Association Warns about Vehicle Title Washing in Hurricane Aftermath


Thou­sands of vehi­cles have been flood dam­aged in the North­east, and Prop­erty Casu­alty Insur­ers Asso­ci­a­tion of Amer­ica rec­om­mends stay­ing informed on rel­e­vant fed­eral and state laws. “Like any total loss vehi­cle, the vast major­ity of insured vehi­cles will be dis­posed of via sal­vage auc­tions and branded as flood dam­aged or sal­vage accord­ing to the title laws of the state,” said Bob Pass­more, PCI’s senior direc­tor, per­sonal lines.

A vehi­cle dam­aged in a flood should have its title branded, but incon­sis­ten­cies in state laws some­times allowed titles to be “washed” or have their brands removed when trans­ferred in another state. But there have been sev­eral recent devel­op­ments that make “title wash­ing” much more dif­fi­cult. The National Motor Vehi­cle Title Infor­ma­tion Sys­tem requires insur­ers to report total loss vehi­cles to a fed­eral data base; it also requires states to share infor­ma­tion on motor vehi­cle titles. Insurer report­ing has been in place since 2009 and sub­ject to a $1,000 per vehi­cle fine for non-compliance. There are no penal­ties for states that haven’t com­plied, but 32 states are fully par­tic­i­pat­ing in NMVTIS, mean­ing that they both sup­ply title data and query the data base on every title trans­ac­tion. New York, New Jer­sey, Vir­ginia, Con­necti­cut and Delaware fully par­tic­i­pate. Another eight states pro­vide data only, and 10 states plus the Dis­trict of Colum­bia are cur­rently in development.