When you sell your vehicle or transfer ownership of it in California, you might think you’re off the hook for traffic or parking violations and other legal issues associated with it under its new owner. However, selling or transferring your vehicle doesn’t automatically accomplish this. You’ll need to complete a DMV Notice of Transfer and Release of Liability (NRL) in order to no longer be held responsible for any legal issues involving your former vehicle. The following information can help you understand a DMV release of liability better and how to complete this form.

Why Is a Release of Liability Important?

An NRL form lets the DMV know that the vehicle you sold or transferred has a new owner. This protects you from liability for legal issues involving that vehicle, such as traffic violations, parking violations, and civli litigation. Until the DMV receives your completed NRL form and the new owner pays the fees for it, you could be held liable for these legal issues. Once your form is received and all fees paid, the new owner of the vehicle becomes liable for parking and traffic violations and civil litigation. You will also stop receiving registration renewal notices when your NRL form is processed.

When to Complete a DMV Release of Liability

As a California driver, you are required by law to complete an NRL form within five calendar days from the date you transfer ownership or sell your vehicle. Keep in mind that submitting this form doesn’t automatically remove liability for the vehicle. This happens only when the DMV receives fees from the new owner, along with your completed form that includes all required information. Filling out an NRL form is fairly simple and straightforward as long as you have all of the information needed.

What Do You Need for a California Release of Liability?

You’ll need to gather some information before filling out and submitting an NRL form to the California DMV. This includes the following:

  • Name and address of the vehicle’s new owner
  • Vehicle’s license plate number
  • Vehicle identification number (VIN)
  • Vehicle odometer reading from the sale date or transfer date
  • Date of sale
  • Your name and address

Providing all of the required information is important, so that the DMV is able to process your NRL form and remove your liability. While you can put “unknown” if you don’t have the name and address of the new owner, this might prevent the DMV from processing your form. You don’t need a signature from the new owner on the form, just their name and address.

How to Fill Out a Release of Liability Form

When you have your information ready, you can fill out and submit an NRL form electronically on the California DMV website. The online application walks you through each field and automatically fills in the vehicle’s make and model year based on the VIN. After submitting your form, the DMV will send you an email confirmation. You can print out a copy of this confirmation for your records.

If you prefer to mail your NRL form, you can print out a blank form, fill it out, and mail it to the address listed on the form. Make sure all of the written information you provide is legible, so that the DMV can process your form.

Failing to Submit an NRL Form

What can happen if you don’t submit an NRL form? You’ll still be held liable for any parking or traffic violations or any civil litigation that involves the vehicle in question. This means you will be considered responsible if the new owner of the vehicle gets a speeding ticket, runs a red light, or violates other parking and traffic laws. You can also be dragged into a civil lawsuit involving the vehicle, since you would still be considered the owner. The DMV will also continue to send you registration renewal reminders if you do not submit an NRL form.

With the risk of potentially costly legal fees, it’s important to make sure you fill out and submit an NRL form within the required timeframe. Completing this form should only take a few minutes of your time, but it can end up saving you considerable time and money by removing liability.