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Key Takeaways

  • Many states have procedures for dealing with abandoned vehicles.
  • You must contact the previous owner to allow them time to correct the situation.
  • Be sure not to enter the camper, as this could result in a trespassing charge.

An empty camper on your property can be more than an eyesore. It can be a source of legal trouble. How do you get rid of an abandoned camper on your property?

To get rid of an abandoned camper, you need to assume the role of a landlord. Consult your state DMV or even local law enforcement. Then notify the property owner in writing, asking them to reclaim the property in a specific time period. If they do not answer, you can have the camper towed away.

Many rural landowners are excited to build a home on some acreage where they can have room to breathe. The country air, the new house, and some land to call your own make it seem almost like paradise, except for a tiny hiccup. The previous landowners left something behind. And while it might not seem like much, an abandoned camper is the last thing you want on your property. Not only is it a blemish on your vision of what you want your homestead to look like, but it's also a catch-all for all kinds of feral cats, snakes, field mice, and other nasty pests. The last thing you want is to have your family get bitten by a venomous snake calling the camper home. You know you have to get rid of it, but you aren’t sure how to legally do it.



What’s the Best Way to Get Rid of an Abandoned Camper on Your Property?

There are various steps you must go through to legally protect yourself when trying to get rid of an unwanted nuisance. Let’s review some of them below.

Do Not Enter The Camper

Since the camper does not belong to you, breaking into and entering a suspected abandoned camper could be considered trespassing (even if you are the property owner). Take pictures of the camper, show them to your local law enforcement and have them enter it (if they can legally) to ensure there are no dead bodies inside. They can run the plates, ensure that the camper isn’t stolen, and, most likely, verify the previous owner.

Find Out Who Owns the Camper

The first thing that you need to do is to find out who owns the camper. If the camper's owner was the previous landowner, then your realtor, the tax assessor's office, the county recorder, or the city hall should be able to provide the information. If you prefer, there are many online websites that can aid in the search for the previous owner for the past 15 years or so.

In addition, most counties or cities have code enforcement laws that often prevent abandoned cars, mobile homes, or campers from rusting on property. A visit to the local code enforcement officer could provide information and help ensure you do everything required. Most states require you to notify the previous owner and provide a removal period before disposing of the property.

Send a Certified Letter to the Owner

Many states, like Arizona or Oklahoma, require the landlord or a tow company to petition the state’s Department of Motor Vehicles to send the letter to the owner of record, lien holders, or any other interested party. Usually, the state gives the camper's owner thirty days to reclaim the property. You should be aware of precisely what procedure your state requires.

If your state does not have this procedure, the burden falls on you as the land owner to contact the camper's owner. You should assume the role of a landlord and send the previous owner a certified notice by mail. The letter should contain a time frame that the previous owner has to remove the property (in most states, the minimum period is thirty days. The letter should also include a rental charge every day after the recovery period has expired.

Inform the previous owner to contact you so you can discuss the situation. Give the previous owner plenty of time to resolve the situation. While you might have big plans for building a barn or something right where the camper is parked, patience is the key.

By the way, it doesn’t hurt to send multiple letters if the first expiration period passes. You can indicate in that letter that the respondent has a short time to contact you, say two weeks, and if no answer is received, you will dispose of the camper.

Call the Tow Company

If you plan to tow the camper off, then any towing company can do the trick. The towing bill will have to be paid initially by you as the property owner, but after the trailer is gone, you can decide if it is worth the hassle of fighting in court to recover the money.

It is usually a good idea to have some third party (probably a county code officer) present when the towing company takes the camper away. (They can attest that you did not go into the camper and that there was no trespassing - they may have to obtain a search warrant to enter the building in some cases).

Let the Tow Company Take Over the Ownership of the Camper

Most tow companies have provisions for contacting previous owners of campers and negotiating storage fees. The easiest solution is to ask the tow company to do the work for you and file for a new title to the camper so that they become the legal owners of the vehicle. Any legal battle then becomes between the tow company and the previous owner of the camper.

What if I Want to Sell the Camper? Is it Legal to Do So?

If you wish to get some money for your trouble, be sure you have satisfied all the legal requirements for contacting the previous owner or having your DMV do so. Then, after the waiting period has expired, you have the right to sell the abandoned property in most states. Be sure to consult with authorities before doing anything rash (like ensuring that the camper isn’t stolen. Hopefully, you have already done that).

You can offer the camper up for sale or auction as long as you have a clear title of ownership. A visit to your local DMV can answer any questions you might have about how to apply for ownership of an abandoned vehicle.

What If I Need to Take the Previous Owner to Court to Recoup My Money?

Only you can decide if pursuing legal action to recoup rental fees is worth it. If you have followed the letter of the law and have filed all the necessary paperwork, then go ahead. However, many people don’t want to bother with the hassle of legal proceedings, and sometimes it is just better to cut your losses. The camper is gone. The eyesore has vanished, and now you can get on with life without hindrance. Take the win. It’s easier.