FAQ
Abandoned Vehicles or Vessels - Public
What are some of the significant things I need to know about the abandoned vehicle or vessel law?

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

Michigan law (MCL 257.252a or, 81151, or 2014 PA 549) presumes that the last owner of record as kept by the Secretary of State of a vehicle is responsible for abandoning a vehicle unless the person provides a record of sale or transfer. Michigan law (80130f 2014 PA 549) presumes that the last titled owner, if there is no titled owner the last registered owner of a vessel, is responsible for abandoning a vessel unless the person provides a record of the transfer of the vessel to another person.  A violation for abandoning a vehicle or vessel may result in a civil infraction and subject the owner to a civil fine of $50 plus costs, state assessments, and other statutory penalties. 

The Secretary of State mails the Notice of Abandoned Vehicle/Vessel form (TR-52E) to the owner and any secured party on record, and maintains the Michigan Auto Lost and Found Website which lists all vehicles that are reported as abandoned by Michigan law enforcement agencies.

A process for addressing abandoned snowmobiles, ORVs, and watercraft was signed into law in 2014 (2014 PA 549).
 

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When is a vehicle or vessel considered abandoned?

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

A vehicle or vessel may be considered abandoned when it is:

  • A vehicle or vessel on private property without the consent of the owner. 
  • A vehicle or vessel that has remained on public property for not less than 48 hours.
  • A vehicle that has remained on a state trunk line for not less than 18 hours if a valid registration plate is affixed to the vehicle.
  • A vehicle that has remained on a state trunk line if a valid registration plate is not affixed to the vehicle.
  • A vessel that has remained on a state trunk line and is not on a motor vehicle or trailer and is not under the immediate custody of the owner.
  • A vessel on a motor vehicle or trailer if the motor vehicle or trailer displays a valid registration plate and has been on a state trunk line for no less than 18 hours and is not under the immediate custody of the owner.

Also, a vehicle or vessel removed under the following conditions is considered abandoned if not redeemed by the owner within seven days:

  • If the vehicle or vessel is in such a condition that the operation of it will constitute an immediate hazard to the public.
  • If the vehicle or vessel is parked or idling on the highway so that it creates an immediate public hazard or an obstruction of traffic.
  • If the vehicle or vessel is parked in a posted tow-away zone.
  • Removal of a vehicle or vessel is necessary if it is a threat to public safety because its presence impedes rescue efforts during fire, flood, storm, snow, natural or man-made disaster, or other emergency.
  • If the vehicle or vessel is hampering the use of private property by the owner or person in charge of that property or is parked in a manner that impedes the movement of another vehicle or vessel.
  • If the vehicle or vessel is illegally stopped, idling, or parked in a designated disability parking space.
  • If the vehicle or vessel is located in a clearly identified access aisle or access lane immediately adjacent to a disability parking space.
  • If the vehicle or vessel is interfering with the use of a ramp or a curb-cut by people with disabilities.
  • If the vessel is submerged in, partially submerged in, or floating unanchored or untethered upon a public waterway.

A vehicle or vessel removed under the following conditions is considered abandoned if not redeemed by the owner within 20 days from the date of release by the law enforcement agency:

  • If the vehicle or vessel is believed to be stolen.
  • If the vehicle or vessel is seized to preserve evidence of a crime.
  • If the vehicle or vessel is involved in a crash.

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What is a custodian?

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

A custodian is the person or business or legal entity responsible for the storage of an abandoned vehicle or vessel. Usually, this is the towing agency.

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How can I have an abandoned vehicle or vessel removed from my property?

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

Private real property owners may contact a local towing company or law enforcement. Towing services are required by law to contact law enforcement before a vehicle or vessel is removed from private real property. Law enforcement is responsible for determining whether the vehicle or vessel is stolen.

There are specific requirements for apartment complexes and owners and lessors of private real property. Under section 257.252k or 80130o, 81151, or 82161 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 and vehicles or vessels removed under MCL 257.252d or 80130h, 81151, or 82161 2014 PA 549.

Posted notice is not required if the vehicle or vessel owner has been given personal notice that the vehicle or vessel is parked in an unauthorized area and is subject to removal. The law does not specify whether verbal or written personal notice must be given but a notice may be written into a lease or rental agreement. However, it is recommended that private real property owners provide written personal notices and retain a copy for their files.

A custodian is the person or business or legal entity responsible for the storage of an abandoned vehicle or vessel. Usually, this is the towing agency.

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Can I claim ownership of an abandoned vehicle or vessel left on my property?

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

An individual or a business is not allowed to claim ownership of a vehicle or vessel abandoned on their property. The vehicle or vessel must be removed and processed according to the state's abandoned law. You may have the opportunity to bid on the vehicle or vessel if it is offered at public auction.

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Are the police required to tag a vehicle or vessel before it is removed?

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

Law enforcement does not require the police to tag a vehicle or vessel before having it removed. Tagging is now optional. Some law enforcement agencies may continue this practice.

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Can I be ticketed for abandoning a vehicle or vessel?

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

Yes. Under Michigan law (MCL 257.252a or 80130f, 81151, or 82161 2014 PA 549), a person shall not abandon a vehicle or vessel in this state. It is presumed the owner of record as kept by the Secretary of State is responsible for abandoning the vehicle or vessel unless the person provides a record of sale. If the owner of an abandoned vehicle or vessel fails to redeem it before the public auction or other disposition of the vehicle or vessel under MCL 257.252g or 80130k, 8115182161 2014 PA 549 he or she is responsible for a civil infraction and may be subject to a civil fine plus costs, state assessments, and other statutory penalties.

A person who abandons a motor vehicle or vessel may also be found responsible for littering under the Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Act [MCL 324.8905a(4)]. This is a state civil infraction subject to a civil fine from $500 to $2,500 plus costs, state assessments, and other statutory penalties. The penalty for abandoning a second vehicle or vessel is a civil fine from $1,000 to $5,000 plus costs, state assessments, and other statutory penalties.
 

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What can I do if I receive a ticket for littering of a vehicle or vessel?

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

Your ticket should contain information about what to do. You may wish to contact an attorney for legal advice.

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Why did I receive a notice of abandonment after my vehicle or vessel was in a crash?

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

A vehicle or vessel can be considered abandoned if it is involved in a crash and not redeemed by the owner within 20 days after it was released by law enforcement.

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What can I do if I believe that my vehicle or vessel was wrongfully declared abandoned or that I am being overcharged for the towing and storage fees?

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

You may file a petition with the court having jurisdiction over the location from which the vehicle or vessel was removed. You must do this by mail or in person at that court within 20 days from the date of the notice sent by the Secretary of State. That notice includes a petition requesting a hearing with the court. Note that courts charge a filing fee equal to $40 plus the accrued towing and storage fees, which must be paid when filing the petition.

Before the hearing, you may obtain release of your vehicle or vessel by posting a bond with the court equal to $40 plus the accrued towing and storage fees. If you do not obtain release of the vehicle or vessel, storage charges may continue to accrue.

If you do not request a hearing, you may redeem your vehicle or vessel by paying the towing, storage and abandoned fees to the vehicle or vessel's custodian.

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How can I claim or redeem my vehicle or vessel once it is declared abandoned?

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

You have 20 days from the date of the notice sent by the Secretary of State to redeem your vehicle or vessel by paying the towing, storage, and abandoned fees to the custodian. Some municipalities may also require you to pay additional fines or fees.

Your Notice of Abandoned Vehicle/Vessel form (TR-52E) tells you where your vehicle or vessel is located. You may also check the Michigan Auto Lost and Found Website and enter your vehicle’s VIN, or plate number. Please contact the Abandoned Vehicle Help Desk at 517-636-5234 concerning an abandoned vessel or snowmobile. You will need the HIN or serial number for the vessel or snowmobile. You may be required to show proof of ownership before redeeming the vehicle or vessel.

If you do not redeem the vehicle or vessel, or request a hearing within 20 days, the secured party may obtain release of the vehicle or vessel by paying the towing, storage, and abandoned fees.

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What is a VIN, HIN, or serial number and where can I find it if I do not have the vehicle or vessel?

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

The VIN (Vehicle Identification Number) is a unique number assigned to a motor vehicle or ORV. On 1981 and newer cars and light trucks, it is 17-characters. The HIN (Hull Identification Number) is a unique number assigned to a vessel. A serial number is a unique number assigned to a snowmobile. The VIN, HIN, or serial number can be found on the vehicle or vessel's title, registration, or certificate of insurance. They may also be on other documents such as your purchase records, warranty information, or the window sticker. Your insurance company may also have a record of the VIN, HIN, or serial number.

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What happens if I do not redeem my vehicle or vessel?

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

If you do not redeem your vehicle or vessel, or request a hearing within 20 days of the notice sent by the Secretary of State, and the secured party does not redeem the vehicle or vessel, the law enforcement agency or its authorized agent may sell it at public auction and you will lose all rights to it. You may also be subject to other fines and penalties.

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What if I am unable to redeem my vehicle or vessel within 20 days due to illness, incarceration, or other issues?

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

Your vehicle or vessel may be sold at public auction and you will lose all rights to it. You may also be subject to fines and penalties. You may contact the custodian to see if you can designate someone in writing to act on your behalf to redeem your vehicle or vessel. You may also wish to consult your attorney.

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Why am I receiving an abandoned vehicle or vessel notice for a vehicle or vessel I have sold, traded in to a dealership, or donated to charity? And, what should I do?

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

The Secretary of State will send notice of abandonment to the last owner of record as kept by the Secretary of State. The owner of record changes when a purchaser applies to transfer the ownership into his or her name. The law creates a presumption that the last owner of record as kept by the Secretary of State is responsible for abandoning it. The owner of record may be liable for all fees and penalties associated with the abandoned vehicle or vessel unless the person provides an acceptable record of sale. 

If you traded in the vehicle to a dealer, the title application for your new vehicle should show that your previous vehicle was traded in. If you donated your vehicle or vessel to a charity, the charity should provide a receipt with a description of the vehicle or vessel including the year, make, VIN, HIN, serial number, and date of donation. Either one may be considered an acceptable record of sale.

You cannot redeem a vehicle or vessel that you previously sold. If you are ticketed, fined, or involved in a civil or criminal proceeding, you should present your record of sale to the court. Otherwise, no action on your part is required.


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If my vehicle or vessel is titled or registered in another state or country and abandoned in Michigan, will I receive a notice of abandonment from the Secretary of State?

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

No. Abandoned vehicle or vessel notices are only sent for vehicle or vessel owners of record as kept by the Secretary of State of Michigan. You may be able to locate your towed vehicle by checking the Michigan Auto Lost and Found Website and entering your VIN or plate number. Please contact the Abandoned Vehicle Help Desk at 517-636-5234 concerning an abandoned vessel or snowmobile. You will need the HIN or serial number. Note that if you do not redeem your vehicle or vessel, you may still lose your rights to the vehicle or vessel and be subject to fines and penalties.

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