Summer 2013

Virginia Passes Boater-Friendly Title Law

Article by Ryck Lydecker

The state of Virginia became the first state in the nation to adopt a boat-titling law instigating consumer protection mechanisms already commonplace for motor vehicles. In passing the Uniform Certificate of Title for Watercraft Act in February, lawmakers gave Virginia boaters a tool that makes it easier to identify previously damaged boats, recognize the legitimate owner in a boat sale transaction, and prevent the sale of stolen boats.

“While two-thirds of the states have titling laws that cover boats, they can vary state to state in what is recorded on that title, leading to potential for error or even fraud,” reports David B. Kennedy of BoatUS Government Affairs.

Kennedy said the Virginia law is based on model legislation approved by the National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws. “That means, as other states adopt it, this will create a uniform system of boat titling that will be recognized nationwide and by the U.S. Coast Guard.”

The law requires a vessel title to clearly label any significant structural damage to the boat such as might be found in vessels severely damaged during Hurricane Sandy. By “branding” such titles for damage, buyers will know to carefully consider a vessel’s condition, and that information can also alert the next buyer and subsequent buyers, whether they are local or across the country.

“In states that don’t currently issue vessel titles, a stolen boat can be sold using a fraudulent bill of sale or forged registration document,” Kennedy said. “Uniform titling will help prevent such transactions and that protects the owner of the stolen boat and the potential buyer.” Now that Virginia is leading the way, Kennedy said non-title states can adopt the uniform law and the others can use it to make existing laws conform for the benefit of all boating consumers.