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How Long Can a Junk Car Sit Non-Operational On a Public Street?

How Long Can a Junk Car Sit Non-Operational On a Public Street

A junk car as defined by many city ordinances all over the United States is as any vehicle or a portion of it that meets 3 or more of the following descriptions: 3 years old or older, considerably damaged including but not limited to broken windshield or window and/or missing motor, transmission, wheels or tires, a vehicle that is apparently inoperable, without a valid current registration and similar in value to the fair market value of the scrap/parts therein only. Any sight of this old and beat-up car on a public street is not only an eyesore, but it could also take up any valuable parking space. So how long can a junk car sit non-operational on a public street?

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Junk car left unattended on a street is without a doubt a nuisance. Fortunately, there are usually local laws that prohibit it. To find out exactly how long a junk car can be left on a public street is to review your local laws on city street parking for vehicles. Note that nearly all cities forbid leaving not just junk cars but any vehicle, for that matter, parked too long or more than 72 hours, on a city or any public street.


Look up ordinances regarding disabled vehicles as well. By disabled means, they lack major parts like the necessary driving equipment like engine, tires, doors. Commonly ordinances require disabled cars to be either placed into an enclosed place like a garage or be put behind a fence. Also, other ordinances limit the parking of disabled cars and RVs to 72 hours unless again they are out of sight or are enclosed.


To be able to find your local ordinance on junk, abandoned or disabled vehicles, look it up at your city or county website. If you fail to locate one then go find the local regulations on either State and Local Government on the net or the Municipal Code Corporation, of which you’re place is under. 


Once you locate a copy of the local ordinance you may now specifically look for the topic of “junked cars,” “abandoned vehicles” or “disabled vehicles” in the table of contents or the index. Read and understand the lines carefully and you may also place an inquiry to your mayor’s or city manager’s office for advice. But if you live in a planned unit development or a condo, your option is to review your homeowner association’s CC&Rs (Covenants, Conditions, and Restrictions) on the subject.


How Long Can a Car Be Parked on a Residential Street – How Long Can a Junk Car Sit Non-Operational On a Public Street


Consider this, a neighbor’s or someone’s car has been parked on the street adjacent to your house or exactly in front of your house for quite some time, and that you’re really getting annoyed. 


So how long can a car be parked on a residential street without moving it before you can seek some sort of legal help to get it out of your way? 


In the United States, the answer is dependent on your own state law. Some state laws state that as long as the vehicle appears to be in operational status, has current tags, and is there legally (meaning it is duly registered to your neighbor or someone living nearby) it can sit there indefinitely. So you need to check how long a junk car can sit non-operational on a public street.


No one has the right to reserve spaces in front of his or her home, because public roads are just that, “public,” However, although parking in front of someone else's house is not illegal, it is definitely inconsiderate. Every homeowner likes the comfort of being able to park in front of their own property. So families with an unusual number of cars can plan to park the extra vehicles anywhere other than in front of someone else's house. It’s just fair. In other states, however, the law dictates that the vehicle has to be moved every 2 or 3 days, regardless of ownership.  


The best course of action to take for this type of problem will always be to talk to your neighbor and to try to work it out without involving anyone else. But if that fails and you find the local ordinance in your favor, you can always request police assistance. You can do that most especially if you don't recognize the vehicle in question and it hasn't moved for a long time. There can be a very serious implication, like the vehicle might be stolen or someone could be in grave danger.


Also if the car belongs to someone who does not reside adjacent to your house and the car is parked there for longer than 72 hours, it may be ticketed and, in some cases, even towed away for breaching the 72-Hour Parking Ordinance of the area.


How long does a car have to sit to be considered abandoned?


Any motorized vehicle that is left for an extended duration or for 48 to 72 hours on private property can legally be categorized as abandoned. But information can vary by location, municipality, state, and your area's codes and laws. A vehicle can remain as long as the owner consents, but without the oral or written consent of the private property owner, it becomes up to the owner of the space to remove it.


Inoperable Vehicles, Private Property


So what is the first step you need to take if you find a vehicle abandoned on your property? The kindest thing and also the simplest thing to do is to take a moment to ask around specifically your neighbors if they know who owns the car you want to move. Somebody may have left it there by accident, or because it broke down it was left temporarily. Often, this will fix the problem. But if not you can also post on social media groups local to your city.


If that reveals nothing the next move is to take note of the make, model, color, license plate, and any other striking markers on the vehicle and then contact the local police or sheriff's departments. Inform them that you have an abandoned vehicle on your property and provide a vehicle description. It could be stolen or involved in something else that the police know about, and that may fix the issue it will normally be towed.


If that still doesn’t give you any results then the next sensible thing to do is look up the codes and ordinances regarding private property and abandoned vehicles specifically for the area where you reside because the criteria for what constitutes an abandoned car is different from place to place. (Usually by the length of time it has to take to be considered abandoned.) 


You can surf the net or you can give your local government office a ring for directions and instructions on what steps to take next. This step is very important because even though it’s on your private property, you have to be sure to handle it legally to avoid any complications. You will be able to protect yourself and your property knowing the rules, in case someone makes a claim against you.


How to Get Rid of Abandoned Car on Private Property


Now that the vehicle is surely classified as “abandoned” as classified by your local ordinance and you know the rules you may now have it towed. Some towing companies will do it for free as they can claim the car, but others will still charge you a fee. If the owner of the vehicle does come back to check for it after it was already towed, you can always give them the name of the towing company and they can take it from there. Again, if they make any complaints you should be able to protect yourself, given that you followed the local rules.


If someone leaves a car on my property is it mine? – How Long Can a Junk Car Sit Non-Operational On a Public Street


It’s another story if you want to claim the vehicle instead of having it towed away. The process could be potentially lengthy but it could also be a profitable thing to do. Most local ordinance dictates a waiting period before you can legally take claim of the abandoned vehicle so again, researching the laws is a must. 


Some states will require proof of what is called a “good-faith effort” that you have done everything you could to find the vehicle’s owner without yielding any results. Other states on the other hand will require that abandoned vehicles, either on private or public property, fall under the purview of the police. But with other areas, like Washington State, for example, the most you can do is have the abandoned vehicle towed away.


In case your state does allow for you to take claim of the abandoned vehicle the best thing you can do is check the DMV website for your state to see the list of requirements. After gathering proof of good-faith already mentioned you may need to pay some fees and file any paperwork your state requires. Then submit an application as well as all the above-mentioned requirements for you to obtain a title certificate of the abandoned vehicle.


There is also another option of selling the abandoned vehicle by scrap. And there’s another set of rules for this. People often leave their car when they move out of the house or leave the country, and as a car dealer needs proof of ownership, you can't sell it. Most of the time, reporting to the local police or council would not benefit you, but the better alternative will be to contact a car removal company but they also require a document called the “Uncollected Goods Certificate” that can be obtained easily from local councils. This is the legal process for getting rid of a car that has long been left on your premises. You are typically entitled to receive the certificate and sell the car scrap parts for a reasonable value after 3 months of the abandoned vehicle being left on your property.


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You can have the abandoned vehicle towed, or you may claim ownership and then repurpose the vehicle in some way that works for you or you can have it auctioned off. But if an abandoned car on your property is becoming a constant problem, you may want to put signage that says, “Abandoned vehicles will be towed!” Owners will be educated that it’s going to be their loss for being negligent.


How Many Junk Cars Can You Have on Your Property – How Long Can a Junk Car Sit Non-Operational On a Public Street


State laws often limit the number of junk cars you can have in a property to curtail the effects of accumulating damaged and inoperable vehicles and parts that can reduce property values, cause health hazards, and contribute to injury or damage of the environment and the inhabitants thereof including species of fish and wildlife. 


Accumulation of the damaged goods can also create breeding areas for pests like rodents, hornets, and mosquitoes, not to mention attract illegal dumping of other solid waste and hazardous substances, affecting overall health, behavior, and safety of communities.


Except the junk vehicle is stored in an enclosed structure or behind a fence where it is out of sight to the public the storing of one or more junk vehicles on private property with a size that is less than 2.5 acres, or two or more junk vehicles on private property with a size that is 2.5 acres or greater it is considered a public nuisance. 


Exemptions also include when the landowner can show current registration of up to 3 junk vehicles and a declaration of intent to bring the same into operating condition within a year from the date of the declaration. It also should not be parked on public roads or shared easements; and should be placed so as to minimize public view, and kept free of accumulating garbage and health-hazardous materials. Businesses in relation to processing junk vehicles and collectors of antique and special interests vehicles recognized by national vehicle organizations can also be exempted provided they follow the rules of how the vehicles are being stored.




Abandoned vehicles on a public street can cause nuisance; even more so if it is left in your property. But the bottom line is that no matter how much of a headache things can be there are laws and systems in your local area to guide you. Just know where to look, research and follow it. Who knows things may turn of great advantage to you.

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