What can you do about abandoned vehicles on your development?
17th January 2024
17th January 2024
Whether it is an obstruction or it simply should not be there, an abandoned vehicle can be the cause of much angst for residents and managers on any development. But what can be done by the landlord, management company or managing agent, particularly where the vehicle is not on the public highway?
The good news is that there are solutions, likely not entirely pain free ones or instantaneous, but there are ways to see the offending vehicle removed from the property - even private land.
Can you establish who the registered keeper of the vehicle is?
Surprising to some, the answer to this question is ‘yes’. You can ask the DVLA for information about a vehicle and its registered keeper if you have a ‘reasonable cause’. Reasonable cause includes:-
tracing the registered keeper of an abandoned vehicle;
tracing the registered keeper of a vehicle parked on private land.
To obtain the information a request is made to the DVLA by filling in either Form V888, if the request is made by an individual, or Form V888/2A, if the request is made by a company. There is a fee payable for the information (detailed on the form) - currently £2.50 per vehicle search.
Once you are aware of who the vehicle belongs to…..
Plainly, the next sensible step is to seek to contact the owner and hopefully arrange for the vehicle to be removed by them. If that does not produce the desired result though there are two further options available to you.
1. Call upon the Local Authority
Again, a surprise to many, but local authorities have an obligation to remove abandoned vehicles from:
land where the vehicle is in the open air (including private land); and
roads (including private roads).
More good news on this point is that when removing a vehicle parked in the open air on private land, the local authority cannot charge the landowner/occupier for that removal. They are not obliged to remove the vehicle though if the cost of transporting it to the nearest highway is high - perhaps where specialist lifting equipment is required. The local authority must give the land owner or occupier 15 days’ notice that they propose to remove the vehicle and cannot remove the vehicle if the landowner or occupier objects during the notice period - one assumes that that is unlikely in most instances. That 15 day notice period does not apply where the vehicle is abandoned on a road or highway.
Before removing a vehicle though the local authority must satisfy themselves that it is abandoned. This will come down to a number of factors including how long it has been in the one position, whether it has been vandalised, whether it is currently taxed/insured or perhaps the number plate is missing.
The local authority has a number of obligations before disposing of the vehicle and an ability to claim costs from the registered owner but we have not dealt with those here as in most cases you/your client will simply be pleased that the vehicle has been removed and what happens next is likely of little concern to them.
2. The self-help route
Thinking realistically though, the local authority are perhaps unlikely to turn up at your block/estate with a flatbed lorry to remove the vehicle within a few days or perhaps even months (if at all) and so it may be the case that you/your client wish to see the vehicle removed long before the local authority get around to fulfilling their duty under the above. If that is the case then, what steps can you take as a landlord or management company?
The Torts (Interference with Goods) Act 1977 comes into play here. Whilst it is a useful piece of legislation, it is not without its onerous obligations and so the best advice is to obtain competent legal advice on using the provisions and powers under the Act before actually acting.
In brief terms, the Act sets out a statutory procedure by which the owner of the vehicle can be required to remove it from your/your client’s land (Section 12(2)), and also gives rise to a statutory right for the vehicle to be sold (Section 12(3)).
For the right to arise enabling removal and sale of the vehicle notice must first be served upon the vehicle owner. Whilst posting a notice on the vehicle is not itself good service (albeit recommended anyway) it may be all that can be done if details of the registered keeper cannot be ascertained (say, for instance, where the car is absent number plates) so long as all reasonable steps have been taken to identify the vehicle owner. The notice must provide information including details of the land owner/management company (the “bailee”) and the date on which the vehicle is going to be removed (usually at least 28 days thereafter). If the name and address of the registered keeper can be established then a copy of the notice must be served upon them by registered or recorded delivery.
If the vehicle is not removed by its owner within the period of the notice then the vehicle can be removed and sold. Note however, that any proceeds of sale must be accounted for and returned to the registered keeper and so it is important to have very thorough and clear records of the costs incurred in the process of serving the notice and removal of the vehicle and, if the vehicle is simply scrapped, then confirmation as to why it could not be sold other than to the scrap yard.
If the procedure under the Act is not properly undertaken the bailee (the removing party) can be liable to the vehicle owner for the loss that they have sustained (including the value of the vehicle) - hence the need to obtain competent legal advice prior to acting upon the rights provided under the Act.
See here our more thorough article on the Torts (Interference with Goods) Act 1977.
The above shows at least that there are methods available to have abandoned vehicles removed from your development and so action can be taken if you are the unfortunate recipient of such a vehicle. Those above are of course separate to any rights/remedies that might be available for breach of lease/transfer covenants where the vehicle belongs to an owner or occupier on the development. The key though, where you are able, is not to be too hasty as, plainly, removal by the local authority is cost (if not necessarily time) free. The short advice though is to follow the golden rule of seeking advice before taking any steps on your own.
For more information, please feel free to contact a member of the team on 01435 897297 or email@example.com.
This Legal Update describes the position in law as at the date of this article and care should be taken to note any subsequent amendments to the position as set out above. The Legal Update is provided free of charge for information purposes only; it does not constitute legal advice and should not be relied on as such. No responsibility for the accuracy and/or correctness of the information and commentary set out in the article, or for any consequences of relying on it, is assumed or accepted by any member of KDL Law or by KDL Law as a whole.
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