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Official Opinion 98-14

Official Opinion 98-14

August 11, 1998
To: 

Joint Secretary

State Examining Boards

Re: 

A licensed used motor vehicle parts dealer can transfer salvage titles without being licensed as a used motor vehicle dealer provided that the used motor vehicle parts dealer complies with Chapter 3 of Title 40, the "Motor Vehicle Certificate of Title Act" and the rules and regulations of the State Revenue Commissioner relating to salvage vehicles, including the requirement that a motor vehicle with a title marked "salvage" be titled in the name of the business prior to the sale of the salvage motor vehicle unless the sale is made to a licensed dealer.

This is in response to your request for an official opinion concerning whether a salvage dealer licensed with the Used Motor Vehicle Parts Division can transfer salvage titles by signing the back of the title as the seller without first obtaining a Used Motor Vehicle Dealers license. Having reviewed the applicable statutes, it appears that, although dual licensure is not required, a licensed used motor vehicle parts dealer must comply with Chapter [*2]  3 of Title 40, the "Motor Vehicle Certificate of Title Act" and the rules and regulations of the State Revenue Commissioner relating to salvage vehicles, including the requirement that a motor vehicle with a title marked "salvage" be titled in the name of the business prior to the sale of the salvage motor vehicle unless the sale is made to a licensed dealer.

The State Board of Registration of Used Motor Vehicle Dealers and Used Motor Vehicle Parts Dealers licenses and regulates persons who buy, sell, or use used motor vehicle parts, either as a used motor vehicle parts dealer, a motor vehicle dismantler, a motor vehicle rebuilder, a salvage pool dealer, or a salvage dealer. O.C.G.A. § 43-47-2(18). Regardless of the type of business operation, used motor vehicle parts dealers, motor vehicle dismantlers, motor vehicle rebuilders, salvage pool dealers, and salvage dealers are licensed under a single designation as a "used motor vehicle parts dealer" or "used parts dealer." Id. Section 43-47-2(12) defines a "salvage dealer" as "any person, firm, or corporation who purchases a salvage vehicle or parts of a salvage vehicle for purposes of resale as parts only or as salvage." Similarly,  [*3]  a "dismantler" includes any entity "engaged in the business of acquiring wrecked, abandoned, or reparable motor vehicles and selling either the usable parts, the motor vehicle as a unit, or the hulk of the motor vehicle after the usable parts have been removed." O.C.G.A. § 43-47-2(2). Such language indicates that the legislature contemplated that a licensed used parts dealer can both sell salvage vehicles as salvage and sell wrecked, abandoned, or reparable vehicles as a motor vehicle unit. Thus, a used parts dealer may sell a vehicle with a salvage title without being licensed as a used motor vehicle dealer.

 

With the issue of dual licensure answered, the remaining question is whether a salvage title can be transferred by a licensed used parts dealer by signing the back of the title as seller pursuant to O.C.G.A. § 40-3-33 without first applying for a new certificate of title in the dealer's name. Section 40-3-33(a)(1) provides that a dealer who buys a vehicle and holds it for resale need not apply to the revenue commissioner for a new certificate of title but may retain the certificate delivered to the dealer; provided, however, that the dealer shall promptly execute the assignment [*4]  and warranty of title by a dealer upon transferring the vehicle to another person other than by creation of a security interest. This statute provides the authority for a dealer to accept an assignment of a title for the purpose of holding the vehicle for resale without applying for a certificate of title in the dealer's name. A used motor vehicle parts dealer is a "dealer" within the meaning of O.C.G.A. § 40-3-33(a)(1). See O.C.G.A. §§ 40-1-1(11), 40-3-2(3), 43-47-11.1.

However, a significant provision of the Used Motor Vehicle Dealers' and Used Motor Vehicle Parts Dealers' Act requires any licensee who purchases a wrecked or salvaged motor vehicle to fully comply with Chapter 3 of Title 40, the "Motor Vehicle Certificate of Title Act" and the rules and regulations of the State Revenue Commissioner relating to salvage vehicles. O.C.G.A. § 43-47-15. One provision of Chapter 3 of Title 40 relating to salvage motor vehicles appears to conflict with the provisions of O.C.G.A. § 40-3-33 referenced above. Section 40-3-36(b) specifies that, except where a certificate of title is submitted for cancellation:

 

Any person, firm, or corporation which purchases or otherwise acquires  [*5]  a salvage motor vehicle shall apply to the commissioner for a salvage certificate of title for such motor vehicle within 30 days of the purchase or acquisition of the motor vehicle . . . if the person, firm, or corporation intends to operate or to sell, convey, or transfer the motor vehicle; and no such person, firm, or corporation shall sell, transfer, or convey a salvage motor vehicle until such person, firm, or corporation has applied for and obtained a salvage certificate of title.

 

The plain language of this statute requires a salvage certificate of title be obtained in the name of the business prior to the sale of a salvage motor vehicle. See State v. Mills, 268 Ga. 873, 874 (1998) (shall is a word of command).

The apparent conflict between O.C.G.A. § 40-3-33(a)(1) (permitting a dealer to accept an assignment of a title for the purpose of holding the vehicle for resale without applying for a certificate of title in the dealer's name) and O.C.G.A. § 40-3-36(b) (requiring a salvage certificate of title be obtained in the name of the business prior to the sale of a salvage motor vehicle) can only be resolved by applying the established rules of [*6]  statutory construction. First, a statute must be construed in relation to other statutes of which it is a part so that all statutes relating to the same subject matter can be construed together and harmonized. Monticello, Ltd. v. City of Atlanta, 231 Ga. App. 382, 383-84 (1998) and cases cited therein. Second, a statute must be construed in a manner to give a sensible and intelligent meaning to each part of the statute for it is presumed that the legislature did not intend any part of the statute to be without meaning. Union City Bd. of Zoning Appeals v. Justice Outdoor Displays, Inc., 266 Ga. 393, 399 (1996). "Finally, a specific statute prevails over a more general statute when they are in conflict." Monticello, 231 Ga. App. at 384. Application of these three principles of statutory construction to the current question inevitably leads to the conclusion that the specific language of O.C.G.A. § 40-3-36(b) relating to salvage motor vehicles must prevail over the more general provision of O.C.G.A. § 40-3-33(a)(1). Therefore, a dealer must comply with the requirement that a salvage certificate [*7]  of title be obtained in the name of the business prior to the sale of a salvage motor vehicle.

Chapter 3 of Title 40 does provide for one exception to the requirement that a dealer must obtain a salvage certificate of title in the name of the business prior to the sale of a salvage motor vehicle. Official Code of Georgia Annotated § 40-3-37(a)(2)(C) provides that an application for a certificate of title must be filed "for a motor vehicle for which a current Georgia certificate of title is marked 'salvage' pursuant to subsection (e) of Code Section 40-3-36 and for which the transferee is anyone other than a licensed dealer as defined in Code Section 43-48-2." n1 (Emphasis added.) This paragraph permits the sale of a motor vehicle with a salvage title to a licensed used parts dealer without applying for a certificate of title in the name of the seller. Therefore, a licensed dealer can transfer a title which is marked "salvage" to another licensed dealer without obtaining a title in the dealer's business name, but must obtain a certificate of title in the dealer's business name if the sale is to a consumer.

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n1 Official Code of Georgia Annotated § 43-48-2 defining a used motor vehicle parts dealer was repealed by 1995 Ga. Laws 441, sec. 2, effective July 1, 1995. Licensed used motor vehicle parts dealers are now governed by the Used Motor Vehicle Dealers' and Used Motor Vehicle Parts Dealers' Registration Act, O.C.G.A. T. 43, Ch. 47. 1995 Ga. Laws 441, sec. 1, effective July 1, 1995.

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 [*8]  

For the reasons stated above, it is my official opinion that a licensed used motor vehicle parts dealer can transfer salvage titles without being licensed as a used motor vehicle dealer provided that the used motor vehicle parts dealer complies with Chapter 3 of Title 40, the "Motor Vehicle Certificate of Title Act" and the rules and regulations of the State Revenue Commissioner relating to salvage vehicles, including the requirement that a salvage motor vehicle be titled in the name of the business prior to the sale of the salvage motor vehicle unless the sale is made to a licensed dealer.

Prepared by:

Emily P. Hitchcock,

Assistant Attorney General