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How to claim abandoned boats?

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Laws to claim a derelict or abandoned vessel vary by state and where the boat is found.  The owner of the property where the boat is found as well as any liens are taken into consideration. For example, due to the economic downturn, many boat owners have simply abandoned their vessels at storage or dock facilities.

In these situations, most states have laws allowing the owner of the facilities to attach a lien to the boat for unpaid fees.  Depending on the state and the amount owned, the owner can eventually make a claim for the title and sell the abandoned vehicle. This is similar to abandoned housing storage units where contents are claimed and sold when renters do not pay the bills due.

Coastal states also have laws for derelict vehicles that wash up or are abandoned and end up on private property. If you are the land owner, the state generally provides you with different treatment since the vessel is located on or in water near your private property.

In Florida, for example, a vessel can be claimed 90 days after the report is made to the local sheriff’s department (if found on land) or the Wildlife Fish and Game (if found on the open water). The title to the vessel may be transferred to the finder. (See 705.104(1), Florida Statutes). Some public notification, generally a newspaper ad is required as well as paperwork filed with one of the above offices.

Maryland has a four step process to claim an abandoned vehicle which is outlined at (http://www.dnr.state.md.us/boating/registration/pdfs/B117_abinstuction.pdf)

§8-721 of the Annotated Code of Maryland defines an abandoned vessel as a vessel:

 

Left at the following locations for more than 90 days without the consent of the owner or person in control of the property:

o A private marina or property operated by a private marina

o A private boatyard or property operated by a private boatyard

o A private dock

o At or near water’s edge on private property

Left on private property (other than those properties described above) for more than 180 days without the consent of the owner or person in control of the property

In each case, the specific state where the abandoned vehicle is found should be consulted as laws vary widely. Without a proper title, a derelict vehicle cannot be legally claimed.

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