Abandoned vehicles

Abandoned vehicles are a problem throughout the whole of the UK. As well as detracting from the visual amenity of an area and often causing direct inconvenience to residents, they are also targets for arson and vandalism.

Under the Refuse Disposal (Amenity) Act 1978 (which has since been amended by numerous Acts and Regulations), local authorities have a duty to remove a vehicle that has been abandoned on any open land or on any road to which the public have access. They can also charge for its removal, storage (if appropriate) and disposal.

The Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Act 2005 has removed the need to place a notice on the vehicle, so an abandoned vehicle can now be taken straight to scrap in most cases.

What is an abandoned vehicle?

There is no legal definition of an abandoned vehicle - in other words the circumstances indicate that the owner has no further interest in it. Although it does not have to satisfy any or all of the following examples, we use these to help us decide whether or not a vehicle has been abandoned:

  • out of tax or no SORN with
  • no immediately local keeper
  • remained stationary for a period of time
  • flat tyre(s)
  • has been vandalised
  • badly parked
  • left on land other than that belonging to the owner
  • insecure
  • contains waste
  • burnt out

A vehicle does not have to meet any or all the above criteria for it to be considered as being abandoned. It is at the discretion of the investigating council officer who will have regard to all the individual circumstances in reaching a decision. For instance, although it would be unusual, a vehicle could be in tax and still considered as abandoned. Conversely, a vehicle that has no tax is not necessarily abandoned.

Owners sometimes complain that their vehicle was not abandoned but has still been taken and removed by the council. However, in all such cases, it is likely that the vehicle has not been legally kept in one or more aspects of vehicle ownership.

Vehicles that are legally kept having regard to tax or SORN (Statutory Off Road Notification), that have an up-to-date registered keeper address and that are properly parked, are unlikely to be disposed of without the owner being aware until it is too late to recover it. Vehicles must be taxed, insured and, if more than three years old, have an MOT certificate.

Reporting an abandoned vehicle

If you want to report an abandoned vehicle please use our report an abandoned vehicle form. This form should not be used to report an untaxed vehicle unless it is also considered to be abandoned.

Untaxed vehicles

Reporting and checking untaxed vehicles

Untaxed vehicles should be reported to the DVLA on 08000 325 202 or online using the DVLA's online form

You can check whether a vehicle is taxed by visiting the GOV.UK - vehicle enquiry website and entering the registration and make of the vehicle.

Vehicles with valid SORN declarations

A vehicle only needs to be registered for a SORN declaration once and no longer needs to be renewed yearly. Please note that vehicles with a SORN declaration still need to be kept on private property with permission and not on council land or the highway (including roads).

GOV.UK - when you need to make a SORN

Vehicles causing an obstruction

If the vehicle is causing an obstruction, report it to Thames Valley Police.

You can report incidents to Thames Valley Police by phone or online. More information about how to do this in on the Thames Valley Police website.

If they are unable to act, the police may still report the vehicle to the council.

How can I dispose of a vehicle myself?

If you wish to dispose of a vehicle yourself, you must take it to an authorised treatment facility. Here it will have pollutants such as fuel and engine oil removed, before being sent for destruction. For a list of these facilities please visit GOV.UK - scrap cars and written-off vehicles.

If you arrange for your vehicle to be taken away by a scrap metal dealer, you must ensure that they have a valid licence and obtain a receipt. Please go to the Environment Agency's website to search for details of licensed scrap metal dealers near you.

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