Titles - Open Titles

Tenn. Code Ann. § 55-3-127


  • An open title is when only the seller has signed the back of the title transferring the
    ownership, but buyer’s section is blank. An open title presents a potential risk to both
    • It is a Class C misdemeanor for any person to fail or neglect to properly endorse or deliver any Certificate of Title to the Department, a transferee, or other person lawfully entitled to the certificate of title.
    • It is a Class C misdemeanor for any lienor, including a mortgagee or a vendor, to fail or neglect upon the discharge of the lien, mortgage or encumbrance, to properly discharge the lien. If the Certificate of Title be in the lienor's possession, to fail to deliver the certificate to the person entitled to the certificate.
    • It is a Class C misdemeanor for any lienor whose lien has been discharged to fail to report the discharge to the department within seventy-two (72) hours from the date of discharge by registered mail, return receipt requested.
    • It is a Class C misdemeanor for any transferor to fail or neglect to enter the transferee name on a properly endorsed certificate of title before delivery to the transferee.
    • It is a Class C misdemeanor for any person to possess an executed certificate of title without the name of the transferee appearing on the certificate of title.
    • Any person found to be in violation of subsection (d) or (e) shall be liable for the sales or use tax on the fair market value of the vehicle as is determined by reference to the most recent issue of an authoritative automotive pricing manual, such as the N.A.D.A. Official Used Car Guide, Southeastern Edition, or by an appraisal by a duly licensed motor vehicle dealer in the state, plus a twenty-five percent (25%) penalty.
    • Any person found to be in possession of a vehicle with an improperly assigned title which fails to identify the transferee must immediately establish ownership of the vehicle, register the vehicle and pay the required tax and penalty. The vehicle will be impounded by state or local law enforcement officials until the person in possession can prove ownership or until the rightful owner is located. In the event the rightful owner cannot be established within thirty (30) days, the vehicle will be deemed abandoned and will be disposed of by the commissioner of safety.
    • Insurance companies authorized to underwrite policies on motor vehicles as a result of a paid claim are authorized to endorse change in ownership on the certificate of title or registration without obtaining a new certificate of title or registration or registering with the department for sales and use tax purposes.


  • Acts 1951, ch. 70, § 55 (Williams, § 5538.155); Acts 1972, ch. 540, § 6; T.C.A. (orig. ed.), § 59-328; Acts 1987, ch. 326, § 1; 1989, ch. 591, § 113; 2007, ch. 484, § 27.


  • Signatures of all legal interested parties are required to complete the transfer of ownership.





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