BEWARE OF PRIVATE PURCHASES OF MOTOR VEHICLES COMMON PITFALLS
If a vehicle turns out to be stolen and there is a contest between the true owner and you as the buyer, section 694 Police Powers and Responsibilities Act 2000 (Qld) provides that a police officer can apply to the Court for an order declaring who is the owner of the vehicle. Further, section 694(4) allows a Magistrate to make an order he/she considers appropriate.
In determining the meaning of the word ‘owner’, the Court in McCullough v Otto & Anor  QCA 507 held that references to ‘owner’ in this section are references to the true owner of the particular property. That is, according to its ‘ordinary popular meaning’ preferred by the court in Lyons & Co Ltd v. Metropolitan Police Commissioner  1 QB 321?. Accordingly, the word ‘owner’ could include possessory title through to the absolute owner.
Also, section 24(1) of the Sale of Goods Act 1966 (Qld) provides that ‘Subject to the provisions of this Act, when goods are sold by a person who is not the owner thereof, and who does not sell them under the authority or with the consent of the owner, the buyer acquires no better title to the goods than the seller had, unless the owner of the goods is by the owner’s conduct precluded from denying the seller’s authority to sell.’
Overall, in determining priority disputes involving legal property rights, the principle is that no one can give what he or she does not have. Put simply, the rule is that a person will continue to have proprietary rights until they dispose of them. Even if you have possessory title of the vehicle and accordingly, have a claim over the vehicle if you are a bona fide purchaser for value without notice, the question is whether your claim of ownership can defeat the true owner’s claim. Ordinarily, it cannot but there are exceptions which apply and we can give you advice as to whether they are applicable to your specific situation.
To further protect you, we can assist you in making a Personal Property Securities Register (PPSR) check. This used to be called the REV check. This check can reveal a number of details concerning the car you are thinking to buy including whether it has been written-off or if it is a stolen vehicle.
Searches can be conducted through the Australian Government PPSR webpage: http://www.ppsr.gov.au/Pages/ppsr.aspx
There are a number of different search types available – motor vehicle, watercraft, serial number, PPSR registration number, individual grantor and ordinal.
Example of process for motor vehicle search:
- The first step involves entering the Vehicle Identification Number, the Chassis Number (older cars) or the Manufacturers Number into the search system.
- The second step involves a payment for the search.
- The third screen shows the search results of the National Exchange of Vehicle and Driver Information System (NEVDIS). NEVDIS can return results including:
- Description of the vehicle (including the model);
- Registration plate details; and
- Whether the vehicle has been reported as stolen or written off.
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