With many businesses starting to get back to normal a number of members find themselves in a position where they have lost contact with vehicle owners. There are many reasons a vehicle may be abandoned on your premises. When this occurs that are generally speaking, 3 options :-
- Taking the owner to court
- Selling the vehicle to settle the debt
- Reporting the vehicle to the local council as abandoned
Taking the owner to court
If you are owed money for a repair or diagnosis but the owner doesn’t agree then you will have to take the matter to a Judge in order to get a definitive answer. The first step is to write to the owner of the vehicle setting out your case asking for payment or asking him to set out his position in writing as to why he is refusing to pay or collect his vehicle. If there is no agreement after this, and there is a significant amount due, a court is capable of deciding who is right and how much is owed. Once this is decided then the court will be able to seize the vehicle and sell it to settle any debts. However, you have to be warned that a court Order only states that money is due, not that the owner has the money to pay. As you will incur court fees on top of any Judgment, this should be considered.
Selling the vehicle to settle the debt
First off, you cannot just sell someone’s property because it is on your premises or because you are owed money. DO NOT apply to the DVLA to become the registered keeper. You are not the legal owner and will become liable for any TAX.
If you have carried out work that increases the value of the vehicle and the owner is in agreement that the money is owed but cannot, or will not come to pay for it, then you have the ability to require the owner to collect the vehicle and pay within 14 days, and if this doesn’t happen you can then sell the vehicle to settle the debt provided you give him 3 months’ notice. There are a number of requirements to get this right so we would strongly advise you discuss this with us so that we can take you through the steps required.
Reporting the vehicle to the local council as abandoned
All Councils have the power to seize and destroy abandoned vehicles. Different Councils have different approaches and we are starting to see more reluctance from councils. Some will only remove from the public highway and some will only remove from private land for a fee. As such, if this is an option you want to pursue you should contact your local Council and discuss their requirements before going any further. When reported, the Council will be able to remove and, where there is no response from the owner, destroy the vehicle. This option is therefore generally best if the vehicle has been on your premises for some time or if you are not owed any money or you are willing to forego any debt
Either way you will need to write to the owner in order to try and resolve the matter amicably. Any letter should clearly establish what it is you want them to do and why it is you believe they are liable. You should include a copy of any invoice as well as a deadline by which to respond. This should be at least 14 days but can be more.
Where you do not have the customer’s address, then you should contact the DVLA. You can establish a reasonable cause for requesting this information, but if you have a contract that requires enforcement, or a vehicle abandoned on your premises, this should be sufficient. You can contact the DVLA for further information. However, at the time of writing, you will need to use the DVLA’s form V888/2A or B.
Don’t forget to carefully document all conversations and to evidence all telephone calls, emails and letters for future reference. Also, this advice is general in nature and will need to be tailored to any one particular situation. As an RMI member you have access to the RMI Legal advice line, as well as a number of industry experts for your assistance. Should you find yourself in the situation above, contact us at any stage for advice and assistance as appropriate.
Motor Industry Legal Services
Motor Industry Legal Services (MILS Solicitors) provides fully comprehensive legal advice and representation to UK motor retailers for one annual fee. It is the only law firm in the UK which specialises in motor law and motor trade law. MILS currently advises over 1,000 individual businesses within the sector as well as the Retail Motor Industry Federation (RMI) and its members.