Abandoned automobiles are covered under Florida statutes as well as under local city ordinances and codes. Generally speaking, Florida requires its citizens to report abandoned vehicles to their local police department. If a person is looking to take ownership of the abandoned vehicle, Florida will require the prospective owner to file a notice to allow the original owner an opportunity to reclaim the automobile.
A vehicle may be considered abandoned if it has been left unattended for 35 or more hours. The police must make reasonable attempts to contact the owner before selling the vehicle or donating it to charity.
Citizen Options for Abandoned Vehicles
In general, an automobile may be considered abandoned if it has been left unattended for 35 or more hours. City ordinances may vary the time limit. A private citizen looking to gain possession of such a vehicle will need to report it to the local police department. Once the police have been notified, the prospective possessor must publish notice of the property in a widely circulated newspaper in the immediate geographic area, along with making reasonable efforts to locate the owner of record via the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles. If reasonable contact attempts have been made to no success, the claimant will have standing to take possession.
Abandoned Vehicle Removed from Property
If a car carrier, tow truck, wrecker or similar type enterprise removes a vehicle deemed abandoned from property, that business will have a lien on the vehicle. The lien covers the reasonable fees incurred in removing and storing the vehicle, if the vehicle has been stored for six or more hours. The business may sell the vehicle after 45 days if the lien remains unpaid. The business will be required to provide adequate notice of the vehicle and lien amount to the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles. The lien expires five years after filing.
Police Options for Abandoned Vehicles
Police are required to contact the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles to determine the owner and lien holder of an abandoned vehicle. They will then send notice of the removal and possession of the automobile. If the department has not received a reply with five days, it is free to retain the automobile for department use. The vehicle can be donated to charity or sold at auction if it remains unclaimed after 35 days, or after 50 days if the vehicle is three years old or newer.