Towing for 2007 and Beyond
By Scott A. Hunter, J.D.
Beginning in 2007, the laws regarding the towing of vehicles within homeowners associations have changed. Make sure your association follows the new laws. The new laws are contained in California Vehicle Code section 22658. Much of this new legislation was intended to focus on towing companies that tow without appropriate authority to do so. Below is an outline of the requirements your association must follow before towing a vehicle on association property.
At a minimum, your association must comply with at least one of the following notification options:
Option 1. Post Signs. Under this option, your association must post signs at least 17 inches by 22 inches, with lettering that is at least 1 inch in height, at each entrance to the development. The signs must state:
1. Public parking is prohibited;
2. Vehicles will be removed at the owner’s expense;
3. The telephone number of the local traffic law enforcement agency and the name and telephone number of each towing company that is a party to a written general towing authorization agreement with your association; and
4. The sign may also indicate that a citation may also be issued for the violation.
Under this option, the sign must be posted and your association must have a written agreement with a towing company to tow vehicles from your association.
Option 2. Parking Ticket–96 Hour Notice. Under this option, the association can post a written parking violation notice on the vehicle which describes the parking violation. Ninety-six hours after the notice of violation is posted on the vehicle, the vehicle can be towed.
Option 3. Inoperable Vehicle–24 Hour Notice.
Under this option, an inoperable vehicle on private property can be towed. Inoperable vehicles are any vehicle that lacks an engine, transmission, wheels, tires, doors, windshield, or any other major part or equipment necessary to operate safely on the highway. At least 24 hours before you tow the inoperable vehicle, your association must notify the local traffic law enforcement agency of the inoperable vehicle and your intent to tow the inoperable vehicle.
Option 4. Safety Exception. Your association can tow any car, without prior written notice to the owner, if the car is unlawfully parked within 15 feet of a fire hydrant or in a fire lane, or which interfere with entrance to, or exit from your association. The tow company must have a prior written agreement with your association to do so.
Notification to Local Traffic Enforcement.
Under all of these options, your association must notify the local traffic enforcement within one hour after authorizing the tow.
Grounds for Removal. If owner of the vehicle requests the grounds for removal of the vehicle, then your association must state the grounds for the removal of the vehicle.
Someone Present for the Tow. The manger, board member, agent, or employee of your association must be present at your association when the vehicle is towed. At the time of the towing, the manger, board member, agent or employee of your association must verify the violation and provide written authorization to tow the vehicle. This person does not need to be physically present at the exact location of the specific vehicle to be towed, but must be present on the site of your association.
Written Authorization to Tow a Specific Vehicle.
Your association’s written authorization to tow a specific vehicle must include:
1. The make, model, vehicle identification number, and license plate number of the removed vehicle;
2. The name, signature, job title, residential or business address, and working telephone number of the person from your association authorizing the removal of the vehicle;
3. The grounds for the removal of the vehicle;
4. The time when the vehicle was first observed parked at your association; and
5. The time that authorization to tow the vehicle was given.
Safety Exception to Being Present. Your association may enter into a general written agreement with a tow company to tow vehicles which are unlawfully parked within 15 feet of a fire hydrant or in a fire lane, or which interfere with entrance to, or exit from your association. This is an exception to options 1, 2, and 3 above which require someone to be present at your association to authorize the towing of a specific vehicle. No representative of the association need be present at the site to tow a vehicle under this exception. The tow company is required to take photographs that clearly show the violation.
Vehicle Storage after Towing. Generally, the towed vehicle must be stored at a location within a 10-mile radius from your association. The storage facility:
1. must be open from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., except holidays;
- must release vehicles after these normal hours;
- may charge a gate fee for releasing a vehicle after normal business hours, on weekends, and state holidays. The maximum allowable gate fee is ½ of the hourly towing rate;
- must maintain an accessible public pay phone; and
- must allow payment by credit card.
Penalties for Failure to Follow the New Law. There are various penalties for failure to follow these new laws, including possible criminal charges and civil damages. Therefore, it is very important that the new laws be closely followed.
Use Multiple Notice Options. Because the penalties can be severe for violation of the new law, we recommend that your association ensure that each towing of a vehicle will qualify under at least two of the options outlined above. For example, your association can post appropriate signs on the property and post a notice of violation on the vehicle. If one option is not performed sufficiently, then hopefully the other one will satisfy the law. Your association may be at fault if it provides too little notice, but will not be found at fault for providing too much notice.
Towing Rules. Your association should also adopt towing rules which specifically allow towing of the members’ vehicles for violation of the rules, including parking in fire lanes.
Most of the laws in this newsletter apply only to common interest developments (“CID”). If your association is not a CID, then the laws discussed herein may not apply to your association.
Inspection of Association Records