What is an abandoned vehicle?
A vehicle is only abandoned ‘where it appears to a local authority that a motor vehicle is abandoned without lawful authority…’ (Refuse Disposal (Amenity) Act 1978). This means that a vehicle is only abandoned when the authorised officer at the local authority decides that it is abandoned. The term “vehicle” in this context means a motor vehicle or trailer or anything which forms part of a motor vehicle or trailer including any item contained within it.
If a registered keeper has any interest in a vehicle it can not be treated as abandoned for the purposes of this legislation.
What are the problems caused by abandoned vehicles?
There are various problems caused by abandoned vehicles including:
- Negative effect on local environmental quality;
- Risk of injury;
- Leaking dangerous fluids;
- Attracting vandalism;
- Vehicles can be the result of, or lead to a crime;
For this reason, North Kesteven District Council takes a proactive approach to vehicles believed to be abandoned.
How does the Local Authority determine whether a vehicle is abandoned?
The following criteria are used to determine a vehicles status:
If the vehicle is burnt out or is unlocked/keys in the ignition, arrangements will be made to remove the vehicle without notice.
If the vehicle is not displaying a current tax disc and there is no reg. keeper on DVLA website, arrangements will be made to remove the vehicle without notice.
If the vehicle shows 3 or more of the following criteria, arrangements will be made to remove the vehicle: stationary for significant. period, damaged or unroadworthy, missing wheels / flat tyres, missing number plate/s, contains waste, local residents or police have no knowledge of owner or if no consent has been given for it to be parked.
Abandoned vehicles and the law
Local authorities are under a duty under Section 3 of the Refuse Disposal (Amenity) Act 1978, to remove a vehicle which is abandoned in their area, on any land in the open air, or on any other land forming part of a highway, where it is practicable to do so. Under this Act, abandoning a vehicle is a criminal offence, carrying a maximum penalty of a fine of £2,500 or three months’ imprisonment, or both. Alternatively, at the discretion of the Local Authority, the offence can be discharged by the payment of a fixed penalty notice set at £200.
A local authority can remove any abandoned vehicle immediately from any road (or pavement) without the need to attach a notice first. However, where these vehicles are on land other than roads, a notice period must still be used.
There is no longer any requirement for local authorities to wait until the licence on an abandoned vehicle has expired.
Abandoned vehicles that are only fit for destruction will be destroyed immediately, with no obligation to trace the vehicle’s keeper.
Those that do not display a licence and number plate will also be disposed of immediately, with no obligation to trace the keeper.
Vehicles parked illegally, obstructively or dangerously and broken down vehicles can already be removed immediately by the police if they are on a road.
Only a local council can declare a vehicle to be abandoned. If the council deems a vehicle abandoned and it is on the public highway, whether taxed or untaxed, it will be removed as quickly as possible and in some cases within 24 hours.
In all cases, the council will request details of the registered keeper at DVLA in order to make contact with them regarding the future of the vehicle. Where no keeper can be found the vehicle will be sold or destroyed and the proceeds used to offset the costs of removal and destruction. Where the owner or keeper can be identified the council will make every effort to recover the removal, storage and destruction costs from them.
Where a vehicle appears to be abandoned on private property, the person responsible for the land must be contacted and given 15 days notice to object to the removal in writing. If no objection is received, the vehicle will be removed and the process to ascertain the registered keeper will be followed before destruction is considered. Where an objection is received, the vehicle can’t be removed.
Abandoned vehicles which are in good condition will only be returned to the owner with proof of their identity and ownership of the vehicle.
Personal items which have been left in vehicles removed as abandoned and not destroyed immediately remain the property of the owner but will not be returned to them without proof of their identity or ownership of the vehicle. Any such items must be claimed within 7 days of the removal of the vehicle from its location.