Abandoned vehicles

Abandoned vehicles



Abandoning a vehicle is a criminal offence under the Refuse Disposal (Amenity) Act 1978 and the Environmental Protection Act 1990. The fine can be unlimited or a prison sentence may be imposed.

The Council has a duty under the Act to dispose of any vehicle that appears to have been abandoned on any land in the open air or on any other land forming part of a highway. However, this duty does not cover vehicles abandoned on private land.

We consider a vehicle abandoned if some or all of the following apply:

  • it has been parked for a significant amount of time and it appears that it is not being used by anyone

  • it is significantly damaged, run down or unroadworthy - for example, has flat tyres, missing wheels or broken windows

  • there are weeds or litter surrounding it, or mould, moss and waste inside

  • its number plate is missing

  • its tax has expired

  • it is burned out

You can check if a vehicle is taxed and has a MOT (if required) on the Government pages.

If the vehicle holds tax, MOT, is not stolen and is parked in an area with no restrictions or yellow lines, it is legally parked and will remain where it is. 


Reporting an abandoned vehicle

The Council works in partnership with Northumbria Police to remove abandoned vehicles through the AVAIL (Abandoned Vehicle Action Information Liaison) scheme.

To report an abandoned vehicle, please telephone 0191 278 7878 and ask for "Your Local Services". Please be prepared to provide details of:

  • the exact location of the vehicle

  • its make, model, colour and registration number

  • the condition of the vehicle, and

  • how long the vehicle has been parked and why you believe it is abandoned

If the vehicle poses a danger and is found to be:

  • posing a risk to nearby property

  • is a danger to health and safety, or

  • is at imminent risk of vandalism or arson

it will be removed.

In other cases AVAIL will carry out relevant enquiries before arranging any necessary removal by the police's contractor.

The Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984 and the Removal and Disposal of Vehicle Regulations 1986 authorise the police to remove vehicles that are illegally, dangerously or obstructively parked or abandoned or broken down (whether or not they have been stolen).

The cost of removal will be the responsibility of the vehicle's owner, their insurance company or the Council.

Do not report vehicles as abandoned or illegally parked if they have simply been parked somewhere where they may not normally park or expected to park. If a parking space is available on a public road, even if it’s directly outside your house, anyone is allowed to park in it.

Do not report vehicles as abandoned if you believe them to be unsightly or an 'eyesore.'  This may apply to vehicles being worked on.

We cannot remove vehicles if they do not meet the criteria or for cosmetic reasons.  

If a vehicle has been declared as off the road (SORN) and is left on a public road contact the DVLA.


Burning or burnt out vehicles

Do not approach a burning or burnt out vehicle. Even after they are burnt out, they are still a hazard to the public; the fire will have produced toxic products of combustion.

Contact the fire and rescue service on 999 if a vehicle is on fire. Contact the police on 101 if the vehicle has been burnt and the fire is out.


Vehicles on private land

The duty under the Refuse Disposal (Amenity) Act 1978 to dispose of abandoned vehicles does not cover vehicles on land occupied by any other person. The Council will only remove abandoned vehicles from private land that is in the open air if asked to do so by the legal occupier of the land.

We do not have to remove an abandoned vehicle from land in the open air if the cost of moving it to the nearest highway is high. When removing a vehicle from land in the open air we cannot charge the occupier of the land or the landowner.

If you think a vehicle has been abandoned on private land, you should inform the land manager, not the Council.


Vehicles that are claimed

If the owner of the vehicle is found, they will have 7 days’ notice to collect the vehicle before it can be disposed of. We must return a vehicle to its owner if they claim it and they pay the costs of removal and storage. These costs are set out in the Removal, Storage and Disposal of Vehicles (Prescribed Sums and Charges) Regulations 2008.


What to do with a vehicle which has reached the end of its life

Scrapping your vehicle must be done through a properly regulated treatment facility. The Environment Agency maintains an authorised treatment facilities register.

Authorised treatment facilities:

  • are required to keep a record of your details for 3 years

  • issue a genuine Certificate of Destruction, and

  • will depollute and recycle your vehicle correctly and legally

The DVLA must be informed that you are no longer the registered keeper of the vehicle.

If it is a premature end of life vehicle (for example, as a result of being in a road traffic collision), your insurance company will deal with its removal and disposal.


Reporting other vehicle issues

The Council has no powers to remove a vehicle for having no MOT, no tax or no insurance.

To report an unroadworthy vehicle or a vehicle with no MOT.

To report an untaxed vehicle.

To report someone for driving with no insurance, contact the police.

Certain nuisance vehicles can be dealt with by the Council. Please see our pages on selling or repairing vehicles in the street.

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