Registration sticker backlog creates trouble for drivers

May 11, 2012 4:28:16 PM PDT
If you are driving around with an expired vehicle registration, you are not alone. A backlog at the Harris County Tax Assessor's Office has some waiting weeks for a new registration sticker.

Expired registrations are easier to find right now than ever before, but is has nothing to do with drivers. A backlog with processing the forms is the culprit, but that can still leave you at risk of a ticket.

Denekow Berhanu is driving around with an expired registration sticker.

He said, "I have not received my renewal notice and it is ten days past."

Not having a valid registration can lead to a fine of more than $150, but even if Berhanu sends in his renewal form by mail, it could take weeks before he gets his sticker. The reason? A backlog at the Harris County Tax Assessor's Office.

"We did sort of get caught a little bit flat footed," said Harris County Tax Assessor Don Sumners. "I did not realize the backlog had grown to the extent that it had."

Sumners tells us this year the county is seeing an increase in the number of cars needing a renewal. On top of that, he says this is a busy time of year for renewals.

"It is the month that all of the fleets are done," Sumners said. "They are all done in March and it causes us to have a big increase in the amount of work that we do."

To work through the backlog, Sumners says his staff is working weekends and now the delay for mail in renewals is down to about 10 days.

There are ways to avoid the delay and a potential ticket. Drivers can get renewal stickers at the tax assessor's office or at many local grocery stores. Chinar Aphale decided waiting was a bad idea, so he paid for his renewal in person.

"It came around the end of the month and I was trying to figure out if I even got a notice or not, so I came down here today," he said.

So what happens if you get pulled over for having an expired registration? If the check has been cashed by the state, it will show up in the database officers have in their police computers. But if you get a ticket anyway, you will have to go to court to fight the ticket. Bring your renewal notice with you. But the tax assessor says he has not seen anyone ticketed because of the delay yet.

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