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Bahamas: Needs ‘More Teeth’ On Vehicle Titles

The Bahamas needs an “ironclad” vehicle title system with “more teeth” to better protect consumers from unscrupulous second-hand auto sellers, major dealers urged yesterday.

Fred Albury, the Bahamas Motor Dealers Association’s (BMDA) president, and other members told Tribune Business that a major loophole in the Road Traffic Department’s titling structure is the absence of information disclosing whether banks and other lenders hold liens/charges over vehicles.

This weakness exposes Bahamian auto buyers, especially those purchasing second-hand or used cars, to the possibility of being ripped off by sellers who fail to disclose they took out an outstanding loan that is still secured on the subject vehicle.

With little to no ability to check whether such/liens charges exist, buyers face the possibility that lenders will repossess their new vehicle to recover debts owed by former owners – even if those persons are several steps removed in the ownership chain.

This concern has been highlighted by the Court of Appeal, which last week put Bahamian auto buyers on notice that CarFax and police checks are insufficient to determine whether a vehicle’s owner can transfer good title to them.

Upholding a verdict by the Supreme Court, it ruled that Renalda Isaac had no recourse against Scotiabank (Bahamas) after it repossessed the 2005 Jeep Wrangler for which she paid $15,000 some 21 months earlier.

Ms Isaac had been unaware that, three owners prior to her, the vehicle had been mortgaged to the bank on July 3, 2008, as security for a loan. The then-owner responsible, Jason Deveaux, breached the mortgage terms by selling the jeep in April 2010 without Scotiabank (Bahamas) permission and then, just over a year later, defaulted on the loan repayments in July 2011.

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