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Jul. 2, 2020
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Boat titling roll-out begins this month

By Pamela A. Keene 
 
All Georgia boaters who have boat registrations will be required to title their boats through a roll-out program that begins July 1. Titling will occur when owners renew their registration and when boats are bought and sold.
 
“Any boat that’s registered will now also be titled,” said Major Mike England with Georgia Department of Natural Resources’ Law Enforcement Division. “When owners renew their registration they will be asked additional questions to complete the titling process. And if any other transactions regarding the boat take place, such as change of ownership, the boat will also then be titled with the new owner.” 
 
Owners who have a boat with an outboard motor with greater than 25 horsepower will also be required to furnish the serial number of the motor, plus the make and model of the outboard. Owners will also report financial information, such as outstanding liens and if the boat’s hull has been damaged.
 
The National Association of State Boating Law Administrators is promoting Uniform Certificate of Title for Vessels Act for all states to brand titles for hull damage to protect buyers when purchasing vessels. 
 
“This works the same as vehicle titles, so you know if you’re a purchasing a boat that has caught on fire, been involved in an accident or was sunk,” he said. “That information will be recorded in the Boat Registration database as an electronic E-title.”  He said that there are penalties in place for anyone providing false information to obtain a registration or title. 
 
“The registration cost will include the title, but if people want a paper copy, they will be charged $10,” he said. “The purpose is to help protect consumers so that they know the boat and motor belong to the person who is selling it and that the title is free and clear. It also protects banks if they are lien holders.” 
 
Under the new process, lenders are able to place liens on registered vessels electronically. 
The law includes language that requires consumers to notify the Department of Natural Resources when an owner upgrades or changes an outboard. “It’s as simple as a phone call to us to update the information in the electronic system,” England said. “And as a reminder, people who buy and sell boats are required to report these transactions to the DNR within 15 days of the sale to transfer the registration and, after July 1, complete the titling process. Changes of address must be reported within 30 days.” 
 
The Boat Titling Bill, HB314, passed the Georgia Legislature in the 2019-2020 session and goes into effect on July 1, 2020, the beginning of the state’s fiscal year.
 
Benefits of titling 
The Marine Trade Association of Metro Atlanta was instrumental in passing the legislation. The organization, comprising boat dealers, marina operators, boat manufacturers and others in marine-related businesses, has worked for nearly a decade behind the scenes and with the legislature to develop a workable bill. 
 
“We are very pleased that the bill has passed,” said Philip Burton, official with the MTAMA, a lobbying and business services support group. “This is an excellent first step toward protecting consumers and those in the marine business, as well as financial institutions. This will also help tighten up new boat purchases so that the sales tax on new boats will be paid to the local authorities.” Burton said that titling is also intended to help cut down on theft of outboards. 
 
As advocates of the titling bill, officials with the Lake Lanier Association praise the passage of the bill. 
“Passage of this bill is good for everyone,” said John Barker, president of the association, another advocate of HB314. “Requiring boats to be titled will go a long way toward helping us identify owners who may abandon boats in and around Lake Lanier, and it gives us a legal instrument to locate them and pursue legal action for them to remove their abandoned boat, which will save money and environmental damage to the lake.” 
 
Barker said that the law will also help stop “title washing,” where an owner may take a vessel out of state to sell or purchase a new boat, with the expectation of circumventing the in-state registration and titling process. 
 
“The DNR is making this fairly simple to title your boats,” Barker said. “We realize that it will take several years for all boats to be titled because the program is being rolled out with registration renewals and changes of ownership. We will continue to help with education about boating for our members and the public through our newsletters and website.”
 
The Lake Lanier Association hosted Major England and the DNR at a webinar in late June. The session will be posted on the association’s website at www.lakelanier.org
 
For more information about boat titling and boat registration, contact the Georgia Department of Natural Resources at www.georgiawildlife.com or by calling 1-800-366-2661. Most transactions can be completed online.


Posted online 6.26.20
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