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Abandoned vehicles and the law

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.

What happens next?

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.