Abandonded Vehicle Law Changes for 2011

An adjustment in Virginia’s abandoned motor vehicle law, recently signed by Governor McDonnell, means changes for automobile dealers who operate repair shops, self-storage facilities or tow-truck businesses. These businesses may no longer use DMV’s online abandoned motor vehicle process to remove, auction, re-title or demolish a vehicle that is not retrieved by the owner.

Towing and recovery operators, as well as mechanics, must use the Mechanic’s and Storage Lien process by filling out DMV’s form VSA 41, available at www.dmvNOW.com. The vehicle and company must be located in Virginia.

If vehicles are not retrieved from a self-storage facility, they are considered personal property and do not qualify for the Mechanic’s or Storage Lien process. They are covered by Virginia Code § 55-416 though 423 and self-storage facility owners must sell these vehicles at a public auction.

The new law, House Bill 2163, changes the definition of an abandoned vehicle. Vehicles, trailers or semitrailers will no longer be considered abandoned vehicles if they are left unclaimed:

  • in a self-storage unit,
  • in a garage for more than 10 days, or
  • for more than 10 days beyond the period the motor vehicle was to remain on the property, pursuant to contract.

The new abandoned motor vehicle definition includes any motor vehicle, trailer or semi-trailer that:

  • is left unattended on public property for more than 48 hours in violation of a state law or local ordinance,
  • has remained for more that 48 hours on private property without the consent of the property’s owner, regardless of whether it was brought onto the private property with the consent of the owner or person in control of the private property, or
  • is left unattended on the shoulder of a primary highway.

If individuals, businesses, or government agencies are in possession of an abandoned vehicle, as defined by the new law, they may use the automated abandoned vehicle process on DMV’s website at a cost of $25. Since the automated process was instituted in 2009, getting rid of an abandoned vehicle, and searching for the location of an abandoned vehicle, is faster and easier.