Junk Cars and Neighbor Problems: What You Must Know

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A junk car is a car that is no longer usable or worth fixing. If you have some wrecked vehicles in your yard, your neighbors may try to force you to get rid of them.

Unlike many other items you might store in your yard, a junk car can cause a lot of difficulties with the people around you. Why? Because it is unsightly, dangerous, and emits toxic substances associated with respiratory and heart disease, respectively.

Some people keep junk cars in their yards because it’s easy, although they have all the possible reasons to get rid of them. And while taking them to a scrap yard is a viable solution, not many are willing to part ways with their wrecked vehicles. In some instances, keeping junk cars on your property may be useful. For example, an old car might make a fun restoration project or be a source of spare parts for repairs. However, it will get you in trouble.

No matter why you keep one or more totaled vehicles in your yard, your neighbors and local authorities will have issues with it sooner or later, so here is what you need to know!

The Legal Problems Stemming from Keeping Junk Cars in Your Yard

Local regulations regarding keeping junk cars on someone’s property can vary by city and state. In some regions, there is a requirement for a junk vehicle report. Also, some regulations state that all junk cars must be removed from your yard within a specific period. Understanding your city’s rules on junk cars is critical to avoid unnecessary issues with neighbors, the police, or code enforcement officers.

Let’s see some examples:

  1.   New York State: Storing or keeping junk cars on private property is illegal. The state defines junk cars as vehicles that are inoperable, unregistered or have major damage to the body or frame. Violators can be fined hundreds of dollars per day for each violation.
  2.   Los Angeles, California: In Los Angeles, it is prohibited to keep junk cars on private property, especially in front yards, unless they are stored inside a building or garage. Junk cars that are visible from the street can result in fines. Repeat offenders can face fines of thousands of dollars and even criminal charges.
  3.   Franklin County, Georgia: Vehicles on private property that are unusable, have expired registration, are no longer safe to operate, are being used as salvage parts, have been left in the same location for a long time, are hazardous to the public’s health and safety, etc., must be stored properly in an enclosed structure out of sight or removed from the property.  

The consequences for violating these rules can vary depending on the specific regulation and the severity of the violation. Violators can generally face fines, penalties, and sometimes even criminal charges. In addition to the legal consequences, keeping junk cars on your property can lead to other problems, such as attracting pests, creating fire hazards, and lowering property values in the surrounding area.

Moreover, if you violate these regulations, your neighbors can inform the government officials monitoring your city. They have the power to fine you or to give you a warning. If you do not take action within the set period, you could pay hefty fines or ultimately have your junk car removed.

Let’s take Chicago, for instance. According to the city, “abandoned” vehicles remain stationary or inactive for more than seven days in a row and appear to be deserted, as well as dangerously deteriorated vehicles left in plain view of the public, whether on public or private land. In such situations, the city sends tow trucks to take the junk cars to auto pounds and be sold for scrap.

Most of the time, your neighbors complain to the authorities about your pile of junk – and usually, for the right reasons.

The Impact of Junk Cars on Neighbor Relations

Naturally, keeping a junk car on your property will impact everyone around you. Your neighbors may be upset that they cannot enjoy their yards as much as they otherwise would and could turn against you, depending on how many junk cars you keep on your property.

They might complain to the city or the police, who may fine or force you to get rid of your junk car. They could also report your behavior to your homeowner’s association or other relevant entity.

The consequences of a junk vehicle ordinance are severe. First, it may cause trouble with the local government and neighbors. Why? Because junk cars are considered an attractive nuisance more often than not.

Junk Cars, Attractive Nuisance, and Premises Liability Laws

The legal concept of attractive nuisance refers to a hazardous condition or object on someone’s property that may attract children or other curious individuals who cannot recognize the danger. Property owners are liable for any injuries or damages resulting from the attractive nuisance, even if the injured individuals were trespassing on your property.

A junk car in your yard can be considered an attractive nuisance because it can appeal to children who want to play on or inside it. However, a junk car is also a dangerous hazard that can cause serious injuries to anyone visiting your property: cuts, punctures, and exposure to toxic materials.

You could be liable under attractive nuisance laws if a child gets hurt while playing on or around your junk car. Similarly, if a visitor to the property is injured by the junk car, you could be liable under premises liability laws.

These laws hold property owners responsible for maintaining a safe environment for visitors and guests. If the owner fails to take reasonable steps to eliminate or warn of a junk car’s danger, they may be held liable for any resulting injuries or damages.

To avoid liability under attractive nuisance and premises liability laws, you should take steps to remove any hazardous or dangerous items from your yard, starting with junk cars. This may involve selling or donating the car or disposing it properly at a salvage yard or junkyard. Additionally, you should thoroughly secure your premises to prevent trespassing and limit access to dangerous areas.

The Health and Environmental Hazards of Keeping Junk Cars in Your Yard

Keeping a junk car on your premises could expose the neighborhood to increased health and safety risks.

Some fluids and toxins emitted from a junk car may be hazardous to the environment if they leak into the soil or move freely in the air. For example, your junk vehicle could emit the following hazardous pollutants:

  1.   Oil and other fluids: Junk cars often contain residual amounts of oil, coolant, brake fluid, and other liquids that can leak out of the vehicle and contaminate the soil or water sources. These fluids can contain heavy metals, such as lead, zinc, and copper, which can be toxic to plants and animals.
  2.   Many junk cars still contain lead-acid batteries, which can leak acid and heavy metals into the soil and groundwater. Lead is a particularly toxic metal that can cause developmental and neurological problems in children.
  3.   Mercury: Junk cars may also contain mercury switches in the convenience lights and anti-lock brake systems, which can release mercury into the environment if not removed and disposed of properly.
  4.   Ozone-depleting substances: Older junk cars may contain refrigerants, such as chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) and hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs). These substances can contribute to climate change and have been banned under international treaties.
  5.   Particulate matter: If you have a project car you work on, it can release particulates into the air (dust, tire rubber, silica, rust, polyester, etc.), which can cause respiratory problems and other health issues.
  6.   Fumes: If a car catches fire on your property, your neighbors could be exposed to deadly toxins.

Overall, junk cars can emit a wide range of hazardous contaminants that can taint the soil and air if improperly disposed of. Therefore, it is important to ensure that junk cars are recycled or removed properly to prevent these pollutants from causing harm to people, animals, and the environment.

Pests and Other Community Health Issues

If polluting the environment is not reason enough for you to remove that wreck (although it should be), you should know that your neighbors might complain about your impromptu junkyard to the proper authorities for other reasons.

Junk cars can attract pests and become breeding grounds for diseases, resulting in swift interventions by city authorities. Here are some ways how this can happen:

  1.   Rodents: Junk cars can attract rats and mice, which are drawn to the shelter, food, and nesting opportunities provided by the car. These pests can carry diseases such as leptospirosis and hantavirus, which are transmissible to humans.
  2.   Insects: Junk vehicles can also attract mosquitoes and ticks, which can carry diseases like the West Nile virus and Lyme disease. In addition, stagnant water collecting in the car can be a breeding ground for mosquitoes, contributing to the spread of malaria and dengue fever.
  3.   Mold and mildew: Junk cars exposed to moisture can develop mold and mildew, triggering allergies and respiratory problems in humans and pets.
  4.   Odors: Junk cars left to decay in a backyard can emit strong odors, usually unpleasant for neighbors and passersby. These odors can also attract pests such as flies and maggots.

When neighbors complain about junk vehicles attracting pests or causing other health and safety hazards, city authorities might issue you hefty fines or order you to remove the junk car. Sometimes, the city may even take legal action against you to force compliance with health and safety regulations.

How Junk Cars Can Decrease Property Values in the Entire Neighborhood

A junk car can substantially impact the value of the property where it is kept. For this reason, many states have enacted laws discouraging storing junk cars on residential properties. But you may not care about it much because you don’t think about renting or selling your place any time soon.

However, your neighbors might want to, so they have good reasons to force you to remove your junk vehicles. Overall, your pile of junk lowers their property’s curb appeal and the community’s overall real estate value. Here is how:

  • Aesthetics: Junk cars are unsightly and can be a major eyesore. They can detract from the curb appeal of all properties in the area and lower the overall visual appeal of the neighborhood. This can make the neighborhood less desirable to potential homebuyers, renters, or businesses, driving down real estate values.
  • Perception of Safety: Junk cars can also give the impression that the neighborhood is unsafe or poorly maintained. This perception can lead potential buyers and renters to avoid the area. In addition, one may think those junk vehicles make it more appealing for criminals to target your property, leading to theft, vandalism, or physical attacks.
  • Environmental issues: Junk cars that are not properly maintained can leak fluids and cause damage to the soil and other nearby properties. It can lower the property values of neighboring homes and businesses and reduce the overall desirability of the community.

You may not see it as obvious, but your wrecks can harm property owners, businesses, and other stakeholders in the community, and they will all ensure you know about it.

How to Deal with The Junk Car on Your Property

Now that you have seen why your neighbors and the authorities might take an issue with your junk car or cars, let’s look at your options to eliminate it. Who knows, you might even make some cash in the process.

Consider a Recycling Program

If your junk car is up to code, recycling could be easy.

  • Contact a local junkyard directly. They will schedule a pick-up time and may even pay you for the vehicle, especially if it is in a reasonable driving condition.
  • Contact your recycling center and ask about their services. They may be willing to take your junk car free of charge or at a reduced rate.
  • After getting the proper documentation, contact the authorities and have them pick up the car. Alternatively, you can discuss matters with an automobile salvage yard or scrap metal dealer that accepts junk cars and can help you with towing.

Dispose of a Junk Car through Other Means

As you probably imagine, you can get rid of a car that doesn’t run in several ways:

  • Sell it to an auto wrecker. They will take care of the disposal for you and pay you for it, albeit not much.
  • If the vehicle is somewhat repairable and usable, you can donate it to a charity.
  • You can scrap the car yourself and take it from there.  

Sell Your Junk Car to a Professional Junk Car Buyer

A professional junk car buyer will pay you more than a junkyard or auto wrecker for your junk car. They can even tow it away for free. They are also more likely to pay a fair price, depending on your vehicle’s age, mileage, make, model, state, salvage title, etc.


Keeping a junk car in your yard is bad for you, the neighbors, and the environment because of its numerous legal, environmental, and even economic issues. You should get rid of the wreck to avoid these problems. The best way to do it is to sell the vehicle to a professional junk car buyer. They will take it off your hands, give you good money, and contribute to your peace of mind and good relationships with your neighbors and the authorities.

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