Getting Rid of a Driveway Sculpture (aka dead car)

Hi all,

I am in a predicament. I have a rental property in upstate NY, where one of the tenants has had a 1993 Jeep Cherokee parked in the back yard since I bought the place (2 years ago). The car has not moved in 18 months because “it needs a catalytic converter and I’m saving up…”. It now also needs four new tires and probably a new battery. This tenant struggles to pay the rent every month so there’s no way she’ll be able to get the heap up and running again. Someone offered her $125 for it but she thought that was insulting. I want it out of there – can I tell her to take the $125 and get it out of there or I will have it towed to a junkyard and she’ll be responsible for the cost? Would that be considered stealing?


As long as she is paying the rent, and the vehicle is lawfully stored, you have no case. It was there when you bought the property and accepted the tenant.

How does your lease read? Does it give you the right to do this? We sure don’t know.

Are there any local ordinances against vehicles of this sort sitting around? Is the vehicle currently registered? You’re going to have to do some research with the NY motor vehicle authority and your local municipality.

Thanks – when I bought the place, I assumed the car was in working order. It isn’t and hasn’t been for 18 months, and herlease says nothing about her having the right to store any vehicles, much less inoperable, unregistered vehicles on the property. I didn’t buy a junk yard, I bought a residential property.

As for paying the rent, it’s usually 2 weeks late, at least.

In my area, this issue depends on whether there are legal and paid up license plates on the car, and what the city ordnance says about such cars. No plates, no current registration and you have the right as property owner to demand removal.

If it is not property registered and plated, the police may come ticket it, too, and through their procedures can demand removal or proper registration of it.

Appreciate all the responses – there is a local village ordinance that allows up to one unregistered vehicle to be stored on registered property (including boats, cars, trailers etc) as long as it’s obscured from street view (this is partially obscured). The vehicle is not registered because she can’t get it past inspection. She can’t get it out of the driveway. As for the lease, the lease she originally signed (and that I will be changing now that it’s month to month) was an Alaska state lease where the previous owner had crossed out Alaska and written in “NY” – no mention of any property stored on premises.

And might not the OP as the landlord get mixed up if the police become involved? The landlord may actually have a responsibility to keep the place cleaned up, I don’t know.

What type of property? Single family house? Duplex? Do YOU also live there?

It’s a 4-unit house; 3 units occupied – 1 currently under renovation. I plan to live there once that unit is renovated (not til next year, given the state of my budget).

If you lived in West Virginia, this would be considered the norm, and the yard would likely display every vehicle that the occupant had ever owned. Maybe you should be glad that this is just one vehicle!


On a more serious note, I would suggest that you telephone or visit your Town Hall and ask to speak with the person in charge of Code Enforcement. If there is a municipal code prohibiting this type of thing, that person would be the expert and could tell you how to proceed.

I don’t think you can just have the car towed out of the yard on your own. Certainly it will start a war and give her an excuse to not pay your rent. I’d suggest you start eviction proceedings on the basis that the car is a nuisance and a hazard to your other tenants.

That should get her attention and then negotiate that she can stay in her unit if the car disappears and she keeps current with her rent.

I’m definitely hesitant to involve the police since it’s a small town - I don’t really want this to become too hostile if I can avoid it. I just want the car gone. There are other aesthetic reasons to think about getting the tenant out of the apartment altogether (stuff strewn around the front yard, sleeping on the front porch which is more like a portico than a porch, etc). But I’d like to win this battle first.

Saabster–ALL of the problems that you listed might be covered by some sort of municipal code.

Just as an example, in some of the Southern states, various municipalities have banned “upholstered furniture” from being used on front porches. This is because it was becoming the norm in some areas to place worn-out, stained, derelict-looking sofas on porches and–of course–leaving them on the porch until the next millenium.

Unless you check into the local ordinances with the Code Enforcement person (who is normally NOT a member of the police dept.) you will not know what is a violation of local ordinances. You just might luck-out on this one if you follow my advice.

Path of least resistance is to provide her with a lease that specifically states that no unregistered or inoperable vehicles can be on the property. It is her option to sign or not. This is particularly true since she is on a month to month status right now. Signing the lease or moving out solves the problem. Enforcement of the lease later is much easier, since there is a written current lease in effect if she signs.

In the absence of a specific lease statement, the village ordinance generally applies. Your lease prohibition would supersede the village ordinance.

As others suggested, this is a code issue. Where I used to live (San Fernando valley in southern California), you could file an anonymous complaint in order to compel someone to comply.

I know, because it happened to me. (Typically, the complaint would be filed be a real estate agent trying to move a nearby property).

Why do you write to a car repair forum for legal advice? I have it,because it worked!

:slight_smile: I don’t think I was looking for legal advice, but moral advice…as well as whether or not a 93 jeep cherokee with the aforementioned problems is worth anything at all! But it morphed into legal advice, and I’m grateful to everyone’s suggestions. They’ve all been helpful.

Thanks, everyone!

Saabster, What’s Her Bottom Line?

What’s this non-running Jeep worth to the tenant? Although you shoudn’t have to, maybe it would make more sense for you to become interested in the Jeep and purchase it. This could help her pay the rent and you would be rid of it. You could sell it or scrap it.

Landlords sometimes incur losses that they must cover in maintaining property and you may have to chalk this up as a loss. You could politey lay down rules for the future to prevent this from happening again.

Perhaps the two of you could reach a “deal” that would benefit both of you and keep your landlord - tenant relationship intact.


If you aren’t selling the property, the dead car doesn’t devalue your property. It might devalue the neighbor’s property, though. See if you can incite a riot among the neighbors. They’ll get rid of it.