Original Author: Ashburn, Melissa
Date of Material: 03/17/2006
Removal by City of Abandoned, Junked, or Wrecked Vehicles
Reviewed Date: 05/07/2021
MTAS was asked to review the city junk and abandoned vehicle ordinance and explain the conflict with Tennessee law, the need for a court order before entering private property to remove cars, and the due process issue.
March 17, 2006
Re: Abandoned, junked, or wrecked vehicles ordinance
Dear City Manager
Your Management Consultant advised me of your questions regarding the above ordinance appearing in your City Code, at '13-201 through 213.
The City ordinance provides that the City will remove junked or abandoned vehicles from private property if the owner fails to remove the vehicle after receiving notice of violation. Tennessee Code Annotated '55-5-122(a) states that removal of a vehicle from private property is illegal without the consent of the owner, unless the person removing the vehicle has acquired a security interest in the vehicle, or has a court order. The statute was amended in 2007 to recognize orders issued by municipal courts:
(a) It is unlawful for any person, or the person's agent, to move or cause to be moved, any motor vehicle located on private property, from the property, if the owner of the motor vehicle has acquired any interest in the private property by virtue of a lease or any contract, without the express consent of the owner of the motor vehicle; or upon request by the owner or tenant of the property on which the vehicle is located; or unless the person so moving the motor vehicle has acquired an interest in the vehicle by operation of law, a security interest agreement, or is acting pursuant to an order of a court of competent jurisdiction, including a municipal court.
Tenn. Code Ann. § 55-5-122 (West).
The city should cite persons into court for violations and obtain either owner consent or a court order for removal before going onto private property to remove the vehicle.
I hope this information is helpful. Thank you for consulting with MTAS.
Melissa A. Ashburn
Municipal Legal Consultant