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Boat owner not paying yard, and title of ownership issues

13117 Views 35 Replies 27 Participants Last post by  Group9
Hello all,

I'm fairly new to sailnet and to sailing, so I hope I'm posting in the correct forum.

Recently, I saw a older boat that I like in a boatyard, on the hard, and it looked like it's been sitting there quite a while (weathered sheets, no sticker posted on boat, but mast still up).

Upon inquiring about it from one of the workers (yard owner was not available), I was told that the boat's owner has not been paying the yard storage fees and that the yard owner "has not been able to get the title." That's all the info. that I have so far, as I'm still trying to get in contact with the yard owner.

What does that mean, and what chance do I have as far as being able to buy the boat?

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That same reason is why there there thousands of abandoned and derelict boats in yards, barns, marinas, clubs etc. I'm sure if you take another look at the boat you like, you will find it probably has water 3ft deep in the cabins and worse. But then love is blind, is it not?
Most often, 'not able to get the title' is the same as 'hasn't tried'.

Many yard owners will not attempt to get the title for an abandoned boat unless they actually have someone interested in it, or if it's a boat that's in demand and easily sold. Because once it is theirs, it's inventory they have to pay property taxes on, along with the transfer fees. Plus, once it's theirs they are also 100% responsable for it.

As long as it doesn't belong to the yard, anything that happens is the owner's responsability. Barring 'reasonable care' requirements. As long as it is the owners boat, all they have to do is put it out of the way, and make sure it's not going to fall over. which is why most abandoned boats are in an out of the way area of the yard

If you're interested in a boat, discuss it with one of the people in the office, many yard workers are not in the loop so really don't know what's really going on with the boats.
Make a reasonable offer, they have already lost money on the boat so aren't always interested in getting market value. (If they were, the boat would already be theirs with a for sale sign on it) if they start talking about how much is owed on the boat you can normally ignore any figures they state.

Be aware though, that many people bring sails and other removables home with them when they put a boat up for the season, so you may NOT have the chance to get them. (one boat I bought had the POs information inside, I contacted him and was able to get the sails and other equipment free after purchasing the boat. Turns out he had sold the boat but the new owner never took possession)

Occasionally you'll find a boat that has all the fees paid up, but it's been unused for a few years, those are the boats that it's best to find the owner, the yard can't do more than forward your contact info or give you theirs though.

Best course is to ask about 'the old boat out back' not what do they want for that "28ft whizzgig supersailor".Either way you'll often get a figure for it, but one way you'll get a price, the other they'll most often say look it over and make an offer.
Don't act ignorant, but don't act like you know everything about boats either. Act ignorant and you turn yourself into a mark, act too knowledgeable, and they'll often think they must have missed something important about the boat.

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Stollie - Excellent advice from Ken. I can't really add to that, but just bear in mind what Denise said in her post about the potential costs of getting a boat with multiple problems back to sailing condition. If you can get some expert advice once it becomes clear that the boat is genuinely for sale, then so much the better.

Good luck

Thanks for all the information and advice.

Interesting what Ken said [many people bring sails and other removables home with them when they put a boat up for the season, so you may NOT have the chance to get them]; according to the yard worker, this stuff wasn't available, so I'll have to see how it plays out if I'm eventually able to speak to the current owner and ask him/her about the goods, and if they'll be helpful or hostile.

If you folks think of anything else that you think I may find useful, I'd appreciate the additional postings. I'm so new to all this, I don't know what I don't know, to paraphrase our esteemed former Defense Secretary.

Thanks again,
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I would also try to find out who owns the boat. Many boats are sold by owners for the price of the yard fees. you pay the yard fees and the owner signs over the boat to you. Yards owners usually do have have a problem with this type of arrangement as they will be payed in the end.
Here in Florida it's quite easy to get title to a boat abandonded in a yard. We find it necessary to do this two to three times a year as we are a service department, not a storage yard. It cost us about $300 to get the title and then we either sell them or junk them, either way we don't have room to store them.

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If I wanted it I'd call the owner and make an offer.
Don't know if the laws are the same in Jersey, check your .gov site to be sure but I think this will help you be prepared for the ordeal should you decide to make the leap....

Abandoned Boats

Under section 15-140c of the Connecticut General Statutes, a vessel (boat) is presumed to be an abandoned vessel if left unattended for more than 24 hours

on private property without the consent of the landowner, or
on Connecticut waters and not moored, anchored or made fast to the shore.
If you find an abandoned boat, you should take the following steps:

Contact your local police department or the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) State Environmental Conservation Police. Provide to them the Hull Identification Number (HIN) and registration number of the vessel. The law enforcement officer will determine if the vessel is stolen and will prepare an incident report, a copy of which will be provided to you. The law enforcement officer may take the vessel into custody and store it, but the law does not require it.

To obtain the name and address of the last owner of record, submit to the DMV a completed DMV Form J23b, along with the $20 fee and a photocopy of your driver's license for identification. Include on the form the vessel's registration number and HIN. [NOTE: If there is no registration number, HIN or other identifying markings on the boat, the DMV will not be able to determine the last owner of record.] Send to the last owner of record of the vessel a certified letter, return receipt requested, notifying the last owner of record that you found the vessel and request that the last owner of record retrieve the vessel from you or, if you want the vessel, that the last owner of record sell it to you. If you want the vessel and the last owner of record agrees to sell it to you, the last owner of record must provide you with a completed BILL OF SALE indicating that the vessel was sold to you for a reasonable amount. If the last owner of record prefers to give the vessel to you rather than sell it, the last owner of record must provide you with a completed GIFT AFFIDAVIT (DMV Form AU-463), in addition to a BILL OF SALE (specifying a zero dollar amount). If the last owner of record provides you with a BILL OF SALE (and GIFT AFFIDAVIT, if applicable), you may register the vessel in your name at DMV. The vessel is no longer an abandoned vessel.

If the last owner of record does not respond to your request or is unknown, you have the right to sell the vessel after storing it for at least 60 days. The date on which you contacted law enforcement, as specified on the incident report, is the start of the 60-day period. Five days before the sale of the vessel, the person storing the vessel is required to send a NOTICE OF INTENT TO SELL to the Commissioners of Environmental Protection, Motor Vehicles, and Transportation, and to the vessel owner, if known. If the vessel owner is unknown, the person storing the vessel is required to advertise the sale three times in a newspaper published or having a circulation in the town where the vessel is being stored, beginning at least five days before the sale. The person storing the vessel may sell the vessel to themselves for the costs incurred in storing the vessel.

You should include the following information in the newspaper advertisement and the NOTICE OF INTENT TO SELL: point of contact information, including a telephone number; the location at which the vessel was found; a detailed description of the vessel, include the make, model, type of boat, type of propulsion, name (if any), color, length and any numbers or identifiable marks; and any other information that may help someone to identify the vessel.

After selling the vessel, the person storing it must deduct any costs incurred by law enforcement in taking the vessel into their custody and storing it, if they did so, and by such person in storing the vessel, and distribute the remaining funds from the sale to the owner of the vessel or the owner's legal representative. If the person storing the vessel is not in the business of storing vessels, the person storing the vessel should contact three vessel storage businesses to determine the average cost to store a vessel for the same time period. If the owner or the owner's legal representative does not claim the balance within one year from the date of sale, the balance must be turned over to the state.

To register the vessel, the new owner must provide to the DMV the following documents to prove that the above-stated process was followed:

Bill of sale
Copy of the police report, evidencing the date on which law enforcement was contacted
The return receipt of the certified letter demonstrating that the letter was either accepted by the vessel owner (and they did not respond) or was returned undelivered (if the vessel owner was known)
Copies of the NOTICE OF INTENT TO SELL sent to the Commissioners of Environmental Protection, Motor Vehicles, and Transportation, and to the vessel owner (if the vessel owner was known)
Letter received from the DEP in response to the NOTICE OF INTENT TO SELL, indicating that the vessel has not been reported stolen
Copies of the newspaper advertisements, or proof of publication, for the sale of the vessel (if the vessel owner was unknown)
Ownership Affidavit (DMV Form B-203)
Application for Vessel Registration (DMV Form B-148) and appropriate vessel registration fee
If you have any questions or require additional information, please contact the Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection, Boating Division, at 860-434-8638 or [email protected].

Content Last Updated on July 11, 2008.

Hope this helps, good luck and Take Care!

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I would think that if the boat was worth anything, the yard would have gone through the process of taking possession of the title and then selling the boat.
You will be faced with a LOT of work to get this boat right.
"Men and boats rot in port"

I would be very careful of an abandonded boat. I met a lady who was given a boat and was $1,000 behind in the first two days...$650 was for the emergency tow...she called our sailing club trying to give it away.

Wow, thanks everyone for such an impressive response! I'm a lot less in the dark now, and will definitely heed advice to tread carefully. The info. on state regulations was gold; I'll try to find NJ's regs. and procedures.

I'm reading up on Don Casey's book on inspecting an aging saiboat, and if and when it gets to it, I'll be looking over the boat the best I can. With that, I'll try to come up with some figures on how much it would cost to make the boat shipshape and outfitted, and if I want to spend that money or just look for a boat in better shape that costs the same amount.

If I end up trying to get the boat, I'm hoping I'll be able to get the sails and other removables from the owner.

Please keep the communication coming. Thanks.
I purchased my boat in Wisconsin under similar circumstances. It had been left in the yard for over five years, and the fees for work done on the boat and storage were greater than the value of the boat. The yard filed all of the paperwork for taking possession of the boat, and sold it to me. I ended up with a good deal, and they recouped some of there expenses. probably enough to cover the topside painting and the bottom job.
The boat was in great shape from the toerail down, but the interior was as deniseO30 stated, it might have 3 feet of water inside the cabin.
Mine had a high waterline about 6 inches above the sole. I put a lot of work into restoring the interior, but it was worth it to me. I'll probably never recoupe what I have stuck into the boat, but I have had it for almost five years, and it looks and sails great.
I'm looking at a 35 ft Hunter right now that was left in a yard. I and am working with the yard to get them to get title of the boat. It might take a while, but I'll eventually get it.
Good luck with your search, and hope that you end up with the boat that you want.
Dirtboy, If you have any more information on the process in florida, I'd appreciate it. I haven't worked with Florida boats yet, but could use all the help I can get.

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NJ has a fairly new law (maybe 2 years max) so make sure you get the new one not the old one . . ..

Best bet would be to simply talk to the yard owner. He knows the law (because half his business is collecting late payment) and you can't obtain the title -- he needs to.

What kinda sailboat are we taking about anyway?

I was able to speak to the yard's owner, to get a look inside the cabin, and a much closer look in general.

The boat has about 3 inches of water inside...I wonder how much damage that does to a fiberglass boat, but there's no engine or other mechanical stuff to get damaged. He said the only way to get the water out is to pump it out. I'll go armed to inspect another day, and will probably pump out the water.

The guy also told me he should be able to get the title in the Spring, and that it takes about 6 weeks. When I asked him for an estimated price, he gave me a figure, then said he's lost much money in fees, then stopped himself. I gave him my name and number and asked him to call me when he had an update.

I figure when the time's right, I'll offer about 2/3 of what he told me, as the money he's out has nothing to do with the fair market value of the boat, right?

Some of the cards I have: I'm planning on keeping the boat at that yard as it's conveniently located; they have mooring space; somebody who has their boat there has high praise for the place, and that the guy is a straight shooter; I'll be having the yard doing work that I can't or don't have time to do myself. So basically, I'll be keeping the business there.

Still wondering if I'll be able to find the current owner and get the sails, etc..

That's the new developments, so please chew on it and keep the advice flowing, as this newbie needs it.

Thanks again.
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I'd also recommend you read the Boat Inspection Trip Tips thread I started, as it will help you determine what problems the boat has and whether it is worth looking into further.
OK, thanks, sailingdog, will do.
Stollie where are you in NJ I'm just across the bridge in Bristol pa. What make and size boat is it? New sails for a boat around 30ft are going to cost close to 3K. add that to the equasion.
Water in the boat will cause odors that you can never quite get rid of. If the water has frozen over the years and most likely has, it can delam the fiberglass. I'd just throw the guy a number and ignore his losses. they already lost the $. You may want to contact Don at G winters sailing in Riverside and see what they have "laying around" Or!!!! you can buy my boat! LOL
try to get the water out before winter if you are really still interested
as the money he's out has nothing to do with the fair market value of the boat, right?

Estimate your cost to make everything ship shape, and then multiply it by two.
Add that to what you are going to pay for the boat
Check around to see what kind of boat you can get for that money.

It's a buyers market.
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