Can We Tow That Car?
Tired of looking at that old, beat-up car that doesn’t belong to anyone in your association? Before you tow it away, make sure you follow the law. California Vehicle Code section 22658.2 provides specific procedures for removing such vehicles within a common interest development. An association may tow a vehicle parked within its development to the nearest public garage only if the association has complied with all of the following requirements:
1. Post Signs before Towing. Before your association can tow any vehicles, the 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 contain:
(a) A statement that public parking is prohibited and all vehicles not authorized to park within [name of the association] will be removed at the owner’s expense; and
(b) The telephone number of the local traffic law enforcement agency.
- Additionally, the sign may state that a citation may be issued for the violation.
- If the street is a public street within the development, then the sign must also state that the vehicle will be towed after 24 hours at the owner’s expense pursuant to ordinance no. [state the local ordinance number] of [state the name of the city or county].
2. Notice to Owner of Vehicle. If the identity of the vehicle’s registered owner is known or reasonably ascertainable, the Association must immediately mail a written notice of the towing to the registered owner.
3. Notify Department of Justice. If the towed vehicle is not returned to the owner within 120 hours, and if the name of the vehicle’s registered owner is not reasonably ascertainable, then the Association must mail a written towing report to the Department of Justice in Sacramento and send a copy of the report by mail to the garage where the vehicle is stored. Although the law requires that a form from the Department of Justice be used, it does not appear that any such form has been created by the Department of Justice. For a copy of an appropriate form, please e-mail us at email@example.com.
4. Notice to Police. Additionally, the association must provide the police department with written notice of the removal immediately after the vehicle is towed. This notice must include a description of the vehicle, the license plate number, and the address from where the vehicle was removed.
5. Immediate Towing. The Association may also, without notice, tow such vehicles which are parked:
□ within a marked fire lane;
□ within 15 inches of a fire hydrant;
□ in a space designated for disabled persons without proper authority; or
□ in a manner which interferes with entrance to or exit from the development, or any unit within the development.
Again, the police department must be provided with written notice of the towing.
Following these procedures will help safeguard the association against liability claims. (continued on back)
Towing of Member Vehicles. The requirement to place towing signs at the entrance appears to be aimed at the towing of vehicles of the general public. In addition to the towing process outlined above, in order to tow a vehicle owned or registered to members of the association, or their tenants, the CC&Rs or rules should specifically provide for towing of a member’s or tenant’s vehicle when there is a violation of the association’s rules. This may require an amendment to the CC&Rs or rules because most association documents do not provide for towing of a member’s vehicle.
Enforcing Parking Rules on Public Streets. Can an association create and enforce rules for vehicles parking on public streets that are within or adjacent to the development? If such rules are stated in the CC&Rs, then they are likely enforceable but must be carefully drafted. To a great extent, the law looks at the CC&Rs as a contract between an association and its owners. When a person buys a home within a homeowners or commercial association, that person agrees to be bound by the CC&Rs. A provision of the CC&Rs will be enforceable unless it is against public policy or is unreasonable. As a part of a contract between the association and the owner, it should be enforceable; however, this argument has not been well-tested in the California courts and should be used only as necessary.
Tickets on Private Streets. Your association can allow the local police to enforce traffic laws on the private streets of the association. Vehicle Code section 21107.7 allows an association to permit the local police or highway patrol to enforce the public speed limits on the private streets within your development. In order for this to happen an association must do the following:
- The Board must petition the City or County to adopt a traffic resolution for enforcement of the Vehicle Code within the development.
- The City or County (the local government) must adopt a resolution.
- A public hearing must be held.
- Ten day’s notice of the hearing must be given to all owners in the association.
- After adoption by the City or County, the association must erect signs stating that the California Vehicle Code is enforceable within the development. Such signs must be legible at a distance of 100 feet.
- After this process, the Vehicle Code is enforceable on the private streets within the development. It may also be necessary to contract the local police or highway patrol to encourage enforcement within the development.
Legal counsel may assist in this process.