Abandoned Vehicle on Foreclosure Property

Laura Smith wrote to me by commenting on my Welcome post. I am moving it here to bring it to the top of the current page. She asked:

Don’t know if you can help, but I’m purchasing a property that is in foreclosure. There is an old beater car on the property.

No one seems to have any advice as to whether we can sell it, take it to a junk yard etc. We obviously don’t want it at the house, since the house is nice and in a good neighborhood, but we do not want to sell it/dump it and have the owner come back looking for it. The property has been in foreclosure for a few months. Any input would help! Thanks

Hi Laura and thanks for joining the conversation here. You have posed an interesting question, regarding which I have several thoughts:

If the vehicle has a license plate, even if outdated, you can go to your state’s DMV to determine the name and contact information for the owner. Even if there is no license plate, you can also use the VIN to obtain owner information.

If the vehicle was owned by the same person who owned the house, you may also be able to obtain his current contact information through the foreclosure paperwork.

Once you have the owner’s name and address, notify him by registered mail that you want the vehicle removed from the property and give him notice that if it is not removed, you will have it towed. If you cannot obtain current contact information for the owner, you can usually provide legal notice through publication in the local newspaper.

You should also contact a local tow company. They will be able to tell you what the law requires in your state regarding the towing of abandoned vehicles. Generally speaking, an authorized towing company can tow a vehicle and go through a “lien sale” process by which they can obtain legal title to the vehicle. This will protect you against any claim by the previous owner.

You cannot sell the vehicle unless you first obtain clear title, which you will not be able to do without consent of the legal owner. Nor should you just “dump” it. If you cannot locate the owner, the best bet is to have it legally towed off your property.

If the vehicle is inoperable, it probably isn’t worth much. In that case, even if you have it towed and the owner comes back and wants you to pay for it, you can refuse and let him decide if he wants to pursue it in court. For a low value vehicle, the risk in taking that approach is relatively small.

If you have any follow up questions, please ask. Good luck with and congratulations on your home purchase.


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