Can a car be towed under abandoned car law if it's from the owner's house?
May 2, 2009 3:14 PM   Subscribe

My housemate's car has been unfixable and sitting on our residential street for about three months, can it be towed under an abandoned car law?

My housemate's $1000 (what he paid) Dodge Neon broke down and is unfixable. He had it towed back to our street (a suburban residential neighborhood in Eastport/Annapolis, Maryland) and has left it here for three months. It is in the street because we do not have a driveway. It is not in front of a house, but along a fence of home constructed this year, one whose backyard fence is along the street.

The owner of the newly constructed house has grown tired of it since he moved in and yesterday he had the police put an "Abandoned and will be towed in 48 hours" notice on it.

My housemate is pissed, because although he plans on getting rid of the car he hasn't even thought about the actions necessary to do so. A few of us have been driving him around the whole while. Short story, he's lazy and inconsiderate.

He says that since he lives across the street from the car it can't be considered abandoned and it also looks like a maintained car. He left a note on the window threatening anyone that tows the car with "prosecution under full extent of the law."

Personally, I'd like to see it get towed. He needs to be responsible for something.

posted by Outis to Law & Government (17 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Let 'em tow it. If he's so hot and bothered about it, he should pony up for a tow to a parking lot or a garage. Since you share a house, you don't want this problem connected to your address whatsoever.
posted by smelvis at 3:21 PM on May 2, 2009

Best answer: IANAL.

If the notice is on the car, and the neighbor stays on top of the cops, it WILL get towed. Whether this is legal is really a secondary issue, as your housemate is not prepared to litigate for a car he paid $1K for (because if he had that money, he'd have put it into fixing the car). Your friend's threat is idle and will only piss off the tow operator, and if he is dumb enough to go to court about this will only cut against him because it shows that he's been given notice of
violating the law and is basically sticking his tongue out at the cops.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 3:21 PM on May 2, 2009

Depending on where you live, there should be companies around who will rid you of a useless automobile and pay you for the privilege. It won't be much -- I remember getting <$500 for any cars I have disposed of using this kind of service, but it may be the quickest and simplest way for your housemate to get rid of this albatross.
posted by hippybear at 3:24 PM on May 2, 2009

He could donate his car fairly easily to get rid of it quickly and for free.
posted by stray at 3:31 PM on May 2, 2009

ya if it's junk scrap it. You'll be lucky to get $100 for a neon.
posted by patnok at 3:33 PM on May 2, 2009

Best answer: Here's how Maryland defines abandoned vehicle. I think your roommate's car falls under §25–201(b)(1):

"Abandoned vehicle" means any motor vehicle, trailer, or semitrailer... That is inoperable and left unattended on public property for more than 48 hours

Certainly it's inoperable and on public property. I guess the legal question is, is it unattended? I would say a car that hasn't been touched in 3 months is unattended, but IANAL.
posted by sbutler at 3:46 PM on May 2, 2009

Probably depends on where you are. Is its inspection up to date? In PA, when I had an abandoned car in front of my house for months, the police told me they couldn't do anything until its due date for re-inspection passed. At that point I called them again and the car was gone within 48 hours. Didn't have anything to do with whether it actually looked maintained, or who it belonged to. (I assume they ran the plates and found out who it belonged to, but I never knew.)
posted by Stacey at 3:49 PM on May 2, 2009

Response by poster: Thanks everyone. Pretty much what I thought.

Previously, I'd given him a phone number for one of those junk car buyers here in town. He probably had the money for a garage until he spent it all on ancient coins on eBay. Also, one day a framed picture of James Madison showed up. Really? I mean...
posted by Outis at 4:06 PM on May 2, 2009 [1 favorite]

"My housemate is pissed, because although he plans on getting rid of the car he hasn't even thought about the actions necessary to do so."

I imagine this process would take about 1 hour, at the most, and if he hasn't done it in 3 months, there's a good chance he won't do it in the next 9. The 48 hour notice should be good incentive to finally make the necessary call.
posted by backwards guitar at 4:19 PM on May 2, 2009 [1 favorite]

If his note doesn't work, he'll probably be paying the towing charge and hefty storage fees to get it back. This isn't from your particular county, but I think the fees are fairly standard. If he's going to do something, he should do it before the tow truck arrives.
posted by contrariwise at 4:31 PM on May 2, 2009 [2 favorites]

Yes, and stop driving your housemate around.
posted by zippy at 5:02 PM on May 2, 2009 [2 favorites]

You need to check your local statutes. In Chicago a car that is not obviously unusable (say, up on blocks, or no steering wheel) won't be towed unless the city sticker AND license plate are out of date. I know because we tried to get a car towed that had been sitting in front of our house in exactly the same spot, CLEARly unused, for several months. This is what Streets and San told us. YMMV.
posted by nax at 5:23 PM on May 2, 2009

He could donate his car fairly easily to get rid of it quickly and for free.

He could, but it would take more than 48 hours. I donated my old car to Habitat for Humanity earlier this year. Even with all the paperwork done over the internet, it still took almost a week for them to send someone to tow it.
posted by gemmy at 5:24 PM on May 2, 2009

Yes, generally. I had a running-but-I-rarely-drive-it car of mine in front of a neighbors house and after a week or two, the neighbor called the towing people who removed it. The bigger question is, if they remove it, is your roommate liable for towing and storage fees or can he just forfeit the car?
posted by jessamyn at 6:29 PM on May 2, 2009

I junked a car and they came to get it in about two hours from the time I called. Gave me $150, too.

A friend left his car broken on the street and it was towed in a similar situation to your housemates. He was sent a LARGE bill from the city for towing and storage, and when he didn't pay they suspended his license.
posted by Kellydamnit at 12:47 AM on May 3, 2009

My sister once had an abonded car in front of her place residential place in South Seattle/Renton. She would call the police and they would come out and put one of those tags on it. She kept calling them and they just kept putting tags on it, I think she had to hassle them a little for them to actually go ahead and get it towed.

Otherwise in my experience tow-truck drivers are more than happy to snag a car and take off with it. I've even heard stories where they hook up to cars that obviously they should not have. It is not uncommon that some companies or drivers have a good standing rep with the local police as they take care of a lot of messes for them, thus making it easier for them to look for cars in a predatory fashion.
The laws generally fall on their side and they could easily tow it away. He may very well be liable to pay some hefty fines. Can he push it down the street, or into your driveway, until he gets it donated?
posted by P.o.B. at 4:40 AM on May 3, 2009

In other words my suggestion is to tell him:
"Dude, if you don't do something with your car you are going to be paying some hefty fines."
and then when he gets a bill in the mail from the now disappeared car:
"Told you so."
posted by P.o.B. at 4:45 AM on May 3, 2009

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