DMV: Abandoned Boat Procedure

Abandoned Boat Procedures

Under section 15-140c of the Connecticut General Statutes, a vessel (boat) is presumed to be abandoned if it left unattended for more than 24 hours:

  • on private property without the consent of the landowner or
  • on the waters of this state and not moored, anchored or made fast to the shore.   

If a vessel is found abandoned on a trailer, the trailer is treated separately as an abandoned vehicle under the procedures in place for abandoned vehicles at the Department of Motor Vehicles. 



STEP 1:  Contact Police
Contact the local police department or the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) State Environmental Conservation Police. Provide the Hull Identification Number (HIN) and registration number of the vessel. The law enforcement officer will determine if the vessel is stolen and will prepare an incident report, a copy of which will be provided to you.  The law enforcement officer may decide to take the vessel into custody for storage, but more often the vessel will remain in the custody of the individual reporting the abandoned vessel.


STEP 2: Contact Last Owner of Record

To obtain the name and address of the last owner of record, submit to the DMV a completed Vessel Copy Records Request (form J-23B), along with a $20 fee and a photocopy of your driver’s license for identification. Include on the form the vessel’s registration number and HIN.  (NOTE: If there is no registration number, HIN or other identifying markings on the boat, the DMV will not be able to determine the last owner of record.)


Send to the last owner of the vessel a certified letter, return receipt requested, stating that you found the vessel and requesting that the owner either retrieve the vessel or agree to sell it to you. If the owner agrees to sell the vessel to you, the owner must provide you with a completed Bill of Sale (form H31) indicating that the vessel was sold to you for a reasonable amount. If the last owner of record prefers to give the vessel to you rather than sell it, the owner must provide you with a completed Gift Affidavit (form AU-463) in addition to a Bill of Sale (specifying a zero dollar amount). If the vessel owner provides you with a Bill of Sale (and Gift Affidavit, if applicable), you may register the vessel in your name at DMV. In such a case, the vessel is no longer considered abandoned.



STEP 3: Last Owner of Record does not Respond to Request or Owner Unknown
If the last owner of record does not respond to your request or is unknown, you have the right to sell the vessel (or to take possession of the vessel yourself) after storing it for at least 60 days. The date you contacted law enforcement, as specified on the incident report, is the start of the 60-day period. 
Five days before the sale of the vessel, the person storing the vessel is required to send a NOTICE OF INTENT TO SELL to the Commissioners of Environmental Protection, DMV, DOT and to the vessel owner, if known.  If the vessel owner is unknown, the person storing the vessel is required to advertise the sale three times in a newspaper published or having a circulation in the town where the vessel is being stored, beginning at least five days before the sale.  The person storing the vessel may take possession of the vessel (in effect you may “sell” the vessel to yourself, for the “costs” incurred in storing the vessel for the 60 day period). 
You should include the following information in the newspaper advertisement and on the NOTICE OF INTENT TO SELL:  contact information, including a telephone number; the location at which the vessel was found; a detailed description of the vessel, include the make, model, type of boat, type of propulsion, name (if any), color, length and any numbers or identifiable marks; and any other information that may help someone to identify the vessel.


STEP 4: Post-Sale 
As noted above, you can take possession of vessel by “selling” it to yourself for the “costs” of storage.  But if a bona fide sale of the vessel does occur, you must deduct from the sales price any costs incurred by you in storing the vessel (and by law enforcement in storing the vessel, if law enforcement took the vessel into custody).
If you are not in the business of storing vessels, you should contact three vessel storage businesses to determine an average cost to store such a vessel at a business establishment for the same time period. Any funds remaining from the sale must be distributed to the owner of the vessel or to the owner’s legal representative, if the owner is known.   If the owner or the owner’s legal representative does not claim the balance within one year from the date of sale, the balance must be turned over to the state.
Step 5: How to Register an Abandoned Vessel

To register the vessel, the new owner must provide to the DMV the following documents to prove that the above procedures were followed:

  • Copy of the police report, evidencing date of report;
  • The return receipt of the certified letter demonstrating that the letter was either accepted by the vessel owner (and owner did not respond) or was returned to you undelivered, if DMV provided a name/address of last owner;
  • Copies of the NOTICE OF INTENT TO SELL sent to the Commissioners of Energy and Environmental Protection, Motor Vehicles, and Transportation, and to the vessel owner (if known);
  • Letter received from the DEEP in response to the NOTICE OF INTENT TO SELL, indicating that the vessel is not stolen;
  • Copies of the newspaper advertisements, or proof of publication, for the sale of the vessel, if the vessel owner is unknown;
  • Ownership Affidavit (DMV Form B-203);
  • Application for Vessel Registration (DMV Form B-148) and appropriate registration fee.


If you have any questions or require additional information, please contact the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP), Boating Division, at (860) 434-8638 or on via the DEEP website.

Content Last Modified on 1/5/2015 8:53:22 AM