FAQ
Abandoned Vehicles or Vessels - Custodians
What is my role as the custodian of the vehicle or vessel?

Please note: Vehicle includes motor vehicles, ORVs, and snowmobiles. Vessel includes watercraft.

You are responsible for contacting the law enforcement agency with jurisdiction in the area where the vehicle or vessel is located for authorization before moving the vehicle or vessel. This action is required because some abandoned vehicles or vessels were actually stolen or used in a crime.

You are responsible for reporting the disposition of the vehicle or vessel to the law enforcement agency that has jurisdiction over the site from which the vehicle or vessel was removed as well as entering the vehicle's disposition on the Michigan Auto Lost & Found Website. Please see Setting up an Electronic Funds Account.

You are also responsible for collecting the $40 abandoned fee if you sell the vehicle or vessel or the owner redeems it, and for forwarding $25 of that fee to the Michigan Department of State.

If the purchase price of an abandoned vehicle or vessel sold at public auction does not cover towing and storage, police agency or custodian expenses and the $40 abandoned vehicle fee, please do not remit the $25.

When a custodian is reporting he disposition of such a vehicle online, please select "transferred to custodian" and not "sold." The "sold" option should only be used when the purchase price of the vehicle covers all costs - allowing you to remit the $25.

You may have additional responsibilities based on your relationship with, and the expectations of, the law enforcement agency in the area. Some municipalities may also require you to collect additional fees.

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What do I have to do if I get a call from a private property owner to remove a vehicle or vessel from private real property?

Please note: Vehicle includes motor vehicles, ORVs, and snowmobiles. Vessel includes watercraft.

If the abandoned vehicle or vessel is on private property, the towing agency must provide reasonable notice by telephone, or otherwise to the law enforcement agency with jurisdiction over the abandoned vehicle or vessel.

If the vehicle or vessel is on other private real property, such as an apartment complex or private lot, you may also wish to check that the required signage has been posted before contacting law enforcement or removing the vehicle or vessel.

There are specific signage requirements under section 257.252k and 80130o 2014 PA 549, each apartment complex or private real property owner that has a vehicle or vessel removed must have a warning sign posted stating that unauthorized vehicles or vessels will be removed at the owner's expense. The notice must include the name and telephone number of the towing agency that will remove vehicles or vessels from that property and be in letters at least two inches high on a contrasting background. Notices must be permanently installed with the bottom of the notice at least four feet from the ground and prominently displayed at each point of entry for vehicles or vessels. If the property does not have curbs or access barriers, there must be at least one notice for every 100 feet of road frontage. The notice must be in place at least 24 hours before vehicles or vessels can be removed from the property.

Private real properties that are single- or dual-family residences are exempt from the notice requirements, as well as vehicles impounded or removed under MCL 257.252d or vessels impounded or removed under 80130h.

For the purposes of this section, the sign required may use the term vehicle as opposed to vessel 80130o(2), 81151, and 82161 2014 PA 549.

 

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Does law enforcement have to come before I remove the vehicle or vessel or can I just give law enforcement the VIN, HIN or serial number?

Please note: Vehicle includes motor vehicles, ORVs, and snowmobiles. Vessel includes watercraft.

If the abandoned vehicle or vessel is on public property the law enforcement agency with jurisdiction over the vehicle or vessel will arrange for the removal.  If the abandoned vehicle or vessel is on private property, the towing agency must provide reasonable notice by telephone or other means to the law enforcement agency with jurisdiction over the abandoned vehicle or vessel.  In some instances, law enforcement may arrange for removal from private property (for violation of a local ordinance or state law, vehicle or vessel is believed to be stolen, vehicle or vessel is blocking property entrance, etc.).

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How much can I charge for storage, and what are considered "customary fees"?

Please note: Vehicle includes motor vehicles, ORVs, and snowmobiles. Vessel includes watercraft.

Neither Michigan law nor the Secretary of State set the storage and customary fees. If the owner of an abandoned vehicle or vessel requests a hearing on the reasonableness of the fees, a court will decide if they are reasonable and customary. Your charges must include the $40 Abandoned Fee, and some municipalities require additional fees.
 

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How do I get added to the list of custodians?

Please note: Vehicle includes motor vehicles, ORVs, and snowmobiles. Vessel includes watercraft.

Custodians are required to set up an Electronic Funds Transfer (EFT) account with the Michigan Department of State. It allows you to use the Michigan Auto Lost and Found Website to report the disposition of abandoned vehicles in your custody and is the most convenient way of remitting fees.

Please see: Setting up an Electronic Funds Transfer Account to set up an EFT account with the Department of State. You will be notified by mail when it is approved.

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How do I enroll in EFT?

Please note: Vehicle includes motor vehicles, ORVs, and snowmobiles. Vessel includes watercraft.

More information is available at Setting up an Electronic Funds Transfer Account. You must have a checking account for EFT.
 

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Do I need a checking account before I set up an EFT account?

Please note: Vehicle includes motor vehicles, ORVs, and snowmobiles. Vessel includes watercraft.

Yes. EFT accounts are set up to electronically debit checking accounts.


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When does the EFT transfer get taken from my account?

Please note: Vehicle includes motor vehicles, ORVs, and snowmobiles. Vessel includes watercraft.

Normally, the EFT funds transfer occurs within 36-48 hours from the time that you enter the disposition on the Michigan Auto Lost and Found Website. If you have questions, please contact the Abandoned Vehicle Help Desk at 517-636-5234.


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How do I change my address or telephone number with the Secretary of State?

Please note: Vehicle includes motor vehicles, ORVs, and snowmobiles. Vessel includes watercraft.

Fax your company name, along with the phrase "Abandoned Vehicle Custodian address or telephone change" and the new information on company letterhead to 517-322-3928.

You must also notify the law enforcement agencies for which you provide towing or storage services.


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Am I required to have a MPSC number?

Please note: Vehicle includes motor vehicles, ORVs, and snowmobiles. Vessel includes watercraft.

The Secretary of State does not require an MPSC number. However, an MPSC number is usually required by local municipalities or law enforcement agencies. The MPSC number may be required by state law for some towing agencies. Towing agencies should contact the
Michigan Public Service Commission (MPSC) to determine whether they need MPSC authority.

 

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Where can I get a copy of the TR-52E Notice of Abandoned Vehicle/Vessel that was mailed to the owner?

Please note: Vehicle includes motor vehicles, ORVs, and snowmobiles. Vessel includes watercraft.

If you are involved in a lawsuit or have another reason listed under the "permissible use" clauses, you may obtain a copy of the TR-52E by paying the appropriate fees. You can find out more information on "permissible use" and on getting a copy of the notice by completing the Record Request Form: Michigan Department of State – Record Lookup Request (form BDVR-154).
 


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Do I need a dealer license to sell abandoned vehicles or vessels, and if so, what kind?

Please note: Vehicle includes motor vehicles, ORVs, and snowmobiles. Vessel includes watercraft.

If you sell five or more vehicles in a 12-month period, you may need a Class B vehicle dealer's license.

If you buy, sell, exchange, broker, lease or deal in salvageable parts of five or more vehicles, you may need a Class C vehicle dealer's license or Class D vehicle broker's license.

Section 257.11 of the Michigan Vehicle Code defines a "dealer" as a person who does one or more of the following in a 12-month period: (1) engages in the business of purchasing, selling, exchanging, brokering, leasing or dealing in vehicles of a type required to be titled; (2) engages in the business of purchasing, selling, exchanging, brokering or dealing in salvageable parts of five of more vehicles; (3) engages in the business of buying five or more vehicles to sell vehicle parts or process into scrap metal. The law creates a rebuttable presumption that a person who buys and sells, exchanges, brokers, leases or deals in five or more vehicles in a 12-month period is engaged in such a business.

You do not need a vehicle dealer's license if the vehicles you acquire at auctions are sold to licensed vehicle dealers.

Section 324.80102a of the Natural Resources Environmental Protection Act, as amended, defines a dealer as a person “who annually purchases from a manufacturer, or who is engaged in selling or manufacturing, 6 or more vessels that require certificates of number.” Unlike with vehicle dealers, watercraft dealers are not licensed by the Department.
 

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What happens if I sell abandoned vehicle or vessel parts and do not get a dealer's license?

Please note: Vehicle includes motor vehicles, ORVs, and snowmobiles. Vessel includes watercraft.

Towing agencies or custodians are exempt from obtaining a vehicle dealer's license if the vehicles they acquire at auctions are sold to licensed vehicle dealers.

It is possible; however, that you may be engaging in business practices for which a vehicle dealer license may be required or which may bring you within the penalty provisions of Section 257.248j.

Section 257.248j of the Michigan Vehicle Code provides that a person who has acted as a vehicle dealer without a dealer license may face a penalty of not more than $5,000 for a first violation and not more than $7,500 for each subsequent violation within seven years of a previous violation. You may wish to discuss the specific facts of your case with your attorney because of the substantial penalty.

Section 324.80102a of the Natural Resources Environmental Protection Act, as amended, defines a dealer as a person “who annually purchases from a manufacturer, or who is engaged in selling or manufacturing, 6 or more vessels that require certificates of number.” Unlike with vehicle dealers, watercraft dealers are not licensed by the Department.

 

 

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What are the requirements to hold a public auction?

Please note: Vehicle includes motor vehicles, ORVs, and snowmobiles. Vessel includes watercraft.

You should discuss the matter with the police agency that authorized the removal of the vehicle or vessel, as they may have additional requirements. Michigan Compiled Law 257.252g or 80130k, 81151, and 82161 2014 PA 549 outlines the minimal requirements for conducting a public auction. You may also seek advice from an attorney.


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How do I report the disposition of a vehicle or vessel in my custody?

Please note: Vehicle includes motor vehicles, ORVs, and snowmobiles. Vessel includes watercraft.

You must report the disposition of the vehicle or vessel in a timely manner to the law enforcement agency that authorized the vehicle or vessel's removal. If you have an agreement with the law enforcement agency, you must comply with that agreement. You must also report the disposition on Michigan’s Abandoned Vehicle Website. To become an EFT custodian please click on Setting up an Electronic Funds Transfer Account.

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How do I report an abandoned vehicle or vessel's disposition if I don't have a computer with Internet access?

Please note: Vehicle includes motor vehicles, ORVs, and snowmobiles. Vessel includes watercraft.

Custodian vehicle or vessel dispositions may be entered from any computer with Internet access and an adequate Web browser, including the public computers with free Internet access found in public libraries. You must have an EFT account to be able to enter dispositions on Michigan Auto Lost and Found Website for vehicles or vessels that are redeemed by the owner or sold at auction. To become an EFT custodian please click on Setting up an Electronic Funds Transfer Account.

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Can I ask the Secretary of State to put in the abandoned vehicle or vessel's disposition?

Please note: Vehicle includes motor vehicles, ORVs, and snowmobiles. Vessel includes watercraft.

No. Secretary of State staff are not authorized to enter abandoned vehicle or vessel dispositions for you, as this will cause a debit to your EFT account.


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When do I collect the $40 abandoned fee?

Please note: Vehicle includes motor vehicles, ORVs, and snowmobiles. Vessel includes watercraft.

The $40 abandoned fee is collected when you sell the vehicle or vessel, or if the owner redeems it. Twenty-five dollars of the fee is forwarded to the Michigan Department of State. Some municipalities may also require you to collect additional fees. If you have questions, please contact the Abandoned Vehicle Help Desk at 517-636-5234.

Please note that you do not need to remit the $25 fee if the purchase price of an abandoned vehicle or vessel sold at public auction does not cover all applicable fees (e.g. towing and storage, police agency or custodian expenses, and the $40 abandoned fee). 

 

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What should I do with the abandoned fee if the VIN is not on the Secretary of State's abandoned vehicle website?

Please note: Vehicle includes motor vehicles, ORVs, and snowmobiles. Vessel includes watercraft.

It is possible that the law enforcement agency has not entered the vehicle as abandoned. Contact the law enforcement agency to inform them of the vehicle’s disposition. Once law enforcement has entered the vehicle as abandoned, you may enter the disposition of the vehicle on Michigan Auto Lost and Found Website. If you have questions, please contact the Abandoned Vehicle Help Desk at 517-636-5234.
 

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What should I do if I sell the abandoned vehicle or vessel at auction for more or less than the towing and storage fees plus the abandoned fee?

Please note: Vehicle includes motor vehicles, ORVs, and snowmobiles. Vessel includes watercraft.

Your minimum bid price should be enough to cover all the fees, including the $40 abandoned fee and any fees that may be required by the municipality. Whenever a vehicle or vessel is redeemed by the owner or sold at auction, $25 must be submitted to the Michigan Department of State and $15 must go to the towing agency.

If the purchase price of an abandoned vehicle or vessel sold at public auction is less than all applicable fees (e.g., towing and storage, police agency or custodian expenses and the $40 abandoned fee), you are not required to remit the $25 abandoned fee.  When reporting the disposition of such an abandoned vehicle or vessel online, please select "transferred to custodian" and not "sold." A disposition of "sold" should only be used when the purchase price of the abandoned vehicle or vessel is more than all applicable fees.

If you sell the vehicle or vessel for more than the towing, storage and other fees, the proceeds must be applied in the following order of priority:

(a) Towing and storage charges.
(b) Expenses incurred by the police agency or the custodian of the vehicle or vessel.
(c) Payment of the $40 abandoned fee ($25 to the Michigan Department of State and $15 to the towing agency.
(d) Send any extra money to the Department of Treasury's Unclaimed Property Division, which will pay the amount of any debt on the vehicle or vessel to any secured party and attempt to send the balance to the owner of record as kept by the Secretary of State.

 

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How do I obtain a TR-52L Bill of Sale if one was not provided to me by law enforcement?

Please note: Vehicle includes motor vehicles, ORVs, and snowmobiles. Vessel includes watercraft.

You may obtain a TR-52LR (Request for TR-52L Abandoned Vehicle/Vessel Bill of Sale) from the Secretary of State if a TR-52L Bill of Sale was not provided by law enforcement after 25 days from the date of notice of abandonment. Please see instructions under Request for TR-52L for Abandoned Vehicle/Vessel Bill of Sale.

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If I have a vehicle or vessel in my possession that was involved in a crash or had been stolen or seized for evidence, when should I report the vehicle or vessel to law enforcement as abandoned?

Please note: Vehicle includes motor vehicles, ORVs, and snowmobiles. Vessel includes watercraft.

Once law enforcement has provided you with authorization to release the vehicle or vessel to the owner, you must wait not less than 20 but not more than 30 days from the release date to report the vehicle or vessel as abandoned if the owner does not redeem it.

 


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If the TR-52L was assigned to me, do I have to transfer ownership into my name?

Please note: Vehicle includes motor vehicles, ORVs, and snowmobiles. Vessel includes watercraft.

Yes, under most circumstances. Unless the vehicle or vessel is a registered abandoned scrap vehicle of vessel, you must transfer ownership of the vehicle or vessel into your name by submitting the TR-52L at a Secretary of State office.  If the vehicle is a registered abandoned scrap vehicle and the vehicle was released to a towing service, used or secondhand vehicle parts dealer, scrap-metal processor, automotive recycler, or foreign salvage vehicle dealer, the new owner may use the bottom portion of the TR-52L to reassign the vehicle as scrap to a scrap metal processor.  If the vessel is a registered abandoned scrap vessel and the vessel was released to a towing service, the new owner may use the bottom portion of the TR-52L to reassign the vessel as scrap to a scrap metal processor or landfill operator.



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