Have you ever had your vehicle towed without your consent? After you called the police and they informed you it was towed, you probably felt shocked, and then angry. Why was I towed? Where is my vehicle? How much is this going to cost? To add insult to injury, you may have been faced with a less than friendly face at the storage facility when you finally found a ride to pickup your vehicle. Overall, it was probably an extremely annoying and stressful experience.
What happens when you are an owner or manager who needs to control who’s accessing your property? You may have complaints from your patrons or residents about lack of parking. You may want to maintain the safety, exclusivity, or attractiveness of your property. You may be looking for sub-letters or individuals living on your property who are not on a lease. Whatever the reason, you do have options and legal rights to control the situation, and it is possible to handle with integrity and class!
First, it’s important to understand that all towing in the state of Texas is regulated by the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation or TDLR (www.tdlr.texas.gov/towing/towing.htm). This includes consent as well as non-consent towing. Non-consent towing is the focus of this article and includes your right to remove abandoned or unauthorized vehicles from your property. TDLR states “A parking facility owner may, without the consent of the owner or operator of an unauthorized vehicle, cause the vehicle and any property on or in the vehicle to be removed and stored at a vehicle storage facility at the vehicle owner's or operator's expense if…”
The “if” in the statement above requires that either 1) TDLR compliant tow signs are posted at the time of towing and for at least the preceding 24 hours or 2) TDLR compliant notice is provided to the vehicle owner or operator. Most properties choose to post the TDLR complaint tow signs which many tow companies can legally provide for you at no charge.
The first catch is that the tow signs must follow a very specific TDLR format which regulates symbols, colors, information required, font, material, and placement. This means that a property owner or manager should not put up a sign merely stating that unauthorized vehicles will be towed. In this case the vehicle owner or operator who has been towed could be justified in claiming a wrongful tow because the proper TDLR complaint tow sign was not posted. The second catch is that the tow sign must state who is allowed to park on the property and what is considered unauthorized parking. For example, the sign could state “Resident and
Visitor Parking Only Visitors Must Have Appropriate Permit All Other Vehicles Prohibited”. It could also state “Vehicles Prohibited: For Sale Vehicles, Abandoned, Inoperable, On Jacks or Blocks, Flat Tires, Parking on Grass, Unauthorized Handicap Parking”.
Things can get a little more complicated depending on the city in which your property is located. Some cities don’t have any additional towing laws, but some can limit how far away the vehicle storage facility can be from the property where the vehicle was towed. City towing laws can also place restrictions on the towing companies including increased insurance requirements, company permits, and truck inspections.
The good news is that reputable tow companies know these laws and can help you ensure that your property is compliant at both the state and city level. How do you know if a tow company is reputable? Using TDLR’s searchable database you can check the current status of a tow company’s operating license, truck licenses, and vehicle insurance status. Never choose a tow company who is not current in all three areas. You should also ask questions about the tow company’s General Liability insurance status, security cameras on the tow truck, drug and background testing of the drivers, photographs taken of vehicles before tow, and notification to local law enforcement of each tow.
Understanding the basic laws and rights to legally tow from a private community or property allows you to actually enforce your terms for residents, visitors, and patrons. For example, how many visitors are allowed per resident per week or month? How many nights is the visitor allowed to stay? Who’s allowed to park in reserved spaces? Once these questions are answered and enforced you create an environment where you know who’s parking on your property and everyone else is unauthorized for a reason! You have a responsibility to keep your residents and patrons satisfied, safe, and protected.