Potential Ordinance Regulating Towing
Non-consensual towing can result in financial loss that far exceeds a fair penalty for illegal parking. Non-consensual towing can impose a crushing financial burden on a family. Tow truck operators can charge high rates for towing and storage of vehicles. Storage fees can add up quickly and, in some cases exceed the value of a vehicle. The Boulder City Council is considering an ordinance regulating towing.
City Council will consider the following options for regulation:
- Unconditional Release: If a vehicle owner encounters a towing company removing his or her vehicle but the truck is not yet on a public road, the vehicle owner may demand the immediate and unconditional release of the vehicle.
- No Release Fee: If the towing company releases a vehicle that has not yet reached a public road, the driver is entitled to free release of vehicle. State law allows for a fee up to $70.
- Authorization: A towing company must have written consent from the property owner or agent. A property owner or agent must have waited one hour before calling for a tow.
- Written Warning: A sign should be displayed in plain view at all entrances to the property. It should clearly prohibit public parking and indicate that vehicles will be removed at the owner’s expense. The sign should include the name and telephone number of each towing company that is a party to a written general towing authorization agreement with the property owner.
- Valid Towing Permit: The towing company must have a valid motor carrier permit, make records and photographs of each tow available for law enforcement.
- Records of Tow: The towing company must record the time of the tow, the reason for the tow, the make and model of the vehicle, the location of the tow and the time that the vehicle was originally identified as being parked illegally.
- No Sharing of Profits: A towing company must not share profits from towing with property owners who call for a vehicle removal. This is not required by state law but represents an industry best practice.
- Credit Cards OK: A towing company must accept credit cards in payment for towing and storage fees, which must be reasonable.
- Release from Storage: If the storage lot is not open during normal business hours or fails to respond within one hour outside of normal business hours, then no storage or towing fees may be charged. This is consistent with the requirements under state law.
- Reasonable Gate Fee: The gate fee, or maximum hourly charge for releasing a vehicle after normal business hours, shall be one half the hourly tow rate charged for initially towing the vehicle, or less. State law limits the gate fee to $66, which is less than half of the $180 hourly tow rate.
- Limitations on Reasons for Tow: No vehicle may be towed based on the condition of the vehicle or failure to comply with state licensing provisions. This is not required by state law. Some tow companies tow vehicles, which are otherwise parked legally, if the vehicle has a flat tire or has expired license tabs. This provision would prohibit such activities.
- Signs: Require that all signs include the name and telephone number of each towing company authorized to remove the vehicle. After April 1, 2019 all signs for residential properties that have more than 5 tows in any twelve-month period, have an external remodel, change of ownership or new construction shall include a symbol depicting a tow truck towing a vehicle.
- Credit for Tows More than 12 miles: If a vehicle is towed for storage more than twelve miles from where the vehicle was parked the towing company shall apply a credit to any invoice in an amount equal to the Internal Revenue Service Mileage Rate multiplied by the miles between the place where the vehicle was parked and the place of storage.
- Notification: A tow company must notify the registered owner of a vehicle by certified mail 72 hours after the tow is initiated or on the next business day, whichever is later.
- Police Notification: A tow company must notify the Boulder Police Department within 24 hours of a non-consensual tow.
- Release of personal property: The tow company must release personal property to the vehicle owner.