What To Do When a Tenant Vacates and Abandons a Vehicle On Your Property

* This information is not to be used as legal advice as each circumstance is different, before taking any action in reliance on this information you should seek express legal advice from an attorney for your specific circumstances.


The owner can contact the police and request that the abandoned vehicle be removed from the property pursuant to MCL 257.252d(g) as the vehicle is hampering with the use of private property. The removal would be at the expense of the last-titled owner. The property owner cannot claim ownership of the vehicle even though it is abandoned.

Detroit Specific: Call the local precinct and ask to speak to the Neighborhood Police Officer. Explain that the vehicle is abandoned and creates a hazard and needs to be removed. An officer will investigate to confirm that it is abandoned and will have it towed as the precinct’s schedule allows. This process can be completed online at https://detroitmi.gov/how-do-i/report-problem/abandoned-vehicle, but calling the precinct directly will generally yield quicker results.

Although the owner could call a local towing company and have the vehicle removed at the owner’s own initial expense (which could be charged to the tenant’s account and potentially covered by the security deposit, or be included in a claim for damages following the vacating of the premises), this option carries risk as Michigan Law is silent on the disposition of personal property following a terminated tenancy. It is a best practice to avoid disposing of anything with value as the Michigan Anti-Lockout Statute (MCL 600.2918) imposes fines for the removal of personal property to the extent that the tenant’s “possessory interest is unlawfully interfered with.” Michigan Case Law has not developed in this area, which leads to landlords preferring to err on the side of caution. Generally speaking, it is best for the lease to specifically address abandoned property and for the owner to provide notice to the prior tenant stating that the property is being considered abandoned and provide a certain amount of time for the prior tenant to retrieve it. These procedures would mitigate the risk associated with a potential illegal lockout claim. Even then, mitigation of risk is not the elimination of it and the only way to eliminate risk in this regard is to use the court’s processes.

If the police are unable to assist, a writ of eviction will be necessary. To do so is time consuming as a judgment of possession must first be obtained and then a writ must issue. A court officer would then be in charge of disposing of the vehicle and will then assess the cost against the property owner, which also could be later recovered through a suit against the prior tenant. This is, however, the option with the least amount of risk. Not only does it safeguard against an illegal-lockout suit over the vehicle itself, but also every other possessory interest that the tenant could claim if they vacated the property mid-term.

The last option would be to sue the prior tenant for trespass if it can be proven that they in fact left it there (title ownership would likely be enough proof). This would be the costliest and slowest option, but would likely allow for complete recovery of the cost of removal by obtaining a civil judgment including injunctive relief allowing the vehicle to be removed and monetary relief for all damages. This option would, however, carry the greatest amount of attorney’s fees, which aren’t guaranteed to be awarded even if the case is won.

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