How councils and national park authorities should deal with the removal of abandoned vehicles from land in the open air and roads.
Duty to remove abandoned vehicles
Councils and national park authorities (authorities) must remove abandoned vehicles from:
- land in the open air (including private land)
- roads (including private roads)
When removing a vehicle from land in the open air, authorities:
- cannot charge the landowner occupier
- must give the landowner or occupier 15 days’ notice that they propose to remove the vehicle
- cannot remove the vehicle if the landowner or occupier objects during the notice period
The 15 day notice period does not apply if the vehicle is abandoned on a road or highway.
Authorities do not have to remove an abandoned vehicle from land in the open air if the cost of moving it to the nearest highway is high (for example, special machinery is needed).
Authorities cannot be held liable for damage resulting from abandoned vehicles.
Read the guidance on how authorities can take legal action against businesses for nuisance parking.
Find vehicle owners
Authorities can get information about a vehicle’s registered keeper from the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA).
Decide if a vehicle is abandoned
Authorities must decide if a vehicle is abandoned. This is likely if at least one of the following applies:
- it has no keeper on DVLA’s database and is untaxed - check vehicle tax online
- it’s stationary for a significant amount of time
- it’s significantly damaged, run down or unroadworthy, for example has flat tyres, missing wheels or broken windows
- it’s burned out
- a number plate is missing
They can legally enter land (at a reasonable time) to investigate and remove abandoned vehicles.
Apply a penalty
Authorities can penalise people who abandon vehicles or parts of vehicles on roads or land in the open air by either:
- issuing a fixed penalty notice (if the offence is relatively minor)
- prosecuting them
Dispose of an abandoned vehicle
Authorities can dispose of an abandoned vehicle immediately if either of the following applies:
- it’s only fit to be destroyed
- it has no number plates or tax disc (even an expired one)
In all other cases, they must try to find the owner.
If they find the owner, authorities must give the owner 7 days’ written notice to collect the vehicle before disposing of it. They must return a vehicle to its owner if the owner claims it and pays the authorities’ costs of removal and storage.
If the owner cannot be found, or fails to comply with a notice to collect the vehicle, authorities may dispose of the vehicle.
Authorities can dispose of an abandoned vehicle as they see fit. For example, they can sell it at auction or have it destroyed at an authorised treatment facility.
If it is sold, the owner can claim the money raised up to a year later (minus the authorities’ removal, storage and disposal costs).
If authorities send a vehicle to be destroyed, they have the same free take-back entitlement as a private individual. Autogreen and CarTakeBack manage vehicle disposal activities for vehicle manufacturers.
Claim cost of removal, storage or disposal
Authorities can claim prescribed amounts for the removal, storage and disposal of abandoned vehicles.