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Old 19-05-2017, 08:40   #1
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Checking for Title & Liens

I am presently negotiating the sale of a 37 ft. sailboat with an owner (no broker(s) involved). I am a UK citizen and the boat is registered in the USA. Need some advice about where I should go to get confirmation of the title and to discover any liens/mortgages attached to the boat - USCG??
Many thanks for any help
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Old 19-05-2017, 09:09   #2
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Re: Checking for Title & Liens

It depends.

In the US, there's a difference between title and registration, although the terms are interchanged a lot. But essentially one (which I will call title and titling) legally determines and establishes who is the owner of a boat. The other (which I will call registration and registering) is required by many states to keep and operate a boat within that state.

So, for titling, which is what you really care about:

In the US, your legal ownership can be established by one of two methods:
1. USCG Documentation
or
2. A State Title

Both are 100% valid and legal.

You have to determine which of these applies in your situation. Just asking the owner will work: "Is the boat Coast Guard Documented, or do you have a State title?"

If CG Documented, then you can check with the CG.

If State titled, you can ask for them to email you a copy/scan of the title - most state titles will actually print any liens directly on the title, and/or you can contact the State agency that issues boat titles in that state (a lot of states do this through the state DMV (department of motor vehicles), others have a separate agency for boats, and even others coordinate it on the state level, but it's the county governments that actually issue the titles).

You should generally be aware that it's entirely possible (and legal, and not uncommon) to have a boat titled in one state, and registered in another - so don't think something is amiss if the boat is located and registered in say, Maryland, but titled in Delaware. It can also be Documented ("titled") with the USCG and registered in, say, Florida.
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Old 19-05-2017, 09:53   #3
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Re: Checking for Title & Liens

I will add that it is possible there is a lien that is not finance related on the boat and it's not on the face of the state title. This would occur if a mechanic or boat yard was somehow not paid and the boat left with money owing. If the lien is established after the title is in the hands of the owner, then it wont be there, but will be on record with the state Dept of Licensing. I have not seen a lien on a boat like this but they do exist apparently. Most liens are held by the financing company if the boat was financed.
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Old 22-05-2017, 02:21   #4
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Re: Checking for Title & Liens

Hi there again and thanks to mogulskibum and Cheechako for their comments.
Very informative and helpful.
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Old 20-09-2017, 08:47   #5
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Re: Checking for Title & Liens

Thanks for the info. I'm selling my US Coast Guard-documented vessel now and being asked to prove a clear title. I can request an Abstract of Title from the USCG, but how do they really know if there is a lien? When I documented the vessel I checked the box saying "no lien", but do the lien holders report to the USCG?
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Old 20-09-2017, 09:40   #6
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Re: Checking for Title & Liens

When I bought my boat privately, I used a marine title agency who for a nominal sum prepared all the paperwork and did whatever searches they thought were necessary to provide me with a warranty of title. Talk to a local broker about who they use.
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