Towing vehicles from residential, private or rental property

Park At Your Own Risk

Often when we think of towing companies we think of our car breaking down or we need assistance to retrieve keys locked in the car or running out of gas. But, if you are a property manager, own office buildings or other private property you may need a contract with a towing company when it is necessary to remove a vehicle from one of your properties. However, if you do own private property there are some questions you need to ask yourself before you contact your towing company to remove that vehicle.

For instance, what can you do if someone parks on your property and dines across the street both during or after business hours? Can you have a vehicle towed from a handicapped parking spot if they just run in to some place for just a minute? What happens if they come back during the towing process and demand the towing agent stop?

The laws for private property towing are different than having a vehicle towed from a public street. Besides the threat of an ugly confrontation with the driver, a towing company can be hit with stiff fines for illegally removing a motor vehicle without the owner’s consent. Also, sign laws may vary from state to state yet are basically the same throughout the country.

First, as a property owner, you need to determine if you are even subject to sign requirements. A residential homeowner of four units or less is usually not required to post towing notices for vehicles blocking their driveway. However, if you are a property manager or owner of office buildings, shopping centers, apartment complexes (over four units) or condominiums you will be required to post parking signs that inform people your area is subject to towing. The sign must be in a prominent place at each entrance and can be easily seen by the public. You want the vehicle owner to be notified upon entering the property usually within five feet from the public street. Make sure your signs are large enough to be seen and, if you do not have a curb cut entrance, then signs need to be posted 25 feet apart along the frontage.

The sizes of signs vary but should probably not be less that 18 inches by 24 inches or larger. The sign should be installed at eye level of the motorist driving onto the property. The tow away sign should have the bottom edge of the sign no lower than five feet and no high than eight feet above ground level. Your signs should be maintained with no faded lettering and also weather resistant. Even though common sense dictates lettering should be large enough to be visible, some states actually specify letter size. A reflective sign would be important for nighttime parking.

It is important that your Tow Away Parking Sign states who is entitled to park in that space. For example, customer parking only, employee parking only, or residential parking only. The sign must inform the motorist that the space is subject to tow away, which can be done with the international tow away symbol of a graphic with a car on a tow truck’s hook. The sign must state that violator’s will be towed at their own expense and will be liable for both towing and storage fees. The name and telephone number of the towing company should be on the sign where their vehicle can be reclaimed. It would not hurt to reference the State’s Vehicle Code on the sign as well.