Abandonment of property to landlord

​​Landlord's eligibility to dispose of abandoned vehicles

If a tenant vacates or is evicted from the premises and leaves behind a titled motor vehicle, you may store the vehicle until it is claimed or dispose of the vehicle in any way you determine appropriate, including by sale, junking, or titling the vehicle in your own name and/or your business name.

Landlord Requirements:

To dispose of the vehicle by sale:

  • You must provide written notice to the tenant of your intent to not store any abandoned property left behind
    • This notice is required when the tenant entered into or renewed their rental agreement

How to proceed:

Step 1 - Verify ownership

You must verify the vehicle's ownership and lien holder's information, as required by law. If the vehicle is titled in Wisconsin, you may use form MV2896 Vehicle/Driver Record Information Request to obtain this information.

  • If the vehicle is no longer on record with the Wisconsin Department of Transportation, you will need to contact the Vehicle Records Section at (608) 264-7447 or vehiclequestions@dot.wi.gov for information on alternative procedures.
  • If the vehicle is titled in another state, you will need to contact that state to obtain ownership/lien holder's information on record.
  • You may also use the vehicle history website to obtain a national vehicle record search of the vehicle's current titled owner and secured parties.

Step 2 - Notify owners and lien holders of intent to dispose of the vehicle

Once you have received ownership and lien holder verification, you must send written notice of your intent to not store the abandoned vehicle to the following:

  • The tenant, personally or by regular or certified mail addressed to the tenant's last-known address.
  • Any secured party of which you have actual notice, personally or by regular or certified mail addressed to the secured party's last-known address.

We suggest you send written notice by certified mail, "Return Receipt Requested" to the owners, and any lien holder of record notifying them:

  • the vehicle will be sold or junked if it is not claimed
  • vehicle description, vehicle identification number (VIN), year, make, model
  • the date, time, and location of a public sale OR the date a private sale will be held.

Step 3 - Noncompliance

If the vehicle is not claimed prior to the date stated in your notice, you may sell, title or otherwise dispose of it in accordance with the notice.

Step 4 – Selling the vehicle

You may sell the vehicle either publicly or privately.

  • An example of a public sale is an auction that has been advertised in a publication or website in which vehicles are normally bought and sold.
  • A private sale would be the sale of the vehicle to a new owner without offering it to the public.

Step 5 - To obtain a Wisconsin Title after the sale

The landlord must furnish to the buyer a completed form MV2882 Abandonment of Property to a Landlord. The buyer must submit this form and an MV1 Wisconsin Title and License Plate Application along with the appropriate fees.

If the vehicle is model year 2011 or newer, the landlord is also required to complete and furnish form MV2488 Vehicle Transfer and Odometer Mileage Statement to the buyer. This form is not available online, however, it may be obtained by contacting the Vehicle Records Section at (608) 264-7447 or vehiclequestions@dot.wi.gov. Photocopies of form MV2488 are not acceptable.

Mail Completed Forms To:

Wisconsin Department of Transportation
Special Plates Unit
P.O. Box 7911
Madison, WI 53707-7911

Things landlords should know:

  • If you dispose of the vehicle by private or public sale, you may send the proceeds of the sale, minus any costs of sale and any storage charges, to the Department of Administration for deposit in the appropriation under s. 20.505 (7) (h). Wis. Stats.
  • Be sure to retain a photocopy of all notices to owners, lien holders, advertisements of the sale and receipts for your records.
  • Anyone, including the landlord, may purchase the vehicle.
  • Landlords may purchase the vehicle for $0.
  • A new certificate of title will be issued in the name of the transferee as owner, as a result of abandonment of property to a landlord.
    • If a lien release is not provided, this new certificate of title shall reflect any perfected security interest(s) appearing on the original owner's certificate of registration.
  • You may not dispose of the property if there is a written agreement between yourself and the tenant stating that the property has not been abandoned and the property may not be sold.

Service Members Civil Relief Acts

  • A person holding a lien on the property or effects of a service member may not, during any period of military service of the service member and for 90 days thereafter, foreclose upon or enforce any lien on such property or effects without a court order granted before foreclosure or enforcement. 50 App. U.S.C.A. s.537.
  • Any person who violates this paragraph shall be fined not more than $10,000 or imprisoned for not more than 9 months or both. s.321.62(14)(e), Wis. Stats.


Call (608) 266-3041 between 8:00 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Email: ​special-plates.dmv@dot.wi.gov