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Late DMV renewal notices leave drivers confused

July 19, 2011 8:07:31 PM PDT
A delay in sending out DMV registration renewals is causing confusion among many California drivers over how much they really have to pay.

Registration renewal notices normally go out two months before the due date. But registrations due in July just went out this month and those due in August are going out this week. That has people unnecessarily scrambling to get their payments in.

San Francisco resident Raynard Chun didn't quite know what to think when he opened his registration bill from the DMV.

"Basically when I opened it up I noticed the due date on it. It was July 2. I said, wait a minute. Wow, today's July 8," Chun said.

What struck him as strange was the postmark on the envelope. It was postmarked July 6 -- four days after the due date.

He's not the only one confused. 7 On Your Side received emails and inquiries from at least a dozen frustrated drivers within a 48 hour period. All were wondering what was going on.

The DMVpoints the finger at the Legislature and the governor.

"They asked us, actually ordered DMV to stop sending out renewal notices until they had a clear decision on the VLF (vehicle license fee)," DMV spokesperson Armando Botello said.

The Legislature was debating whether to allow the fee to go down as scheduled or to keep the higher rate to help with the state's budget mess.

From May 4 until July 1, the DMV didn't send out any renewal notices.

But less than a day after Gov. Jerry Brown signed a new balanced budget renewal notices started going out again -- including an insert explaining everyone has an extra 30 days to pay their registration.

"A lot of people are throwing the insert away. And yes, it's causing a little bit of confusion," Botello said.

Raynard noticed his insert shortly after contacting 7 On Your Side. But he said even that was unclear.

"It says pay fees within 30 days of due date. That's the first thing I'm looking at. Then I'm looking at the back of the notice and it says, avoid paying penalties by the due date," Chun said.

He said it would have been easier to understand if the DMV had just put the correct due date on the registration bill itself.

But the DMV says that would have delayed the bills even further.

Raynard wasn't sure what to do, so he ended up sending the DMV an extra $41 to cover a late fee he didn't have to pay.

"The whole amount will be refunded to him. The difference will be refunded to him," Botello said.

The DMV says anyone who overpaid will automatically receive a refund on the overpayment. No need to contact them. The bottom line -- everyone gets a 30 day grace period to pay their DMV registration. One other note: the Legislature did decide to allow the lower registration fee to go forward as scheduled. Everyone should be paying about half percent less than last year.


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