Can my vehicle be towed if it is on private property?
Yes, but certain legal requirements must be met. If parked in a designated area, vehicles (including cars, trucks, boats, trailers, campers, and motor homes) can be towed from: public and private parking lots, parking garages, and apartment complexes; from neighborhoods with homeowner association rules prohibiting parking of certain vehicles in certain areas (like a motor home parked outside of a residence); if the vehicle is unattended, inoperable, and left on public property for more than 48 hours. If you are arrested (for example, for DUI), your car can impounded in a police storage lot.
How can I tell if a lot is designated parking?
Signs must be attached to a pole or a wall in each space or placed around the entire lot and be easily visible. They must have the international towing symbol and language that says “Unauthorized Vehicle Will be Towed at Owner or Operator’s Expense.” Signs must include the name and phone number of the storage facility where the car will be towed.
How much can I be charged for a tow?
Most cities regulate tow fees, which will be lower than the maximum allowed under Texas law. The maximum tow fees allowed by law are as follows: light duty tows, $255; medium tows, $357; heavy duty tows, $459 per unit or a maximum of $918. By law, you are entitled to pay the tow operator with cash, debit card or credit card. Note: Fees charged by the storage facility where the vehicle is towed are in addition to the towing fee. See Texas Occupations Code 86.455, Private Property Tow Fees.
What is a drop fee?
A drop fee is a charge offered by the tow operator that allows you to stop the tow without paying the full tow charge and additional storage charges. Until the tow truck enters a public street, road or highway, you have an absolute right to regain possession of your vehicle by paying the drop fee. By law, the tow operator must tell you that you can pay the drop fee on the spot to drop the vehicle.
NOTE: You do NOT have to pay a drop fee unless your vehicle is completely hooked up to the tow truck. “Hooked up” means that the vehicle is already lifted into the tow position with tow lights and safety chains attached, and is ready for the tow operator to drive away. If your vehicle is not completely hooked up, you can’t be charged a drop fee. Take a picture of the incomplete hookup and call the police if the tow operator refuses to release the vehicle to you. Like tow fees, drop fees are set by local laws, are based on vehicle weight and cannot be higher than the maximum allowed by Texas law.
My car was towed from the parking lot of my apartment complex! Is this legal?
The parking rules and policies for your apartment must be provided to you by your landlord when you sign the lease, either as part of the lease or as a separate document. It must read Parking or Parking Rules, and be underlined, capitalized, or in bold face type. Generally, your car can be towed from the parking lot of your apartment complex if it blocks a walkway, blocks other vehicles or access to the dumpster, is parked in a restricted or reserved space or in a tow-away zone or is a semitrailer, trailer, or truck-tractor, unless your lease agreement allows you to leave it there.
What if my car was towed illegally?
Texas towing companies and storage facilities must be licensed. Check to see if they have a license by searching: www.license.state.tx.us/tools_search. Request a tow hearing in justice court within 14 days of the tow. The court will hold a hearing within 21 days of filing. If your car was towed illegally, the operator is not licensed, or the license is invalid or expired, you might not have to pay for tow or storage fees. Storage facilities are also required to post their fees or face penalties listed here: www.license.state.tx.us/enforcement/vsfsanctions.htm
Can I get my personal property from my towed car?
A towing company cannot take property left inside your car or use your car while it’s in storage. The storage company cannot withhold your personal property or make you pay for getting it out of the car. If they refuse to allow access to your property, you can sue them in small claims court.
Can the storage company auction off my car?
Yes. The storage company must notify you within 10 days that your car is in storage. If you don’t claim your car within 20 days of receiving the written notice, it can be sold at auction. If you don’t have the correct address on your registration, you might not get the notice.
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