Registration certificate of a vehicle versus proof of ownership


Following two recent similar cases we believe it may be useful to provide some explanatory notes on the registration and proof of ownership of motor vehicles. The example in the following text describes almost literally the situation, the names and domiciles of the persons concerned were deleted for reasons of discretion.

Some time ago we were contacted through our website . The man (hereinafter referred to as A) in question said that a few years ago his wife, with his knowledge and approval, had voluntarily assumed the care and administration of a foreign family of immigrants. Also A and his wife had bought a second-hand car for the family (an older Opel Corsa model, sale realized among private individuals). For the sake of convenience A and his wife had registered the car in their names and lent it to the family of immigrants, so far so good. One day however the foreign family moved to another city, without informing A thereof. Only weeks after they had moved, A and his wife managed to discover the foreign family’s domicile. Because the Opel Corsa was registered on their names, also the fines were addressed to A. When he went to visit the foreign family’s domicile, A found that the vehicle was still there, with a ‘for sale’ sign attached to the windows. This was reason enough for A to contact us and to tell his story. Because detection (and recovery) of lost or stolen goods fall under the activities carried out by the private investigator, at first sight this assignment seemed an easy case: the location of the Corsa was known and because A was in possession of the spare key the vehicle could be collected rapidly. However, because the vehicle was bought among private individuals and was paid for in cash, there was no purchase invoice (private individuals are not liable to pay vat) and no proof of purchase or payment that would be in A’s favour. A argued however that he holds the original registration certificate, and that is when it reality hit him in the face. At the top of this document it literally says: “This certificate is not a proof of ownership of the vehicle”. Therefore, it seemed a bit tricky to us to go and collect the vehicle without holding any evidence stating that it was indeed the property of our client A. So, the only thing we could advise A was to go to the seller and ask him a written certificate expressly stating that he purchased and paid for the Corsa.

Unfortunately, since this last contact, we haven’t heard anything from A anymore. The lesson to be learned here is that when it comes to vehicles an invoice or purchase certificate is a valid proof of ownership, the registration certificate or the insurance certificate never is.

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SV Investigations

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