Abandoned vehicles: council responsibilities
How councils should deal with abandoned vehicles, including finding owners, giving penalties and vehicle disposal.
Duty to remove abandoned vehicles
Councils must remove abandoned vehicles from both:
- land in the open air
- roads (including private roads)
When removing vehicles from occupied land, councils can’t charge occupiers.
Councils must give landowners or occupiers 15 days’ notice and can only remove vehicles with their permission.
National park authorities must remove vehicles abandoned in national parks.
Authorities don’t have to remove abandoned vehicles if the cost of moving them to the nearest highway is unreasonably high (for example, if special machinery is needed), unless the vehicle is on a carriageway.
Authorities can’t be held liable for damage resulting from abandoned cars.
Read guidance for taking legal action against nuisance vehicles.
Penalties you can give
To penalise people who abandon vehicles or parts of vehicles on roads or land open to the air, you can do one of the following:
- issue a fixed penalty notice (if the offence is relatively minor)
- prosecute them
Work out if a vehicle is abandoned
Councils must work out if vehicles are abandoned. This is likely if one of the following applies:
- they have no keeper on the DVLA’s database and are untaxed - check with DVLA as vehicles no longer have to display a tax disc
- they’re stationary for a significant amount of time
- they’re significantly damaged, run down or unroadworthy - with flat tyres, wheels removed or broken windows
- they’re burned out
- they have number plates missing
Councils can legally enter land (at a reasonable time) to investigate and remove abandoned vehicles.
Finding vehicle owners
Use the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency’s (DVLAs) database to find vehicle owners.
If you find the owner you must give them 7 days’ written notice and the chance to collect the vehicle first.
You must return a vehicle to its owner if they claim it and pay the costs of removal and storage.
Selling or destroying abandoned vehicles
You can dispose of abandoned vehicles if any of the following apply:
- the vehicle is only fit to be destroyed
- the vehicle has no number plates or tax disc (even an expired one) and is not taxed
- you can’t find the owner or the owner fails to comply with a notice to collect the vehicle
You can dispose of abandoned vehicles as you see fit, including by:
- selling them at an auction
- destroying them at authorised treatment facilities
If you sell a vehicle, owners can claim the money raised up to a year afterwards (minus your removal, storage and disposal costs).
Published: 26 March 2015