TORONTO -- A Toronto woman who sold an old car two years ago for $1,000 cash thought she would never hear about the vehicle again. Then she got a letter saying the car had been towed, was in storage and that she would have to pay the bill.

“I was very surprised, but because the buyer didn't register the car in their name I was still held responsible for the vehicle,” said Jacqueline Poirier.

Many people sell used cars without any problems, but when you sell a vehicle the buyer is supposed to register the car in their name. If they don't and the car is abandoned you could be on the hook for towing and storage charges.

Poirier felt she did everything correctly when she sold the 2002 Honda Civic to someone she met through Kijiji. She even went to a Service Ontario office to report the car as sold.

She received a notice a year after the sale saying the car was in storage, but she said she explained to the towing company, the police and the ministry that she sold the car to someone else.

However, on the used vehicle information package provided by the Ministry of Transportation needed to sell a used car it says “caution, if the vehicle transfer has not been completed, you may be pursued legally as the vehicle owner in the event of an infraction.” 

Poirier and her partner Bruce Beattie recently bought a home and they couldn't get a mortgage until they paid a collection agency $5,118 for the towing and storage fees. 

“I can imagine there are other hardworking taxpayers getting caught in this system loophole and I feel like we have been failed," said Poirier.

John Paul Cruz with JP Towing Service and Storage in Toronto said there are many people who buy old cars and don't transfer the ownership. 

“It happens too much and it's getting out of control with the pandemic," said Cruz.

Cruz says when police direct his company to pick up the vehicles he has to contact the registered owners. Cruz said people should pay storage fees before they accumulate and that consumers should know about this potential problem when selling a car. 

“Their obligation is to go after the buyer (to pay the storage fees) and until the province does something this will continue and it is sad,” said Cruz.

Beattie feels the issue should be reviewed by the ministry. 

“If anything would have let us know ahead of time this would have been a problem we would have never gone down this road," said Beattie.

The best way to protect yourself when selling a car is to go to the ministry with the buyer to ensure they transfer the ownership into their name.

The high cost of car insurance could be a reason some people don't transfer ownership into their name as you need insurance to get licence plates.

If you're selling an old car be careful who you sell it to, or consider donating it to charity for a tax receipt.