Claiming an abandoned boat can clear a hazard to shipping, open more dock space for boaters or result in the return of valuable property to its rightful owner. After all, an abandoned boat must either be at anchor in the water or tied to a dock, and in either case, its owner may be looking for it. The state of Texas offers a legal way for finders of such boats to claim the abandoned property and relieve these problems.
Measure the boat and check its hull for a serial number. Any unmotorized sailboat less than 14 feet in length and not registered by the Coast Guard does not need any registration in Texas, so this check may spare you the need to register. To pursue a registration though, you're going to need either the hull serial number or the Texas registration, and this search may be a means to find one or the other.
Notify the Texas Department of Parks and Wildlife of the abandonment of the boat. It will then record the abandonment and cancel their registration for the boat. You will then be able to acquire the boat's registration for a fee.
Check for state records for any liens on the boat and a history of its previous owners. Go to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department website. Click on "Forms" under "Boating" and click on the highlighted words "PWD 763" under any of the sections for affadavits on liens. Download an Ownership/Lien Holder Information printout or Ownership History Report (PWD 763). Then mail that form and all required fees to and office of Texas Parks and Wildlife or a county tax collector. You will receive a report on the boat's liens owners over the past 10 years.
Write to the last owner of record and/or the last lienholder to ask him for the relevant paperwork. You may need to pay any liens on the boat, or the last owner of record may require you to buy the boat rather than simply acquiring it. You now, however, have a legal means for owning it.
Go to the county tax office nearest you and apply to retitle the boat to yourself. You can find a directory of these offices at the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department website.
Renew your registration annually. In certain counties you can register online, but you can also either mail a renewal notice, proof of insurance and the required fee to the nearest county tax office, or you can simply bring these materials to that office yourself. For boats registered with the Coast Guard, you will have to pay an additional fee of $32 for a boat under 16 feet long; $53 for a boat from 16 to 26 feet long; $110 for one from 26 to 40 feet long; $150 for one 40 feet or more; and $32 for any livery boats less than 16 feet in length (as of 2011).
Tips & Warnings
- If you have not received your title after 20 days, call 512-465-7611.
- Texas Parks and Wildlife Department: FAQ--Boat Registration: How do I transfer my Texas boat registration/title and Texas outboard motor title?
- Texas Parks and Wildlife Code: Section 31.037: Change In Ownership Interest; Notice To Department
- Texa Parks and Wildlife: Ownership/Lien Holder Information Printout or Ownership History Report
- Texas Parks and Wildlife: Titles and Registration: Frequently Asked Questions
- Texas Parks and Wildlife: Titles and Registration
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