QLD Property Rights on Stolen Horse Float?

Discussion in 'Australian Consumer Law Forum' started by David Kempson, 9 February 2019.

  1. David Kempson

    David Kempson Member

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    About two years ago, I bought a used horse float. It was a private seller, but I received a receipt. I did a vehicle search on the VIN to confirm that it had not been reported stolen and that it had no liens against it. I completed the transaction and registered the float with QLD Transport. One year later, I got a notice in the mail that the float was reported stolen and that I would be unable to register it. I've made a statement with the police and the investigation is ongoing. In the meantime, I still have possession of the float.

    My question is that since I made this transaction do I have any property rights? I did everything I could to ensure the vehicle was clear and clean.
     
  2. Tim W

    Tim W Lawyer
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    Was the name on the receipt genuine?
     
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  3. Rod

    Rod Lawyer
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    If you paid a fair price for the float - yes.

    If the police take the float, object and do not consent at the time they take it but don't interfere with the police. Make sure you get some kind of receipt from the police, the police names and take photos of them taking it. Then apply for a court order requesting the return of the float. You may need legal assistance applying for court orders.
     
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  4. David Kempson

    David Kempson Member

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    The name on the receipt was the actual name of the person that sold it to me, but not the name of the actual owner. The police believe he was fencing the float along with other stolen property.
     
  5. David Kempson

    David Kempson Member

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    Thanks Rod. It’s interesting that the police have said they were going to impound it months ago, but they have not yet done so. They have identified the original owner of the float, they know the identify of the person that sold it to me and yet there doesn’t seem to be any action. They float is flagged as stolen property which impairs me from renewing the registration when it expires.
     
  6. Rod

    Rod Lawyer
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    You may need a declaration from the court that you are the new owner and an order telling the rego people to accept a transfer. I'm not sure how the registration system works in Qld.
     
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  7. Tim W

    Tim W Lawyer
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    Rod is perhaps referring to a concept in Equity called "bona fide purchaser for value".

    It can be helpful to understand that this concept is not always and automatically applicable to every case.
    In particular, it is not always and automatically available where an item has been paid out by an insurer,
    or where there remains a secured but unpaid debt to a financier.

    All of that said, neither of the above may apply to the horse float in question.

    There remains one, much more mundane, thing to consider.
    As a general thing, only the registered owner of a vehicle can deal in it.
    In this case, that's the person from whom it was stolen in the first place.
    It's still theirs.
    That's why you can't (re)register (or transfer) it - you "bought" it from somebody
    who did not have a right to sell it.
    So, if nothing else, you may have an action in contract against the seller (fence).

    You may find this thread of interest.
     
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  8. Rod

    Rod Lawyer
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    Interesting viewpoint, but not one I accept.

    On what basis are common law property rights subsumed by registering a vehicle?

    In Vic, a 'registered operator' registers a car and the act of registration does not affect ownership property rights. I had this confirmed when I was able to get a car unclamped because the registered operator was not the car owner. Sheriff conceded the point and unclamped the vehicle when paperwork was produced.

    The general community equates registration with ownership, and most times this is the same person, however the law in Vic does not say registration = ownership.

    I haven't check QLD laws however I note the QLD vehicle transfer form uses "registered operator details", seemingly showing registration is not an indication of ownership as per what happens in Victoria.

    What gives an insurer greater rights than the original owner? An assignment of rights from my (limited) understanding, does not trump BFPWNFV, however I concede my knowledge of insurance law is very limited.
     
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    #8 Rod, 10 February 2019
    Last edited: 10 February 2019
  9. Tim W

    Tim W Lawyer
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    Property rights in vehicles have statutory basis -> registration is a statutory function.
    Not an artefact of common law, and certainly not a concept of equity.
    It's a typical term of an insurance contract that title in a (so to speak) "paid out" vehicle will pass to the insurer.
    In the case of a valid contract, that can be so.
    However, I am not certain that this is even a valid contract.
     
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  10. Rob Legat - SBPL

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    To add, and possibly help clear some points, I prefer "bona fide purchaser for value without notice". When you consider that registration is often deemed notice to the world, whether someone is actually aware of it or not, we can see that registrations can overcome certain issues.

    For example, you can buy and transfer a vehicle only to find out that there is a PPSR interest registered over the vehicle. The state transport departments allow the change of registration to happen (a perennial football of an issue), but the PPSR registration is deemed notice to the world - so the vehicle still remains subject to the registered interest which then falls under the "first in time prevails" mantra.

    There are, of course, exceptions to everything. An example exception is that where the vehicle is bought from a motor trader in the usual course of business then any PPSR becomes unenforceable against the vehicle.

    All up, it's by no means clear.
     
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