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Dumped Cars ... and How To Get Rid Of Them!

Updated on June 19, 2010

Abandoned vehicles are an eyesore and blight what may otherwise be a pleasant and attractive neighbourhood. According to the latest statistics, there were no less than 350,000 cars abandoned in the UK last year.

They are a particular problem in high-density areas where rented accommodation is commonplace. When abandoned cars are left too long, they can also become the target of vandalism and arson, which just makes for an even bigger problem for local residents. But there are things that can be done by anyone affected by abandoned vehicles - and regardless of whether the vehicle itself is on a public highway or on a private road.

Of course, finding out whether a car has been abandoned or not is not necessarily the easiest of investigations to undertake. Even though you may not recognise the vehicle as one that is familiar to the neighbourhood, it could be it simply belongs to one of your neighbour’s guests who happens to be staying for a prolonged visit. Alternatively, it may be a new owner-occupier or tenant has moved into the neighbourhood – and the car is one too many to fit on their own driveway or in one of their own allocated parking spaces.

Vehicles that have not moved position for some weeks and those displaying an out-of-date tax disk or no tax disk at all should be considered very suspect. Untaxed cars are often dumped, because buying a tax disk sometimes costs more than the value of the vehicle itself. Equally, cars that have broken windscreens or side windows might have been stolen and dumped by a thief. A quick call to the local police will soon confirm whether the dumped vehicle has been stolen or not. If it has, the police will resolve the problem for you by contacting the owner.

Assuming the car has not been stolen, the next stage is to assess whether it belongs to someone in the neighbourhood. Placing a suitable notice under the windscreen wiper that asks for the vehicle to be moved should help, but if the car is still in the same position after some weeks, you can instruct your local council to assist with its removal.

The local council can usually deal with apparently abandoned cars on public highways straightaway or, at least, within a very short time of them being informed about the vehicle. However, where a car has been apparently abandoned on a private road or in someone else’s private parking bay on a housing estate, they are obliged to follow a recognised and legal procedure.

The council will first trace the owner through the registration plate and then send them a 15-day notice of removal. Where a vehicle appears to have some value, the council will also send a notice of destruction to the owner, because most abandoned vehicles are ultimately crushed – which makes it somewhat difficult, if they later wish to reclaim their property.

Most councils are very helpful and quite fast to respond to reports of abandoned vehicles, while others have a tendency to drag their heels a little. If your local authority does not react in an expedient manner, you may need to reiterate their obligation under procedures laid down by the Department of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. The law relating to abandoned vehicles and the local authority is available under the Refuse Disposal (Amenity) Act 1978. This law also defines an abandoned vehicle as any vehicle left without lawful authority as determined by the authorised local authority. As a last resort, you can of course enlist the assistance of your local MP.

It is in everyone’s interest to have abandoned vehicles removed from our streets as quickly as possible, while maintaining the necessary protection that genuine owners need (otherwise many legitimately parked vehicles may find their way to the crusher). Hopefully, the information supplied in this brief guide will help resolve the problem, if you find yourself looking out from your home at what you believe might be an abandoned vehicle.


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