TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – Central Florida’s Republican State Representative David Smith has filed legislation to take away the state’s requirement for car dealers to transfer title to consumers within 30 days of a sale. This bill is identical to the one filed by Republican Senator Tom Wright last week.
Representative Smith’s bill was filed at 7:46 p.m. Monday night on the first day of the legislation session and on the last day bills could be filed for this session.
Neither Wright nor Smith have returned calls from Investigator Shannon Behnken to explain why they proposed these bills and how they hope these bills would impact consumers and car dealers in Florida. A spokesperson for Wright confirms he is aware of repeated requests for comment and has watched a Better Call Behnken report about the issue.
Consumer advocates and some other politicians have expressed concern about the bill.
“I don’t think they know what they’ve proposed,” said Pasco County Tax Collector Mike Fasano, a former state senator. “This will hurt consumers, and it doesn’t make sense.”
Currently, when you buy a vehicle in Florida, the law requires dealers to apply to transfer the title into your name within 30 days. If they don’t, the state can fine the dealer or even suspend or revoke their license.
This law is what gives regulators the power to help make sure consumers can register their cars in their names.
Senate Bill 1346 and House Bill 1517 would amend existing legislation so that a dealer no longer “must” obtain a title in the name of the purchaser. Instead, the bill would replace “must” with “should.” The proposed bill literally strikes out words that give the state regulators power.
“It would have a major consequence,” Fasano said. “First, if you do not require the dealer to turn a title over to the new owner in their name within a certain amount of time or maybe never, that owner – or that new owner – never truly owned the car.”
That would mean they couldn’t get a permanent license plate. That’s exactly what my ongoing Better Call Behnken investigation found happening to Carvana customers. State regulators responded on Dec. 17, giving Carvana until the end of January to clear up title issues or face losing its license.
Four days later, Wright filed his bill.
Behnken reached out to Carvana for comment and received this statement in an email: “Carvana was not involved in this legislative proposal.”
Meanwhile, officials from the department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles say they have “serious concerns” about the wording in the legislation and that neither Wright nor Smith consulted with the department about the bills.