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Abandoned Cars and Caravans – What options do landowners have for removal?

Published: 14 September 2023
Time to read: 4 mins

Abandoned touring caravan on a farm track, Boundary, Staffordshire, England, UK.
Photo: © Ed Maynard
07976 239803

Perhaps due to a change in travel habits post pandemic accompanied with the ongoing cost of living crisis affecting families in the UK, there is no disputing that Brits are flocking to the Scottish Countryside to enjoy all that it offers.  Wild camping, motorhoming, caravanning and outdoor pursuits such as paddle boarding are continuing to be popular staycation choices this year making the most of what Scotland has to offer on our doorstep.

Unfortunately this increase in local travel can bring with it extreme forms of fly tipping with Landowners often faced with abandoned cars and caravans left on their beautiful estates, and the temptation to remove unsightly vehicles at the first opportunity can be difficult to resist.

If a vehicle is abandoned on public land, including roads and verges, this should be reported to the Local Authority who have a duty to remove the vehicle. Unfortunately, it is not as straightforward for private land.

On noticing a vehicle on private land, the Landowner needs firstly to make a decision on whether it has indeed been abandoned. There may be some obvious signs that it has been abandoned e.g. flat tyres or missing wheels, smashed windows or signs that it has been there for sometime, such as litter or leaves under the vehicle.

We recommend that in the first instance Landowners do not touch the vehicle and instead report the matter to Police Scotland, particularly if there are signs that it has been stolen or vandalised (wires hanging inside car or internal or external parts removed or missing numberplates).

Sections 67 to 79 of The Civic Government (Scotland) Act 1982 provide that where property has been lost or abandoned “the finder” must take reasonable care of it and contact the Police.  Once the Police have been notified the Chief Constable should make the necessary arrangements for the care and custody of the property and after 2 months, the Police can, or give direction on, the disposal of the property.

Depending on if direction is given by the Police, the next port of call would be the relevant Local Authority for the area.  While there is no obligation for the Local Authority to assist, they may be persuaded, especially if the vehicle is not registered or does not have tax.  In addition, if the vehicle is in a position where the public take access or may be causing some sort of environmental nuisance (e.g. leaking oil/petrol) this may encourage the Local Authority to act. Different Local Authorities may take varying approaches to a matter of this kind due to resources available.

If the Police and/or the Local Authority do not take any steps to remove the vehicle, the landowner should make reasonable enquires to ascertain who owns the property, if not already known.  If the vehicle has a licence plate, then ownership information should be sought from the DVLA and local residents may also be able to assist with providing insights if it is a vehicle they recognise.  Additionally, a note can also be placed on the vehicle asking the owner to get in touch if other avenues have been unsuccessful.

At this point we would advise all Landowners to seek legal advice to support with next steps. If the owner is identified, or comes forward, they would be requested to remove the vehicle. If the owner is not known, or refuses to remove the vehicle, an action for interdict can be raised in the Sheriff Court seeking an interim order for removal.  Once granted the vehicle can be removed by Sheriff Officers to the nearest public land where it will become the responsibility of the Local Authority.

If there is suspicion that a vehicle is being occupied as a dwelling, a Landowner would be required to obtain an order from the Court to remove the occupant as well as the vehicle.  It is unlikely either the Police or the Local Authority would become involved in these circumstances.

If you have any concerns of fly tipping on your land, please get in touch with a member of our Land & Rural Business team to discuss your options for removal.

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