You’ve probably seen those rickety, seemingly abandoned RVs parked on streets around the city and state. Well, turns out, one of them could belong to you.
“It is an unbelievable phenomena that has occurred,” said Peter Lukevich, Director of the Washington State Towing and Recovery Association. “(People have unknowingly) ending up becoming the registered owner.”
Lukevich told KIRO Radio’s Dori Monson that the abandoned and dilapidated RV issues extend statewide and have become a costly thorn in the towing industry. It has also been a headache for people who have had the titles of delinquent RVs transferred without their knowledge.
This is how the unfortunate system works: A tow operator contacts the last registered owner in order to tell him or her the vehicle has been towed and is available for pickup.
“In between when we tow it and when notice is given to the last registered owner, you or I — if we wanted to — could run to our nearest computer … and do an online registration transfer from you, Dori, to Mickey Mouse, at 12345 Main Street,” Lukevich said. “Or it could be to your next-door neighbor who would have no clue that you had done that. Then the tow operator would be contacting that individual because that’s who the Department of Licensing tells our operators (was) the last registered owner’s name.”
Lukevich said a recent case in King County was taken to the Washington Superior Court and that a bill passed during the last legislative session that would tighten up those rules.
“It’s not perfect yet, but it has made it more difficult and is going to require, for example, presentation of a driver’s license or some sort of ID at one of the title agencies that you would go to buy your tabs in your local jurisdiction,” he said.
Dori asked whether it’s possible that some of his listeners are unwitting owners of RVs.
“It is possible,” he said. “The system had some breakdowns and issues that would have permitted that.”
So what are these gifted RV’s actually like? Lukevich described many of the rogue vehicles being hauled away as “hazardous waste sites” that include everything from methamphetamine labs and syringes to human feces.
“We can’t even have our employees statewide going into some of these vehicles and start dismantling them because they are hazardous waste sites, and we can’t risk the injury to our own employees,” he said. “So we’re having to store them in their state as we bring them into our store yards. And we’re not getting paid for the tow, we’re not getting paid for the storage and then, if we do find a means by which to dismantle them, we’re having to pay for that just to try and move them off of our lots.”
With scrap metal prices on the downswing, and the fact that RVs are generally a “plywood box full of fiberglass and insulation,” many of the tow lots end up stuck indefinitely with the abandoned vehicles. Lukevich says a recent survey within the association suggested between 500 and 700 of these types of vehicles are sitting idle with nowhere to go.
As for a potential fix, Lukevich says he hopes to work on a statewide approach with other organizations to help save the industry that is currently losing money daily on this problem.
“We may have to look at a model that I think is working fairly well in this state: the derelict vessel model, where we recover them from Lake Union or Shilshole (Bay Marina),” he said. “… That may be a way we could create a funding source for the proper disposal of these recreational vehicles.”