Proving boat ownership in Canada can be tricky. When a pleasure craft is purchased, the new owner has the option to register the craft or merely transfer the crafts license to his/her name. Registering the craft will give legal title, while transferring the license number will not. The decision to register the boat or just transfer the license is a personal one. This causes a proof of ownership problem when the boat is not registered, and is up for sale. As a buyer, your job is to make sure that you don’t accidentally purchase a stolen boat. Her are 4 easy tips to help make sure you don’t end up doing that.
Tip #1 Buy the owner and not just the boat:
Make sure that you are not only comfortable with the boat, but with the owner as well. It’s easy to avoid buying a boat from an owner who appears to be shady, but sometime good people end up buying stolen boats. So merely satisfying yourself with the current owner may not be enough. Before buying a boat, track its ownership history. Find out who owned it and for how long. Speak with the previous owners not just the current owner. Not only will you satisfy yourself that the boat is likely not stolen, you will also learn a lot about the boat and how its performed in the past.
Tip #2 Lien check:
Some surveyors will offer this service to you at an extra cost, but i found it easier to just do it myself. 8$ will get you a lien check with the Government of Ontario. You can do this online at the government website here. I would do a check on both the HIN (haul identification number) and the previous owner of the boat. This will cost you 16$ and is well worth it. As you check the HIN on the physical boat make sure its not tampered with in any way.
Tip #3 Police check:
Yes, boats are sometimes stolen and the best way to check is by doing a query on the HIN and the boat name on C.P.I.C (Canadian Police information centre). This is a government of Canada website that allows you to search a national database for stolen boats and other property. Its free to use, so make sure you check. You can do that here.
Tip #4 Write it in the purchase agreement:
I don’t see anything wrong with writing the following clause in the purchase agreement “I certify that I am the rightful owner of the boat and that the boat has no leans on it” (remember I’m not a lawyer, seek professional legal advise if you want). With this clause, if all else fails and you end up with a stolen boat, maybe you can have some legal remedies to recuperate some costs.
You will be surprised how easy it is to purchase a stolen boat by error. Often the owner you buy the boat from may not even know that its stolen. By following these 4 simple and easy to implement tips, you can go a long way in mitigating that risk.