California bill to give consumers protection from flooded vehicles dies

| 9/1/2006

A bill in the California Legislature has died that was intended to provide car and truck buyers in the state with greater assurances that used vehicles have not been water-damaged.

The measure would have prohibited reselling or transferring ownership of a vehicle that has been damaged by a flood unless the fact is disclosed on the vehicle’s title. It also required the removal of any of the vehicle’s “structural, mechanical, electronic, electrical, fuel, brake, safety systems or its computer-based components” that had water damage.

Sponsored by Assemblywoman Jenny Oropeza, D-Carson, the bill – AB1854 – remained in the Senate Transportation and Housing Committee at the Aug. 24 deadline to advance to the Senate floor, effectively killing it for the year. The Assembly previously approved it.

Oropeza sought the protections to combat vehicles, including large trucks, damaged by flooding from sources like hurricanes Katrina and Rita, as well as California floods, from being sold to unsuspecting consumers.

She said the bill was intended to “protect consumers by making it a misdemeanor to resell or transfer ownership of a vehicle that has been flooded, water damaged or the title reregistered so often the salvage label has been dropped, or ‘washed’ to hide its true history.

“Caveat emptor may mean ‘buyer beware’ but when the title of the vehicle itself is fraudulent, consumers need strong government protection,” Oropeza said.

She said that as many as 600,000 water-damaged vehicles from Hurricane Katrina could have been sent to used lots nationwide.

Anyone found in violation would have faced fines at least double the amount derived from selling affected vehicles. The fine amount was modified in the Senate. It originally called for violators to face fines ranging between $1,000 and $10,000.

Oropeza can renew her push during the session that begins in December.