Before we delve into the rights of car owners, it's important to understand why cars are impounded in the first place. In the UK, law enforcement agencies can impound a vehicle for a variety of reasons, including driving without insurance, parking violations, suspicion of involvement in a crime, or a breach of a Statutory Off Road Notification (SORN). If your vehicle has been impounded, it's vital to establish the reason as it can have a bearing on your rights and the process to reclaim your vehicle.
The first right that car owners should be aware of is the right to information. When a car is impounded, the owner has the right to be informed about where the vehicle is stored, the reason for the impoundment, and the steps to reclaim the vehicle. This information is usually provided in writing and handed to the driver at the time of seizure or sent to the registered keeper if not immediately available.
Car owners have the right to reclaim their impounded vehicle. However, this usually involves several steps, including showing proof of valid insurance (often specific impounded car insurance), payment of any fines or penalties, and payment of seizure and storage fees. In some cases, such as when a vehicle has been impounded due to lack of insurance, you may be required to obtain specific impounded car insurance to cover the vehicle.
In cases where a vehicle has been impounded due to unpaid fines, the owner has the right to enter into a Controlled Goods Agreement. This is essentially a repayment plan that allows the car owner to pay back the debt over time and stop the sale of the vehicle. If you can prove that you can repay the debt in a reasonable time, this can be a way to retrieve your vehicle without having to pay all the costs upfront.
Car owners have the right to challenge the legality of the impoundment in court. If you believe that your car was impounded unlawfully, you can make a statutory declaration stating the grounds for your claim. This must be done within a specific timeframe, usually 14 days from the seizure. However, this route can be costly and time-consuming, and should be considered carefully.
Whilst your car is impounded, you still have a right to privacy. This means that unless they suspect the car is involved in a crime, law enforcement or impound lot personnel cannot search your car without your consent or a legal warrant.
If your car has been impounded and you don't wish to reclaim it or can't afford to, you have the right to sell it or authorise it to be scrapped. However, any proceeds from the sale may be used to cover outstanding fines, penalties, and impound fees, and you will be liable for any remaining debt.
Finally, should you decide not to reclaim your impounded vehicle, you have the right to sell it or authorise it to be scrapped. Nevertheless, remember that any proceeds will first be used to cover outstanding fees and debts.