Gaining the Authority to Dispose of ‘Valueless,’ ‘Junk’ or ‘Nuisance’ Vehicles
by TSSA Legal Counsel
At a recent TSSA legal seminar, a member mentioned the topic of disposing of old, abandoned vehicles and their town’s involvement in that endeavor. Here, attorney Will Farnsworth, part of TSSA’s legal team, addresses the question at hand.
We have a number of old, abandoned vehicles parked outside at a facility we purchased. I’ve heard there is a process for getting my town to consider these vehicles a nuisance so that they take over the burden of getting rid of them. Can you tell me if this is true, and if so, what the process would be for that?
The Lawyer Answers:
Generally speaking, for self-storage facility purposes, there are three potential options for handling “abandoned” or “junked” vehicles on your property or, alternatively, as part of a delinquent tenant’s property that you’ve seized for foreclosure:
1) A self-storage facility may seek a Certificate of Authority (“COA”) to dispose of a motor vehicle by a demolisher if the motor vehicle is deemed “abandoned” (i.e., it has remained on your private property without your consent for more than 48 hours);
2) A municipality or a county may apply for a COA and dispose of a junked vehicle by a demolisher if the municipality/county deems such “junked vehicle” (or parts) to be a public nuisance and desires to dispose of the junked vehicle or parts; or
3)The self-storage facility may seek a COA to dispose of a motor vehicle by a demolisher if the facility has conducted all of the required foreclosure notification requirements under Chapter 59 of the Texas Property Code and the facility determines that either (a) the motor vehicle’s only residual value is as a source of parts or scrap metal, or (b) it is not economical to dispose of the vehicle at public sale.
Each of these options involve the party applying for a COA with the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles (“TDMV”). Upon issuance of a COA, a motor vehicle demolisher who acquires a motor vehicle for dismantling or demolishing may dismantle or demolish such vehicle upon its receipt of the COA (in lieu of the vehicle’s Certificate of Title). (See Section 683.056 of the Texas Transportation Code.)
For the first option, a self-storage facility may apply for a COA when a motor vehicle has remained on private property (in this case, the self-storage facility’s property) without the consent of the property owner or person in charge of the property for more than 48 hours (and, therefore, the motor vehicle is considered “abandoned”). Once the TDMV has received the COA application, TDMV is required to send a notice to any owner(s) and lienholder(s) of the abandoned vehicle (and, if no record owners/lienholders are found in the TDMV’s system, TDMV is required to publish a notice on its website). If the motor vehicle’s owner or lienholder has not claimed such vehicle by the 20th day after such notice, the TDMV will issue the COA to the applicant, which will be sufficient for a motor vehicle demolisher to demolish or dismantle the abandoned vehicle.
All-in-all, it may take up to 30 days for the issuance of a COA by TDMV following application. While a self-storage facility would legally have the right to begin this process 48 hours after a motor vehicle has remained on its property, this option would be most practical in the scenario where a motor vehicle has been left at the property for a lengthy period of time, when multiple attempts have been made to identify and/or contact the owner of such vehicle, and when the vehicle is clearly inoperable/abandoned. The form for this application is known as “VTR-71-2” and can be found on the TDMV’s website at: https://www.txdmv.gov/sites/default/files/form_files/VTR-71-2.pdf.
With respect to the second option available to a facility (which is similar to the scenario the member asked about), a municipality or a county may notify the TDMV of the abatement of a public nuisance vehicle AND apply for a COA to dispose of a motor vehicle by a demolisher ONLY IF the motor vehicle is considered a junked vehicle and abated and removed from public or private property as a public nuisance pursuant to the provisions of a procedure established by the municipality or county.
Under Section 683.074 of the Texas Transportation Code, a municipality or county may adopt procedures for the abatement and removal of a junked vehicle or part of a junked vehicle from private or public property or a public right-of-way as a public nuisance if such procedures: (1) prohibit a vehicle from being reconstructed or made operable after removal, (2) require a public hearing on request of a person who receives notice if the request is made not later than the date by which the nuisance must be abated and removed, and (3) require that notice identifying the vehicle or part of the vehicle be given to the TDMV not later than the 5th day after the date of removal.
Additionally, the procedures must provide that at least 10 days’ prior notice (personally delivered, sent by certified mail with a 5-day return requested, or delivered by USPS with signature confirmation service) that states that the nuisance must be abated and removed not later than the 10th day after such notice was personally delivered or mailed to (a) the last known registered owner of the nuisance, (b) each lienholder of record of the nuisance, and (c) the owner or occupant of (i) the property on which the nuisance is located, or (ii) if the nuisance is located on a public right-of-way, the property adjacent to the right-of-way. If such procedures are properly followed, the application has been approved by the TDMV, and the agency has issued a COA, the municipality or county must assign the COA to the metal recycler and, after permanently destroying the vehicle, the metal recycler will surrender the COA back to the TDMV and notify that agency to mark the vehicle record as “crushed.” This remedy is only available to the municipality/county where the junked vehicle is located (but nothing prohibits a self-storage facility from contacting the municipality or county in order to move forward with this remedy). The form for this application is known as “VTR-71-4” and can be found on the TDMV’s website at: https://www.txdmv.gov/sites/default/files/form_files/VTR-71-4.pdf
Demolishing a Foreclosed Vehicle
Finally, a self-storage facility has the option to apply for a COA in order to dispose of a motor vehicle to a demolisher if (1) the motor vehicle is subject to a self-storage facility lien (as opposed to merely a vehicle being abandoned in the parking lot of a facility), (2) the self-storage facility owner has complied with all notification requirements under Chapter 59 of the Texas Property Code, including sending the “special foreclosure” Notice to Owner(s) and Lienholder(s), and (3) the facility determines either that (a) it is not economical to dispose of the vehicle at a public sale or (b) the motor vehicle’s only residual value is as a source of parts or scrap metal.
After the notification requirements have been fulfilled and the TDMV’s Self-Service Storage Facility Lien Foreclosure form (Form VTR-265-SSF) has been completed and submitted and after the facility has determined the vehicle’s only value is for parts or scrap metal or it is simply not financially feasible/economical to dispose of the vehicle at public sale, then the facility may apply for a COA with the TDMV to dispose of the motor vehicle in lieu of a public sale. The application for the COA may only be submitted on or after the 31st day after the Notice to Owner(s) and Lienholder(s) has been made. The form for this application is known as “VTR-71-6” and can be found on the TDMV’s website at: https://www.txdmv.gov/sites/default/files/form_files/VTR-71-6.pdf.
In summary, there three available avenues for a self-storage facility to take for dealing with “abandoned” or “junked” vehicle on its property. In all cases, the facility should follow the guidelines and forms promulgated by the TDMV with respect to properly applying for a COA prior to disposing of the vehicle.
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