Illegal towing is a growing concern in apartment complexes. Parking enforcement is a great way to help everyone live peacefully next to each other. When neighbors and visitors live according to the established rules, towing services do not make money. Instead of finding more properties to help enforce parking codes, a few tow services might start creating illegal ways to drum up business.
Common tactics that result in illegal towing:
- Improper signage.
- Improperly maintained marked parking slots, faded, confusing, worn or completely nonexistent markings.
Many illegally towed victims complained signs and parking slot markings were not placed in visible areas, the information on the sign or slot were confusing or were weather worn. The TDLR has established clear guidelines for posting tow away signs and specified lot markings. Failure to comply with those guidelines, in part or in whole, can result in an illegal tow.
The Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation, TDLR, has a website that outlines citizens rights, the laws tow truck drivers are bound to and penalties for failing to adhere to those established rules.
Subchapter G., Sec. 2308.301. and Sec. 2308.251. of the TDLR, describes and specifies what makes a tow away sign legal and how designated parking should appear for legal enforcement.
If you suspect your vehicle has been towed illegally:
Immediately take pictures or video of the area that the car was removed from. Take more than fifteen images of the spot, markings, signage and surrounding area. Use a camera that will leave a time and date stamp near the margins of the image.
If the tow service sign information is invalid or nonexistent, contact the apartment and get the information. TDLR says that apartment complexes are suppose to give their tow service information upon request. Contact the police department to make sure your vehicle was reported by the receiving impound lot. If the impound lot has not reported your vehicle to the police within two hours, then your vehicle has been stolen. You need to file a report and consult with the local police department to determine your next set of actions.
If you are able to get information from the tow signs, be aware of the following steps you must follow to pursue action.
You should be given clear directions and instructions about the location of the vehicle storage facility or VSF.
Upon arriving to the VSF:
- Ask for the employee’s vehicle storage facility employee’s license card. Make sure you note who you are talking to and make note of license number on card. If no license card is shown to you, call 911 immediately.
- Next, ask for copy of nonconsent towing fee schedule. The impound employee should be courteous and be compliant and you should be very courteous. The fee schedule should match specifications on the TDLR sight.
Before the fees are paid, ask the clerk to give you documentation describing:
- What kind of tow was performed.
- The name of the driver.
- The tow license of the driver.
- Why your vehicle was towed.
- Which parking violation was enforced?
- Did the complex or did a resident initiate the call, you do not need to know the name.
- Ask for copies of any pictures or proof of your vehicle in violation.
- Make notations of the name of the impound lot and license number.
The VSF should be in a visible spot and on any receipt documentation given to you. If you do not see a VSF number, take as many pictures of the area as possible to indicate there was no VSF number located on the premises. TDLR requires the VSF to make their permit number visible and for tow truck drivers to take vehicles to a legal VSF.
After you pay your fees, and the car has been released to you. Do not leave before you have inspected your vehicle. If anything is missing or damaged, contact the local police for an offense report to be made.
It is a very common problem among illegal tow services to use consent drivers to make nonconsent tows. Go to the TDLR site and input the name of the tow truck driver and license number. If the name does not match the license or the license number does not match the name the tow truck service it is in violation. Confirm all information gathered by calling TDLR at 1-800-803-9202.
Report violations to the TDLR and request a tow hearing to get your money back. You don’t need an attorney for the tow hearing but having one could help in hard cases. The signs and markings are usually posted by the complex.
For more information:
Texas Towing Compliance for more advice and suggestions.
City of Houston for Code Enforcement