Abandoned automobiles are covered under Florida statutes Chapter 705, as well as under local city ordinances and codes. Note that there may be variations in the time limits from city to city. Generally speaking, Florida requires 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.
Citizen Options Regarding Abandoned Autos
In general, an automobile may be considered abandoned if it has been left unattended for 35 or more hours. City ordinances will prohibit abandoned vehicles on real property within the city. A private citizen looking to gain possession of such a vehicle will need to report the vehicle 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 by contacting the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles to find and contact the legal owner. 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 pursuant to a law enforcement request, that business will have a lien on the vehicle for the reasonable fees incurred in the removal and transportation of the vehicle if the vehicle has been stored for six or more hours, under Section 713.78(2). The business may sell the vehicle if it remains in storage, and unpaid, for 45 or more days from time of storage. 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 Regarding an Abandoned Vehicle
Section 705.103 provides guidance on how the police will handle the requested removal of abandoned vehicles. Police are required to contact the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles to determine the owner and lienholder contact information, and 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, donate the automobile to charity, or sell the automobile off at auction after 35 days if the vehicle is more than three years old, or after 50 days if the vehicle is three years old or newer under 713.78(4)(c).