This page provides information on local government regulation of junk vehicles in Washington State, including statutory authority and examples of local ordinances.
It is part of MRSC's series on Nuisances: Regulation and Abatement.
The presence of an excessive number of junk vehicles can threaten the character and safety of neighborhoods. They may cause deterioration of neighborhoods partly due to visual blight, which affects property values. Junked vehicles can create attractive nuisances for children, and provide harborages for rodents, insects, and other pests. Most municipalities have approached this problem through the adoption of junk vehicle nuisance ordinances, which prohibit the storage of junk vehicles in open areas of private property.
Statutes and Regulations
- Chapter 46.55 RCW – Towing and Impoundment
- Chapter 308-61 WAC – Unauthorized and Abandoned Vehicles
Authority to Abate and Remove Vehicles
RCW 46.55.240 grants specific authority for cities, towns, and counties to adopt an ordinance establishing procedures for the abatement and removal, as public nuisances, of junk vehicles or vehicle parts from private property. Such ordinances must, however, contain the applicable provisions of chapter 46.55 RCW, including certain notice and hearing requirements.
"Junk vehicle" is defined in RCW 46.55.010(5) as meeting at least three of the following four requirements:
- (a) Is three years old or older;
- (b) Is extensively damaged, such damage including but not limited to any of the following: A broken window or windshield or missing wheels, tires, motor, or transmission;
- (c) Is apparently inoperable;
- (d) Has an approximate fair market value equal only to the approximate value of the scrap in it.
After notice has been given and a hearing, if requested, has been held, the municipality may remove and dispose of a junk vehicle. Costs of the removal may be assessed against the last registered owner of the vehicle, or the costs may be assessed against the owner of the property on which the vehicle is being stored.
The state law, RCW 46.55.240(3)(c), does contain an exemption for vehicles that are "completely enclosed within a building in a lawful manner where it is not visible from the street or other public or private property" or vehicles that are "stored or parked in a lawful manner on private property in connection with the business of a licensed dismantler or licensed vehicle dealer."
Examples of Local Ordinances
The definition of “junk vehicle” and the process for abating junk vehicles is provided in the state statutes. The city and county ordinances linked below contain different purpose statements in their preambles, and contain different administrative procedures and vehicle storage requirements. The comments and excerpts following the various documents focus on some of the distinctive provisions.
- Algona Municipal Code Ch. 10.48 – Junk Vehicles
- Mount Vernon Kulshan Creek Parking Ordinance – Brief description of a program to remove a decade-long problem of unsightly abandoned and junk vehicles in the Kulshan Creek neighborhood. Its success has been used in other Mount Vernon neighborhoods. See Mount Vernon Municipal Code chapter 10.10 - Abatement of Junk Vehicles and chapter 10.20 - Parking Zones
- Mukilteo Municipal Code Ch. 9.47 – Defines junk and nuisance vehicles and provides regulations for their parking and storage.
- Tacoma Municipal Code Ch. 8.23 – Public Nuisance Vehicles; provides detailed procedures for enforcement
- Union Gap Municipal Code Ch. 9.28 – Provides detailed provisions; adopts state statutes by reference, provides sample form for preimpoundment hearing.
- Wilbur Municipal Code Ch. 8.16 – Provides for a hearing examiner to conduct hearings. Decision is final unless appealed to district court.
- Clark County Code Sec. 9.24.010(2)(d) – Declares certain unattached vehicle/boat parts or abandoned or inoperable vehicles/boats to be nuisances
- Cowlitz County Code Ch. 10.27 – Junk vehicle nuisance ordinance
- Junk or Hulk Vehicle Permit – Sheriff's Office issues hulk permits to property owners who have junk vehicles on their property that they would like removed
- Pierce County Code Ch. 8.08 – Declares certain abandoned or derelict vessels, junk vehicles, or vehicle/vessel parts to be nuisances
- Whatcom County Code Ch. 8.32 – Declares abandoned, wrecked, dismantled or inoperative vehicles or automobile hulks or parts thereof on private property to be a public nuisance; provides provisions for historic automobiles, special interest vehicles, and for-parts cars stored by a collector.
Informational Webpages and Brochures
- King County Junk Vehicles on Your Property – Webpage provides information on what to do with junk vehicles and contact information
- Seattle Junk (Inoperable) Car & Vehicle Rules – Webpage summarizes what vehicles are considered junk storage, as well as applicable fines
- Thurston County Junk Vehicles – Public information webpage defining junk vehicles and how to deal with them; includes links to investigation request forms and information about how to remove junk vehicles on one's property