Lien Sales Frequently Asked Questions

This FAQ is designed to answer most common lien sale questions. The DMV’s Lien Sale Unit is also available at (916) 657-7617.

Vehicle Owners / Interested Parties

The notice is to let you know that a lien sale is pending for the vehicle. The lien sale allows the business (lienholder) to recover the money owed for repairs, towing, and/or storage of the vehicle.

The notice of pending lien sale is required to be sent to all the following:

  • the registered and legal owner(s) of record,
  • any person identified as a buyer on a Notice of Transfer and Release of Liability (NRL) filed with DMV, and
  • any person known by the lienholder to have an interest in the vehicle.

You received the notice because DMV records indicate you still have an interest in this vehicle.

If you have gave DMV an NRL, it is on file. However, to complete the vehicle sale, the person you sold the vehicle to must change the ownership at DMV. You may still be listed as the vehicle owner, which is why you received the notice.

after the purchaser takes possession of the vehicle and you submitted a properly completed NRL, any liability for parking violations, traffic violations, or other legal matter after the date of sale becomes the responsibility of the purchaser.

If you have not filed an NRL with DMV for the vehicle’s sale, you may submit it now to protect yourself from future liability.

For more information regarding the NRL, including how to file or how to get a copy of a submitted NRL, see NRL FAQs.

When the window to oppose the lien sale has past, it becomes a civil matter between the parties involved. You may want to seek legal advice if you are unsure of your options, the consequences, or of what you want to do. However, many times in this situation customers choose to:

  • Work with the lienholder to pay all fees due in order to retrieve the vehicle before it is sold.
  • Do nothing and let the vehicle be sold.
  • File a court action to prevent the sale of the vehicle if it is believed that the lienholder is not entitled to the money owed.

if the lienholder takes you to court for the remainder of money owed after the sale of the vehicle, or if you file a court action against the lienholder to prevent the sale, the court may determine that you owe the money and court fees.

You can remove the lien by providing DMV with proof of possession, such as:

  • For registered owners, a vehicle verification or proof of payment on the lienholder’s letterhead.
  • For legal owners, a Certificate of Repossession.

The vehicle verification must be completed by an authorized DMV representative, California licensed vehicle verifier, authorized auto club (AAA) employee, or peace officer who has been properly trained to perform vehicle verifications.

Proof of possession may be submitted one of the following ways:

  • By Fax: (916) 657-8763
  • By Mail:
    P.O. Box 932317
    Sacramento, CA 94232
  • In person at a local field office.
    • You may find a location near you by using the link below. Be sure to access the “Select a Service” drop down button and choose the “Field Offices” box shown under “Location Types”:

Please contact the Lien Sale Unit at (916) 657-7617.

Vehicle Purchasers / New Owners

Please contact the person or business where you bought the vehicle to request copies of the documents. If documents are unavailable, contact the Lien Sale Unit at (916) 657-7617 for more information.

Lienholders / Lienholder Agents

You must first determine whether the value of the vehicle is over $4,000 or at $4,000 or less, and ensure you are using the current market value for similar vehicles. Once you have determined the value of the vehicle follow the link below based on the identified value to access the “How To: Brochure” that explains the process:

Lien sale documents are available on the DMV website:

To avoid the rejection of applications submitted, ensure forms are completed in their entirety and the information provided is legible and correct (e.g. complete VIN/license plate/description of vehicle, signature and date signed, countersignature for business/company, etc.).

Please contact the Lien Sale Unit at (916) 657-7617.

No. All auto repair shops in California must be registered with the Department of Consumer Affairs’ Bureau of Automotive Repair.

When the lien sale is opposed, DMV sends a denial letter to the lienholder. The lien sale cannot be conducted unless one of the following occurs:

  1. The declarant signs the Release of Interest section on the bottom of the denial letter and the lienholder submits the original signed document to DMV.
  2. The lienholder files an action in court within 30 days of the date DMV’s notice was mailed and a judgment is awarded to the lienholder that is not paid within five days of becoming final. Submit to DMV a copy of the court judgment with a copy of the plaintiff’s claim and a Statement of Facts (REG 256) form stating, “A court judgment has been received in the lienholder’s favor. It has been at least 35 days and no money has been received.”
  3. The lienholder could not serve the declarant pursuant to CCC §§3071(e) or 3072(e), and the lienholder submits the following documents to DMV: an Application for Authorization to Continue Lien Sale After Unsuccessful Service (REG 659) form with the unopened certified letter that contains the court documents or the documents proving unsuccessful personal service.

When one of the items listed above is received by the Lien Sale Unit at DMV headquarters, DMV will send authorization to continue with the sale to the lienholder and notify the person who opposed the sale of the authorization.

No. If the vehicle in your possession has California license plates and you are out-of-state, you must follow the lien sale laws of that state. You can acquire the names and addresses of the legal and registered owners of the vehicle by using the Request for Record Information (INF 70) form.

Out-of-state lien sale requesters must cite their state statute by code name and section number AND attach a copy of the statute to their request. For further information, contact the DMV Information Release Unit at (916) 657-8098.

Out-of-state requesters cannot use Registration Information Request for Lien Sale (INF 1126) form, which is for California based requesters only.

Please contact the Lien Sale Unit at (916) 657-7617.