statement of origin, certified as true and exact, shall be required.

     (2)  Notwithstanding any provision of this chapter to the contrary, a person may apply for a certificate of title to a vehicle lacking proper documentation, if the vehicle is at least thirty (30) years old and the person submits a certificate of ownership signed under penalty of perjury on a form prescribed by the department.

     (3)  Upon submission of a complete certificate of ownership form with the required supporting documentation and payment of the appropriate fee, a certificate of title shall be issued and the county clerk shall issue a license plate to the applicant upon acceptance by the county clerk of the submitted documents and payment of the appropriate fees. A certificate of title issued pursuant to the provisions of this subsection (e) shall not relieve the registrant of civil or criminal liability resulting from possession of the vehicle as otherwise provided by law. Issuance of a title or registration under the certification provisions is solely dependent on the applicant's ability to provide satisfactory evidence of the applicant's legal right of ownership and conformity to all related provisions as prescribed in § 55-2-107.

History: [Acts 1951, ch. 70, § 29 (Williams, § 5538.129); Acts 1953, ch. 167, § 4; 1965, ch. 125, § 1; 1972, ch. 518, § 5; 1973, ch. 234, § 1; impl. am. Acts 1978, ch. 934, §§ 22, 36; T.C.A. (orig. ed.), § 59-303; Acts 1982, ch. 600, § 2; 1984, ch. 559, § 1; 1986, ch. 771, § 1; 1989, ch. 341, § 1; 2006, ch. 952, § 1; 2007, ch. 289, § 1; 2007, ch. 484, §§ 1113; 2009, ch. 530, §§ 109, 112.]