Highway 520 tolls hit cars' former owners
Even after you sell your car, you may have to pay Highway 520 tolls if the new buyer doesn't transfer the title.
Seattle Times transportation reporter
If you sell a car in Washington state, make sure the buyer files for a new title right away — or you could end up paying someone else's Highway 520 bridge tolls.
So far, there have been 89 cases in which ex-owners of vehicles had to ask an administrative-law judge to dismiss their bills and penalties since the new tolls began Dec. 29.
One unlucky motorist is Maureen O'Hagan, a reporter at The Seattle Times, who sold her used VW sedan in February. The new owner took a couple of trips across 520. O'Hagan never owned a Good to Go toll pass, but the 520 cameras clicked the license plate — and a bill for $7.40 was mailed to her.
She filed a state Report of Sale. But it turns out the buyer hadn't yet filed an application for the car title. In that situation, the state data used by the toll contractor, Electronic Transaction Consultants Corporation, still shows the old owner, said Brad Benfield, spokesman for the state Department of Licensing.
"It can happen to anybody," he says.
O'Hagan says she made four phone calls totaling one hour, and made three inquiries online, and located her vehicle records. The state added a $5 processing fee, which will escalate if the dispute lasts much longer. After 80 days, the state charges a $40 civil penalty per unpaid trip.
"It's still up in the air," she says. "I should have just paid the $7."
Undoubtedly there are more cases that haven't reached the 80-day window to trigger a formal penalty and hearing process.
What's the solution?
Basically, the seller can go with the buyer to a neighborhood licensing agency and make sure he or she signs a new title application. Sellers should keep a copy of each paper or online form, Benfield advises.
Mike Lindblom: 206-515-5631 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter @mikelindblom.