Whether you own a private lot, office park or mall, there are specific rules for towing vehicles. Failure to follow the law could result in stiff fines.

For example, Colorado law states that property owners must get authorization from tenants before a vehicle is removed from their property. Some towing companies have dropped their residential properties altogether since these changes took effect.

Parking Violations

Towing laws for private property are different from those for public streets. Store parking lots, apartment complexes and condominium communities, for example, must conspicuously post signs that vehicles parked on the premises may be subject to towing without prior notice. These must be located near the entrance to each vehicle access point and clearly visible to all drivers.

In addition, the City of Poughkeepsie requires that any towing company operating on private property must be licensed and that any fee charged to a driver for the removal of his or her car from private property be reasonable and proportional to the violation committed by the driver. It is also required that the private parking facility operator name be posted on all warning signs.

In a pilot program, the mayor is considering day-fines instead of fixed fines for 10 different local law violations for at least one year. Double-parking is one of the fine categories he’s targeting.

Unauthorized Vehicle Removal

Before a vehicle can be towed or removed from private property, the owner or person in lawful possession of the vehicle shall give written authorization to the towing company to remove, tow and store that vehicle. Such written authorization must be in the form of a letter containing the name, job title, residential or business address and working telephone number of the person authorizing the removal.

Any towing company that removes a vehicle without proper authorization from the property owner or authorized agent commits a misdemeanor. The towing company must notify the police department of each instance where an unauthorized vehicle is removed from private property and in transit, or when it arrives at its storage facility.

The towing and storage fees are set by agreement between the local police agency and the towing company. Residents are encouraged to contact the police agency that performed the towing to verify fees and to inquire whether their auto insurance policy may cover costs associated with Private Property Towing.

Vehicle Storage

If a vehicle is being stored at a facility, it is important to have clear and concise information regarding the type of storage space being used. Vehicle storage is much different than traditional indoor storage units. It can involve a garage space or a parking space within a larger lot, and the surface may be paved, grass, gravel or dirt.

In addition, wrecker services must be clear and concise with regard to their charges for nonconsensual towing, including but not limited to the maximum rate tariff established by the Commission. Unless otherwise specified, no storage fee shall be charged for the first 24 hours of the vehicle being stored.

A proprietor, owner or operator of a towing company, storage facility, garage, or repair shop that has towed and stored a vehicle must hold the license tag until the vehicle is either reclaimed by its owners or lienholder or declared abandoned and sold at public auction. The proprietor, owner, or operator must send a notice of the location of the vehicle to the owner and lienholder by registered or certified mail with return receipt requested, or electronic certified mail with tracking.

Vehicle Impoundment

An impound is when a vehicle is towed from private property by law enforcement officers or a towing company without the permission of the owner. The vehicle is then held in a storage yard until the owner can pay any fines or other charges for the violation and retrieve the car. It can also be auctioned off for scrap metal or stripped for parts at a wrecking yard.

An owner of a vehicle that is impounded can request a hearing on the matter. During the hearing, the owner can present evidence that the impound was illegal and that any towing and storage fees charged were unreasonable.

When a vehicle is impounded, it can be offered for sale to the public at an auction that specializes in cars that have been towed. Some states require that a process be followed, including title searches and publication of the sale before an impounded vehicle can be sold. This ensures that only those who have a legitimate need to purchase the vehicle are able to do so.

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