A Contractor Gave me a Title to a Car for Collateral, Now with the Work not Finished I’m Unsure if the Car Exists, What Should I Do?

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“A contractor agreed to do some home repair work for me. The contractor gave me the vehicle title to an antique car as collateral for me prepaying for the scheduled work. Work didn’t get done, he claims he cannot repay the funding and the car seems to no longer exist. I am filing a suit in small claims court for recovery of the dollars. I anticipate winning. He will claim he cannot pay and has no assets that can be executed against. How can I discover if the collateralized car does exist? If this car was sold, does a case of contract fraud exist? Can I then file a suit in the criminal court? The whole issue is based upon a principle of honesty. The money is a small amount. It is my impression that some people know the cost of trying to reclaim such a relatively small amount rarely happens. So they are willing to tolerate the “embarrassment” of appearing in small claims court in order to keep the dollars. I have the time to research and present the case with some guidance. In my opinion, this case involves a secured loan that if violated can produce criminal charges. This possible creation of a criminal record may “help” the defendant to come up with the money. Thanks for your time in reading this epistle.”

[NOTE: Articles and answers on DearEsq., while written and published by lawyers, do not constitute legal advice, and no attorney-client relationship is formed by your reading of this information. You should always consult with an attorney for any legal situations.]

First, I would check with the motor vehicle department of your state to see the status of the car. That should tell you whether it exists and whether this person owns it.

Second, if your state has an agency that licenses contractors, contact that agency. They usually have consumer help procedures that may aid you in your collections (the risk of a mark against one’s license is often a motivating factor).

Third, I cannot say whether what this person did amounts to a crime, but the person to ask is your local district attorney. Again, many DA’s offices have consumer departments who can help, or at least let you know what would rise to the level of a crime.

Finally, be aware that collecting on civil judgments is a specialty of its own, and depends in large part on locating collectible assets. Your small claims court personnel may be able to point you toward some self-help materials for the correct procedures in your state.

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Author: House Attorney

A house attorney has answered this question.

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