Gaining title to an abandoned vehicle in Texas involves time and effort, but it may be your only option if a car is abandoned on your property. You'll need go through the DMV to establish the vehicle's current ownership, then contact the current owner. If you can get title to the vehicle, it will allow you to keep the vehicle or dispose of it. You should not attempt to move or tow an abandoned vehicle on your own until you have title to the vehicle.
First Things First
Before you spend any time or money, first you should determine if the car is legally considered abandoned. According to Texas transportation code, a car is considered abandoned if it is inoperable, is more than five years old and has been left unattended on public property, has remained illegally on public property for more than 48 hours, or has remained on private property without the consent of the owner or person in charge of the property for more than 48 hours. When dealing with abandoned vehicles, it is always a good idea to check with the police department to make sure the vehicle is not stolen. If the car is stolen, the police will take care of the removal of the vehicle.
Identifying the Owner
To keep the car, you'll need to get the title of the vehicle from the owner or lien holder. This will be harder if the vehicle is a newer vehicle or has some value. To find the current owner or lien holder, write down the vehicle identification number or VIN, which is typically located on the dashboard on the driver's side of the car. If the car has a license plate, copy down that number as well. Complete a VTR-275 form and submit it to your local Texas DMV with this information, and the DMV should be able to provide the last registered owner's contact information. They may also be able to provide you with information regarding lien holders such as a bank or finance company. If the vehicle was not previously registered in Texas you'll need to pay for a full title search to be performed, which draws on national registration data.
Contacting the Owner
Contact the owner, and ask him to transfer the title into your name. If he is willing to do this, he must send you the signed title. Once you have the title you can transfer the vehicle into your name at the DMV. If he is unwilling, you can request he remove the vehicle from your property within an agreed time frame. Texas law does not allow for the collection of storage fees unless you are the owner of a storage facility or garage where the vehicle was abandoned.
The Last-Ditch Option
If the current owner refuses to sign over the title, call the police and ask them to tow the vehicle off your property. This will result in the removal of the vehicle. It also gives you another chance to take possession of the vehicle, but you may have to wait awhile. The police will impound the car, and they are required to make attempts to contact the owner by registered mail. If no one comes forward to claim the vehicle it will end up at a police auction. Contact the police department for details about upcoming auctions. You will then have an opportunity to bid on the vehicle. While this is a round-about way of taking possession of a vehicle, it is possible.
- When dealing with abandoned vehicles, it is always a good idea to check with the police department to make sure the vehicle is not stolen. If the car is stolen, the police will take care of the removal of the vehicle.
Mark Vallet is a a stay-at-home dad who began freelance writing in 2009. He has produced online content for Demand Studios, Autos.com and CarsDirect.com. He has traveled extensively within the U.S. and internationally. Vallet holds a Bachelor of Arts in English literature from the University of Iowa.