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Cars may face flood brand even if they weren't harmed by hurricane

January 3, 2014
A hurricane disclosure statement revised in December by the Illinois Secretary of State’s office is causing at least three area dealers to worry that the cars they bought at auction were undamaged by 2012’s Hurricane Sandy but still might get labeled as flood vehicles.
The revision, according to a state official, is an attempt to focus more on where a vehicle is when a hurricane hits and less on whether it sustains damage.
Completing the Hurricane Disclosure Statement, said a representative of the secretary of state’s vehicle services department, "is not based on an inspection, but on certifying the history of the vehicle, … whether it was there (during a hurricane) or whether it wasn’t."
The official said the statement was revised to overcome confusion when seeking an Illinois title for a vehicle that previously was registered in an area subject to a flood. Current dealer-owners no longer can affirm whether such vehicles sustained water damage.
The official noted one Illinois dealer who bought a number of vehicles from a rental agency whose corporate offices are in one of the Hurricane Sandy flood counties. But documentation confirmed the cars all were in Oklahoma when the hurricane struck.
But an area dealer said he called one New Jersey dealership for history details of one car "and I basically was told to pound sand. No one will cooperate, for privacy reasons."
Of the revision, the dealer said: "It doesn’t actually ensure the cars were not in floods. Auctions do pre- and post-sale inspections to confirm conformity of resale standards. Why the heck isn’t that enough?"
The Illinois Vehicle Code [625 ILCS 5/3-117.1(b)] defines a flood-damaged vehicle thusly: "A flood vehicle is a vehicle that has been submerged in water to the point that rising water has reached over the door sill or has entered the passenger or trunk compartment."
A standard letter which is generated by the secretary of state when a hurricane disclosure statement is challenged indicates additional details should be furnished within 90 days or an Illinois title with the flood brand would be issued. The official said that deadline is not absolute, that a subsequent notice would be issued after 90 days.
But the area dealer said, "If you’re waiting 90 days to get something that you are not legally entitled to get, you will wait forever."