How do I get rid of an abandoned car? Print E-mail
Written by Kerry S. Doolittle   
Friday, 09 April 2010

Someone's car breaks down and they pull off the road onto your property.  At first you think nothing about it, assuming they will either fix the problem and drive away or call a tow truck to pick up the car.  As the days become weeks, you realize the car has been abandoned and the owner is not coming back.  How do you legally remove the car from your property?

What is an Abandoned Motor Vehicle?

"Abandoned Motor Vehicle" means a motor vehicle or trailer which is:●    left by the owner with a dealer, repairman, or wrecker service for repair or some other reason, and the owner has not called for the vehicle within thirty days after the agreed upon time or within thirty days after the vehicle was left when no time is agreed upon, or within thirty days of completion of necessary repairs; or

●    left unattended on a public street, road, highway, or other public property for at least five days; or

●    lawfully towed onto the property of another, at the request of the property owner or a law enforcement officer, and left there for at least thirty days without anyone having made claim thereto; or

●    left unattended on private property for at least thirty days without anyone having made claim thereto.

Duty of Person Removing or Storing Motor Vehicles.

Within seventy two hours of removing a motor vehicle from public property at the request of a law enforcement officer or from private property at the request of the property owner, you must notify in writing a local law enforcement agency of the location of the vehicle, the manufacturer's vehicle identification number, license number, model, year, and make of the vehicle; and shall seek from the local law enforcement agency the identity and address of the last known registered owner of such vehicle, the owner of the vehicle as recorded on the title, and any security interest holder or lien holder and any information indicating that such vehicle is a stolen motor vehicle. The law enforcement agency must furnish the information within seventy two hours of receipt of the request.

Within seven days of removing a motor vehicle, you must notify the owner and any security interest holder or lien holder, if known, by certified or registered mail or statutory overnight delivery, of the location of the vehicle, the fees connected with the removal and storage of the vehicle, and the fact that such vehicle will be deemed abandoned unless the owner, security interest holder, or lien holder redeems the vehicle within thirty days of its removal.

If the vehicle is not redeemed within the thirty day period, or becomes abandoned under any of the other definitions, you must within seven days of the vehicle becoming abandoned give notice in writing, by sworn statement, on the form prescribed by the DMV [Form MV-603], with a research fee of $2.00 payable to the Department of Motor Vehicle Safety, and identifying the manufacturer's vehicle identification number, the license number, the fact that such vehicle is an abandoned motor vehicle, the model, year and make of the vehicle, the date the vehicle become an abandoned motor vehicle, the date the vehicle was removed, and the present location of such vehicle; and request the name and address of all owners, lessors, lessees, security interest holders, and lien holders of such vehicle. If you have reason to believe that the vehicle is registered or titled in another state, you must follow a similar procedure with that State's DMV. If vehicle information is not in DMV's files, DMV may require such other information or confirmation as it determines is necessary or appropriate to determine the identity of the vehicle.

Within five days of ascertaining the identity of the owner, lien holders, and security interest holders, you must notify them in writing by certified or registered mail or statutory overnight delivery, of the location of the vehicle and of the fact that such vehicle is deemed abandoned and shall be disposed of if not redeemed.

If the identity of the owner cannot be ascertained, you must place an advertisement in a newspaper of general circulation in the county where the vehicle was obtained, once per week for two consecutive weeks, which shall contain a complete description of the vehicle, the present location, and the fact that such vehicle is deemed abandoned and shall be disposed of if not redeemed.

If the vehicle is recovered or for any reason is no longer considered abandoned, you must notify DMV within seven days.

FORECLOSING LIEN ON ABANDONED MOTOR VEHICLE

Creation of Lien.

Any person who removes or stores an abandoned motor vehicle has a lien for the reasonable fees connected with such removal or storage plus the cost of any notification or advertisement.

Foreclosure Procedure.

A foreclosure procedure must be instituted within one year from the time of its creation.

First, you must make a written demand for payment by certified or registered mail or overnight delivery, which must itemize all charges for removal, repairs, and storage. If the owner does not respond within ten days or refuses to pay, you may proceed to foreclose the lien. If the owner of an abandoned motor vehicle cannot be ascertained, you may move to foreclose after publishing the legal advertisement.

Next, you begin the foreclosure process by making an affidavit to the Court (Magistrate, State or Superior) showing all the facts necessary to demonstrate the lien and the amount claimed due, that all required notices have been given, and that a demand for payment has been made and refused (or that the owner cannot be ascertained).

The court serves notice upon the owner, lien holder and security interest holder that a request for a hearing to determine if reasonable cause exists to believe that a valid debt exists must be filed within ten days of receipt of such notice. If no request for a hearing is timely filed, the lien shall be conclusively deemed valid, and foreclosure allowed.

If a request for a probable cause hearing is received timely, the Court shall set a hearing within ten days of the request. If, upon the hearing, the Court determines that probable cause does exist, then you retain possession of the vehicle unless the owner posts a bond for the amount due plus costs.

The owner then has five days to request a full hearing, which must be held within fifteen days. If no request for a full hearing is received, then the lien shall be deemed valid and foreclosure allowed. If, after the full hearing the Court determines the debt to be valid, then the Court shall authorize foreclosure upon and sale of the vehicle.

The Court will issue an Order authorizing the sale of the vehicle. A certified copy of this Order will be required when, after the sale, the purchaser applies for a new tag and title.

The sale is conducted on the steps of the Courthouse on the first Tuesday of a month between the hours of 10:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. Eastern Standard Time. A notice of the sale must have been published once per week for four consecutive weeks immediately prior to the sale date. The purchaser at such sale acquires title free and clear of all liens and encumbrances.

Within thirty days of the sale, you must file a copy of the bill of sale and the excess proceeds, if any, with the Clerk of Court. 

I hope this helps you resolve a particularly thorny problem.

 
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