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Beware the SORN

Brian Crook

SORN or Statutory Off Road Notification: this is a scheme introduced to combat the menace of car ringing/cloning and registration fraud, etc.

Basically the scheme requires you as the registered keeper of a vehicle to either have valid a vehicle excise licence or make a SORN statement to indicate the vehicle is off the road.

Normally you would chose to do either of the above when you get the road fund licence reminder.  However, you must bear in mind that the SORN is only for a period of 12 months, like vehicle excise licence and you must renew it every 12 months.  Once again this is usually easily managed via the reminder from the DVLA.

But the DVLA is not required to issue a reminder to you for either road fund licence or renewal of SORN.  In most cases they do, but from my painful experience this is not always the case.

To illustrate: I bought a Zündapp Bella in March of 2002 and, as required, sent in the details of new owner on the registration document and in due course received back the update registration document.  I was aware that the machine was taxed and MoT'd when I bought it, but the tax disc was not on the machine as it had been transported from Southampton and came in the documentation pack.  During the latter part of 2002 I decided to restore the machine and dismantled it in readiness and it remains in that state today.  However when I returned from holiday in July of this year I had received a very formal correspondence from the DVLA SORN Enforcement Agency in Glasgow stating I was in default of the SORN regulations and liable initially of a fine of £25 if I accepted guilt and paid within 30 days, I think.  Failure to pay within that time would increase in the fine to £45, I think, and after that failure could lead to a maximum fine of £1,000.  I was quite outraged by this and rang the DVLA agency who politely, but firmly explained that although the DVLA do issues reminders it is the responsibility of the registered keeper to either tax or SORN.  I therefore had to take my medicine, pay the fine, complete the very formal statement that it was and had been off the road, and fill in the SORN document.

I now keep very careful records of all my vehicles which now number in excess of 20 and a timetable of tax and SORN renewals.

The only slight bright spot in this system appears to be in the case where the registration book says the Vehicle Taxation Class is "Not Taxed", as is the case where registration numbers have either been recovered or an age related number issued, and luckily many of my vehicles fall into this category.

You have been warned.

First published, December 2003

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