Nuisance and abandoned vehicles

A guide for the public written by ENCAMS (Keep Britain Tidy)

Abandoned vehicles

Abandoned vehicles are expensive to remove, have a negative impact on the environment, look unsightly and can lower the quality of life in neighbourhoods. They can be the result of, or lead to crime, they take up valuable parking spaces and can quickly become dangerous when vandalised or filled with hazardous waste (they are often used as skips). There is a risk of explosion or injury, they can leak dangerous fluids, which can catch fire or run into the water stream and they are often burnt out, which can endanger lives, property and the environment.

Abandoned vehicle removal and disposal is the responsibility of local authorities. Please visit the Can they help page for links to their websites and phone numbers.

Nuisance vehicles

Abandoned vehicles often get confused with nuisance vehicles. An abandoned vehicle is always a nuisance, but a nuisance vehicle is not always abandoned.

A nuisance vehicle could be any of the following:

  • Poorly parked;
  • Causing an obstruction;
  • Involved in residential parking disputes;
  • Broken down;
  • Untaxed.

Abandoned vehicles and the law

Local authorities are under a duty under Section 3 of the Refuse Disposal (Amenity) Act 1978, to remove a vehicle which is abandoned in their area, on any land in the open air, or on any other land forming part of a highway. However, this does not cover vehicles abandoned on private land. Under this Act, abandoning a vehicle is a criminal offence, carrying a maximum penalty of a fine of £2,500 or three months’ imprisonment, or both.

Notice periods effective in England

Vehicles that the local authority considers to have some value can be removed immediately, although the written notice period to the last
registered keeper before a vehicle can be destroyed is seven days;

For vehicles that the local authority considers to have no value – the statutory notice period is 24 hours;

If a vehicle is abandoned on private land, the owner/occupier of the land may be served with a 15-day notice by the local authority. The notice informs them of the intention to remove the vehicle, and they have 15 days to object.

Local authorities also have the power to recover costs of removal, storage and disposal from the person responsible for abandoning the vehicle.

The police have powers under the Removal and Disposal of Vehicle Regulations 1986 to remove any vehicle that is in breach of local traffic regulations, causing an obstruction, likely to cause a danger, broken down or abandoned without lawful authority. The police can remove a vehicle to which a notice has been affixed by the local authority that has deteriorated to a dangerous wreck immediately.

What can you do to improve the problem?

As a resident or a vehicle owner, you have a role to play. Abandoning a vehicle is illegal and dangerous and it can ruin the appearance of your neighbourhood. As a resident, you can help by reporting vehicles which you believe to be abandoned, to your local authority. The following points will help you:

What information is needed to report an abandoned vehicle?

  • Vehicle make, model and colour;
  • Vehicle registration number if known;
  • Condition of the vehicle (detailing any vandalism, damage to the vehicle that has already occurred);
  • Location of the vehicle (be as specific as possible and also note if the vehicle has been left in a location that may cause obstruction or danger to others, such as on or near a pedestrian crossing, close to a road junction, in a designated garage area);
  • How long the vehicle has been abandoned (if known);
  • Any other information you feel is appropriate (e.g. who was the last person to be seen in the vehicle, any indication of who the vehicle may belong to, if people are congregating around the vehicle during the evening hours).

Who should you report an abandoned vehicle to?

Your local authority. Please visit the Can they help page for links to their websites and phone numbers.

Source: ENCAMS runs the Keep Britain Tidy campaign and they have information on their website –

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