How to File for an Abandoned Car in Florida

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Some vehicle owners abandon their vehicles for various reasons. The vehicle may need extensive repairs and the owner simply decides to leave it wherever it comes to a rest, and some simply no longer want their vehicles. Florida law allows anyone to claim an abandoned vehicle as long as he or she follows the state’s laws for doing so.

If you locate an abandoned vehicle on or near your property or find one seemingly in the middle of nowhere, you could have the opportunity to claim the vehicle as your own and then do with it whatever you like; scrap it and sell the parts and scrap metal, fix it up and keep it for personal use, or restore it and resell it for profit. As long as you follow the state’s laws in Florida, claiming an abandoned vehicle could be worth the trouble.

How to Claim an Abandoned Vehicle

If you wish to claim an abandoned vehicle, the first thing to do is to contact the police to notify them of the abandoned vehicle’s existence and location. The police will post a notice for the owner to claim the vehicle within 24 hours or forfeit ownership of the vehicle. If no one claims it in this timeframe, the police will remove it and likely impound it.

After the police deal with the abandoned vehicle you will have the opportunity to fill out a lost property claim form with the police department. After filing this claim the next step is to contact the Florida Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) to request a title search on the vehicle. The DMV will use the vehicle’s license plate information (if available) and the vehicle’s VIN to locate the actual owner.

Once you obtain the contact information of the vehicle’s owner you must make an effort to contact him or her about the vehicle. You can send a written notice via mail with a return of receipt request so you can be sure the owner received your notice. You should also verify with the local police departments that no one has filed missing vehicle claims matching the vehicle’s description. You can also post a notice in your local newspaper stating you have found an abandoned vehicle and intend to claim it.

If the DMV cannot locate the owner within 90 days or you cannot successfully contact the owner within 90 days, you may then proceed with filing a new finder’s title through the DMV. In about two weeks after filing, the DMV will provide you with a new title to the vehicle.

Penalties for Abandoning a Vehicle

Depending on where the vehicle’s owner leaves a vehicle, he or she may face certain legal penalties. If the owner abandoned the vehicle on public property in any way that causes a public danger or interferes with a public property, the local government may send the owner a bill for cleaning up the site, towing and impoundment fees, and a bill for any damage the vehicle caused. If the vehicle owner abandoned it on someone’s private property, the property owner could file a civil claim against the vehicle owner if the abandoned vehicle damaged the property in any way, such as by leaking dangerous fluids into the ground.

Why Claim an Abandoned Vehicle?

Some vehicle owners may abandon old and damaged vehicles because they do not know how to fix them, or they assume repairs would be more trouble than those vehicles are worth. An individual with the means and knowledge to repair a vehicle could potentially invest in an abandoned vehicle, get it up and running again, and keep it for personal use or resell it. However, it is vital that any person who intends to claim an abandoned vehicle make a good faith effort to contact the original owner and follow all applicable state and local laws for claiming an abandoned vehicle to avoid potential legal complications.