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Inoperable Motor Vehicles


Inoperable Motor Vehicle Abatement Program

General Information about Code Enforcement

Roanoke's inoperable motor vehicle ordinance (Chapter 20, Article VI, of the Code of the City of Roanoke) requires that a motor vehicle or trailer located on private property display both a valid license plate and an inspection decal that is not expired by more than 60 days. It must also be in “operating condition” which generally means that it appears to be capable of passing a state inspection, with no missing parts, flat tires, broken glass or other obvious damage that would render it “inoperable”.

City Code permits one inoperable motor vehicle to be stored within a fully enclosed privacy fence, and two vehicles may be stored within a privacy fence if of the same model -- one being used as a “parts car” for the other. This concession was made for hobbyists. Property owners should be aware that a Zoning Permit must be obtained before constructing a privacy fence or any auxiliary structure. For more information, contact the Permit Center.

Vehicles stored within a garage or fully enclosed building are exempt from the ordinance.


Vehicles with valid “antique tags” are exempt from having a Virginia state inspection decal as are vehicles with valid license plates from some states such as Tennessee, West Virginia and Georgia. The Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) can answer questions regarding antique plates and out of state plates, and take complaints for matters not covered by Roanoke City Code. Visit the DMV website for additional information.

  1. A code enforcement inspector receives a complaint or while canvassing in the field sees a vehicle that appears to be “inoperable”. The vehicle must be on private property. Inoperable vehicles on the public right-of-way are reported to the police department.
  2. Having “probable cause” that the vehicle is in violation of the ordinance, the inspector may enter the property to determine if it is “inoperable” as defined above. If it is, a red Notice of Violation sticker is posted on the vehicle, or if the vehicle is inaccessible due to dogs, a locked fence, etc. the sticker is posted at a nearby, easily visible location, such as on the fence.
  3. The vehicle is photographed from the front and back to provide a record of “inoperability”.
  4. The inspector determines who owns the parcel where the vehicle is parked. The parcel owner is always the one who is cited. Vehicle owners (if different than the property owner) are not cited.
  5. A Notice of Violation letter is sent to the parcel owner. The owner has seven (7) days from receipt of the letter to bring the vehicle into compliance, remove it from the parcel, appeal the citation, or ask for an extension. Bringing it “into compliance” means remedying the violation for which it was cited by getting it inspected, updating the plate, repairing it, or shielding it from view (in a garage or within a solid privacy fence).
  6. Reasonable requests for an extension may be granted at the inspector’s discretion. If the parcel owner requests an appeal, per the terms of the citation letter, an appeals board will meet to determine if the citation was justified or not.
  7. Absent an extension or appeal, after seven (7) days the inspector returns to see if the vehicle is in compliance, or has been removed, or put within a garage or privacy fence. If the vehicle is not in compliance, Code Enforcement staff prepares a work order for a contract tower to remove the vehicle. The contract tower has five (5) days to tow the vehicle.
  8. If the tower cannot remove the vehicle the inspector is notified and a summons is filed against the parcel owner for non-compliance.
  9. If the vehicle is towed, the inspector verifies its removal.
  10. The City notifies the vehicle owner of the towed vehicle’s location. The vehicle owner may also be notified if ownership can be determined.
  11. The vehicle will be returned upon payment of the towing and storage and processing fees.
  12. If the vehicle is not claimed within approximately 14 days it will be sold at auction or for scrap value. The tower keeps those proceeds. The City does not profit from the towing of vehicles.

Note that it may take several weeks for the process to play out before the violation is actually abated. During this time, the city is actively pursuing abatement of the violation, and we appreciate your patience.

If you were cited for a violation and would like to speak with an inspector, please call the Code Enforcement Office at 540-853-2344. Our goal is always to obtain voluntary compliance. Most reasonable requests for extra time or for referrals for special assistance are granted, whenever possible.