PS ITEM #2
June 29,2015
Worksession
MEMORANDUM
June 25, 2015
TO:
FROM:
SUBJECT:
Public Safety Committee
Josh Hamlin, Legislative Attorne
Worksession:
Bill 17-15, Motor ehicle Towing and Immobilization on Private
Property - Amendments
Bill 17-15, Motor Vehicle Towing and Immobilization on Private Property - Amendments,
sponsored by Lead Sponsor Councilmember Berliner,
~d
Co-Sponsors Councilmembers Rice,
Katz,
Navarro, Hucker, Riemer, EIrich, Council Vice President Floreen and Council President
Leventhal, was introduced on April 14, 2015. A public hearing was held on June 16.
Bill 17-15 would:
(1)
(2)
(3)
(4)
(5)
authorize the County Executive to set flat rates for certain towing services;
add certain notice and towing procedure requirements;
provide certain additional enforcement powers for the Office of Consumer
Protection;
prohibit the immobilization of certain vehicles; and
generally amend the law governing motor vehicle towing and immobilization on
private property.
Background
Chapter 30C of the County Code governs the towing or immobilization of motor vehicles
on private property without the consent of the vehicle owners, and has not been substantively
amended since 1997. Bill 17-15 would make a nwnber of changes to the law to better protect
public safety in incidents where vehicles are towed without their owners' consent. Specifically,
Bill 17-15 would amend the law to:
• clearly state that the purpose of the Chapter is to protect public safety;
• require the Executive to set eithermaximwn rates or flat rates, and require towing
companies to charge rates either not in excess of the maximum rate, or equal to the flat
rate, depending on which is set;
• grant subpoena powers for the Office of Conswner Protection in enforcing the Chapter;
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• require one notice sign per 25 spaces in parking lots with 100 or more parking spaces, in
addition to requiring signs at entrances;
• require that tows between 2:00am and 9:00am be "specifically authorized" by the property
owner;
• require photographic evidence of violation or event precipitating the towing of a vehicle;
• prohibit the use of
II
spotters" to identify vehicles for towing;
• require a property owner or property manager to maintain tow slips and information on
nonconsensual tows;
• give authority to Office of Consumer Protection investigators to order release of vehicle;
and
• prohibit immobilization of vehicles under this Chapter.
The Bill would also make a number of corrective technical amendments throughout Chapter 30C
to make subparagraph references consistent with current practice.
County Authority to Regulate
Trespass
Towing
Nonconsensual towing of vehicles from private property, or "trespass towing" is regulated at the
federal, state, and local level. Towing generally is regulated at the federal level under the Federal
Aviation Administration Authorization Act of 1994
(F
AAAA), which includes a general
preemption of state and local regulation of the "price, route, or service of any motor carrier ...
with respect to the transportation of property." Tow trucks are included
in
this preemptive
language. Since the enactment of the FAAAA, the United States Supreme Court has held that
laws regulating the storage and disposal of a vehicle, once towed, "are not sufficiently related to a
motor carrier's service with respect to the transportation of property
to
warrant preemption under
[the FAAAA]."l Under this ruling the County may regulate activities related to towing, once the
tow is complete.
In addition to the post-tow regulation, local jurisdictions may enact laws "relating to the
price of for-hire motor vehicle transportation by a tow truck, if such transportation is performed
without the prior consent or authorization of the owner or operator of the motor vehicle."2
Additionally, there is a broad exclusion from the preemptive language of the FAAAA to allow a
state (and a political subdivision of a state) to enact laws under its safety regulatory authority.
It
is under this authority that the County's regulation of trespass towing is enacted.
The State of Maryland has also enacted laws regulating trespass towing.
3
Under the State
law, "nothing ... prevents a local authority from exercising any power to adopt local laws or
regulations relating to the registration or licensing of persons engaged in, or otherwise regulating,
in a more stringent manner, the parking, towing or removal, or impounding of vehicles.,,4 Thus
Dan's City Used Cars, Inc.
v.
Pelkey,
133 S. Ct. 1769, 1775 (2013).
249
U.S.C.
§
14501 (b)(2)(C).
1
3
4
MD. Transportation Code, MD. Transportation Code,
§§
21-10A-Ol through 21-10A-06.
Id.,
§
21-10A-Ol(b)(2).
2
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State law does not preempt the County from regulating trespass towing, subject to the stringency
requirement.
5
June 16,2015 Public Hearing
The Public Safety Committee held a public hearing on the Bill on June 16,2015. There
were 30 speakers at the hearing, representing a wide range of perspectives on the issues covered
in the BilL Eric Friedman, Director of the Office of Consumer Protection (OCP), spoke on behalf
of the County Executive, and expressed support for the Bill with a number of additional
recommendations. (©21-22). The remainder of the speakers at the public hearing generally
represented four perspectives: business owners and property managers, towing companies,
homeowners' associations (HOAs) and condominiums, and "victims" of predatory towing
practices.
Concerns expressed by business owners and property managers ranged from descriptions
ofthe hardship that illegal parking imposes on business (©23-25) to concerns more specific to Bill
17-15' s proposed changes, particularly related to overnight tows and increased signage (©26-29,
30-32). Representatives from the towing industry were also concerned with the proposed specific
authorization requirements for overnight tows and signage (33-36,37), but also objected to the
Bill's proposed ban on the use of "spotters," its "photographic evidence" requirement, and the
grant of additional powers to OCP (©38-45).
Representatives of HOAs and condominiums also were primarily concerned with Bill 17­
15's proposed changes with regard to overnight tows and signage (©46-47, 48). However, at least
one condominium association board member decried predatory towing practices and urged the
Council to enact the Bill (©49-50). Vehicle owners whose cars were towed from private property
told stories of having their cars towed immediately after stepping off the premises ("walk-off'
tows) (©51-56) and alleged mistreatment by towing companies (©57-58, 65-66).
Issues for Committee Discussion
As introduced, Bill 17-15 would make a number of significant changes to the County's
trespass towing law. The Executive has requested a number of additional amendments, of which
many are technical, and many others would serve to make the County law consistent with the
recently enacted State law. In areas where the State law is more restrictive, State law applies, but
must be enforced by the police. Making the County law consistent with, or more stringent than,
the State law would allow the Office of Consumer Protection to enforce the law, allowing police
resources to be directed to more serious criminal matters. This allocation ofenforcement authority
should render significant public safety benefits in and of itself.
The numerous technical amendments proposed by the Executive would· result in a slight
restructuring ofChapter 30C. Council staff believes that this is a good approach, and that the most
efficient way for the Committee to proceed is to first consider the changes to the law proposed in
areas oflocal towing regulation less stringent than State Jaw may also be permitted under certain sections of
the State law, such as the distance ofthe tow, and many other restrictions on towing. See
§§
21-10A-03 and 2 l-lOA­
04.
S
Certain
3
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Bill 17-15, and then move on to the Executive's recommendations. Discussion of Bill 17-15 as
introduced will reference the current draft of the Bill (©1-14). For discussion of the Executive
proposals, staff has prepared a draft of Bill 17-15 with the Executive's recommendations included
(©67-94).
Bill 17-15
Bill 17-15 includes several amendments to the existing County towing law aimed at
protecting people whose vehicles are towed from unscrupulous or abusive practices while still
allowing property owners to keep their lots clear of vehicles without parking privileges.
Preliminarily, the Bill would add language
to
clearly state that purpose of Chapter 30C is to protect
public safety (©3, lines 27-28). fbis provision would make clear that all of the provisions of the
law are, in the County's view, public safety measures and therefore not preempted under federal
law. The more substantive amendments included in the Bill are discussed below.
Require the Executive to set either maximum rates or flat rates for trespass tows
(©3, 4 lines 29­
44,55-56)
Current law (§30C-2) requires the Executive to set, and review at least every two years, the
maximum rates for the following services:
• Attaching the vehicle to be towed to the tow truck;
• Towing the vehicle to a storage site. This rate must be based on the distance the vehicle is
towed;
• Storing the vehicle until it is redeemed; and
• Any other service needed to safely remove a vehicle.
Bill 17-15 would authorize the Executive to set flat rates instead of the maximum rates,
and would require towing companies to charge rates either not in excess ofthe maximum rate, or
equal to the flat rate, depending on which is set. Flat rates should create certainty and consistency
in what vehicle owners would pay, and would eliminate disputes over whether a tow truck took
the most direct route to a tow lot.
Prince George's County has a flat rate cap for a towing charge, set at $175,6 which includes
the first calendar day of storage, mileage and hook-up fees. Prince George's allows a storage
charge of up to $50 per day (after the first calendar day), and up to a $30 charge for a "notification
letter" which may be sent to the vehicle owner after 48 hours or two business days. Maximum
rates for trespass towing in Fairfax County are set in the law and include rates for "hookup and
initial towing" and storage
7
Arlington County's fee structure is generally the same as Fairfax
County. None of the local jurisdictions examined allow for the imposition of a storage charge for
the first calendar day or 24 hours after towing or delivery to the storage area.
The $175 charge is for a vehicle with a gross vehicle weight (GYW) up to 10,000 pounds; for vehicles with a GYW
between 10,001 and 26,000 pounds, the allowed charge is $300.
7
"Hookup and initial towing fee": $135 for vehicles with GYW up to 7,500 pounds, $250 for GYW between 7,501
and 10,000, and $500 for GYW above 10,000 pounds. Storage (after the first 24 hours): $50 per day for vehicles up
to 22 feet long, or $5 per foot for vehicles over 22 feet long.
6
4
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The amendments to the Bill requested by the Executive would not give the Executive a
choice, but would mandate the flat rates.
Staff Recommendation:
Require the Executive to set flat nite maximum rates for towing
(including hook-up, transport to storage area, and the first 24 hours of storage) and storage after
the first 24 hours, by amending lines 29-44, and lines 55-56 ofthe Bill as follows:
[[30C-2]] 30C-3.
Maximum rates.
(a)
When [[charging for]] towing a motor vehicle from private property
without the consent of the owner, a towing [[service]] company must
[not] not
charge[~
ill
!!
flat rate established
Qy
the Executive under this Section; or
ill
!!
rate that is not]] more than a maximum rate [which the county
executive must establish by regulation under method (2)]
[[established
Qy
the Executive under this Section]] which the
County Executive must establish by regulation under method (2).
[The executive must review the rates at least every two (2) years.]
The Executive must review the rates at least every two (2) years.
(b)
The [executive] Executive must set
[[Qy
method
ill
regulation, and
review at least every two years, either]] fair and reasonable [[flat rates
or]] maximum rates for each ofthe following acts:
(1)
towing, which includes [[Attaching]] attaching the vehicle to be
towed to the tow truck. towing the vehicle to a storage site. and the
fITst 24hours ofstorage;
(2)
[[Towing the vehicle to a storage site. This rate must be based on
the distance the vehicle is towed;
(3)]] [[Storing]] storing the vehicle until
it
is redeemed; and
[[(4)]]£ll
[[Any]] any otherseryice needed to safely remove a vehicle.
*
disapprove a rate
that[~
5
*
*
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ill
illn
is different from!! flat rate set under Section 30C-2; or
exceeds [the]!! maximum rate set under Section 30C-2.
Authorize the Office ofConsumer Protection to issue subpoenas in entorcing the Chapter
(©4,
lines 58-60)
The Office of Consumer Protection investigates many consumer complaints about trespass
towing in the County, and
has
indicated that allowing the Office to subpoena documents relevant
to the investigation of towing complaints would allow it to better enforce the law. Giving OCP
subpoena power in investigating towing complaints would be consistent with the subpoena power
granted to the Office to enforce the provisions ofthe County Consumer Protection Law in Chapter
11 of the Code.
8
Staff Recommendation: Authorize the Office of Consumer Protection to subpoena at lines 58­
60, with the following amendment:
(f)
The Office may issue subpoenas to compel the production ofdocuments,
papers, books, records, and other evidence relevant to the investigation of
a complaint filed with the Office in any matter to which this Chapter
applies.
Require one notice sign per
25
spaces in parking lots with
J
00 or more parking spaces, in addition
to requiring signs at entrances
(©4, lines 66-72)
Current law (§30C-4(b)(2) requires that "sufficient numbers of signs must be posted
permanently so that at least one sign is clearly readable from each parking area and each vehicle
entrance to the property at all times." The law also provides that, as an alternative, large lots with
more than 100 parking spaces may comply by having "at least one sign must be posted in a
conspicuous place for each 75 parking spaces," as long as each sign is "readable from all affected
spaces." Bill 17-15 would make this large lots alternative mandatory, and would require one sign
for each 25 parking spaces. OCP believes that many consumers are not fully aware ofhow strictly
parking restrictions are enforced, and suggests that existing requirements in large lots do not
sufficiently inform them.
This issue should be discussed in conjunction with the County Executive's request,
discussed below, as both proposals address the issue of signage in parking lots.
Require that all tows be "specifically authorized" by the property owner
(©7, lines 148-150)
County Code
§
11-2(b)(2) provides that the Office of Consumer Protection may "issue summonses and subpoenas
to compel the attendance ofwitnesses and the production ofdocuments, papers, books. records. and other evidence
in
any matter to which this Chapter applies."
8
6
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Current law exempts tows between 2:00 am and 9:00 am from the general "specific
authorization requirement. This exemption exists presumably because of the difficulty in
obtaining specific authorization from an owner or property manager during overnight hours. There
was a great deal of testimony from property managers and towers about the need to retain the
existing exemption, both for practical as well as public safety reasons. Much of this testimony
referenced a perceived need that the property owner or manager be physically present to authorize
the tow; the law does not require physical presence to authorize a tow, and under proposed
amendments discussed below, the authorization could be made by email or fax.
Prince George's County permits trespass tows between the hours of 9:00 pm and 6:00 am
without express authorization, but other local jurisdictions generally do not exempt overnight tows.
However, some of these jurisdictions do not have as stringent authorization requirements for
trespass tows in general. Representatives of some towing companies have advocated expanding
the exemption to begin earlier.
Council staff believes that, unless there is some evidence of pervasive abuse of the
exemption, it should be retained in some form for practical reasons.
It
could be retained as it
currently exists in the law, or could be amended to apply only to residential property. A fairly
compelling argument for retaining the exemption for all properties, or commercial property in
particular, is that it allows lots with problems with unauthorized commuter parking to clear their
lots before the start of the business day.
Staff Recommendation:
Retain the exemption from the express authorization requirement for
tows between 2:00 am and 9:00 pm as it exists in the current law.
Require photographic evidence or violation or event precipitating the towing ora vehicle
(©7.
lines
152~154)
OCP has indicated that without photographic evidence ofa violation, it is nearly impossible
to resolve a consumer complaint. The State of Maryland requires photographic evidence of a
violation prior to towing a vehicle,9 so adding this requirement will make County law consistent
with State law. As a practical matter, since local jurisdictions may regulate
in
this area only more
stringently than the State, the State requirement already applies; as noted earlier conforming the
County law to State law would allow OCP to enforce the law civilly, rather than having the law
enforced by police. Among other local jurisdictions, Prince George's and Fairfax Counties also
require photographic evidence in their local laws. Arlington County does not. Prince George's
County further requires that the photograph be available for inspection by any interested party for
at least one year, and a copy provided to the vehicle owner upon request.
Council staff believes that the additional requirements of the Prince George's County law would
be of value in resolving complaints, and notes that the County Executive's proposal includes
similar requirements.
9
MD Transportation Code, §21-10A-04(aX5Xiii)
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Staff Recommendation:
Include requirement of photographic evidence with the following
amendment at lines 152-154:
OJ)
Before towing an unauthorized vehicle from private property
[L.
~
person]] under this Section. the towing service must obtain
photographic evidence of the violation or event that precipitated
the towing of the vehicle. The photograph must be available for
inspection by any interested party for at least one
y~ar.
and a copy
of the photograph must be provided to the
request.
Prohibit the use of "spotters" to identify vehicles for towing
(©8, lines 167-172)
Bill 17-15 would outlaw the use of individuals whose job is essentially to call in tow trucks
to remove unauthorized vehicles, commonly known as "spotters." The bill defines a spotter as an
individual whose "primary task" is to report the presence of unauthorized parked vehicles for the
purpose of towing or removal. "Primary task" is defined as meaning an individual's job function
that accounts for more than 50% of the individual's compensation or hours worked." Spotters are
one of the major complaints heard by OCP and Council offices.
Where spotters are used, tows are called in often by the spotter, rather than the actual
property owner, and the spotter may wrongly identify a violation, leading to an improper tow. The
proper balance in trespass towing is to allow private property owners to protect their private
property while avoiding tows that are improper or overly aggressive. The penalty for the driver
when their car is towed is severe. For simply walking offproperty to get a cup of coffee next door,
property can be taken and can only be reclaimed by paying a substantial fee. Council staffbelieves
that, to the extent that spotting encourages cars to be towed without actual authorization from the
property owner, it should not be allowed, as it significantly increases the likelihood that an
innocent driver will be victimized.
vehi~le
owner upon
It
is also important to note that existing State law prohibits the use of spotters.
10
Of local
counties, only Howard County prohibits the use of spotters.
I I
However, other local jurisdictions
A lower court ruling held the State's ban on spotters to
be
unconstitutionally vague, because it lacked a definition
of the tenn "primary task," but the Maryland Court of Appeals has since held
that
the lower court should have
dismissed the towing company's complaint as not ripe, because the company was not facing a specific threat of
enforcement at the time it filed its complaint.
Maryland v. G&C Gulf, Inc.,
Misc. No.4 (Sept. Tenn 2014) (April
22,2015). BillI7-15's defmition of "primary task" should ensure that such a County law would survive a vagueness
challenge.
II
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57
10
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such as Orange County, Florida
12
ban the use of spotters. Broward County, Florida
13
and State of
New Jersey,
14
have gone so far as to ban patrol towing altogether.
Staff Recommendation:
Retain the Bill's language prohibiting the use of spotters.
Require a property owner or property manager to maintain tow slips and information on
nonconsensual tows
(©8. lines 173-184)
Current law requires the property owner or the owner's agent to retain tow slips and records
related to tows (§30C-5(c)). Bill 17-15 would amend this to strike owner's agent, and insert
"property manager." This change would more clearly defme the party responsible for retaining
the records, and would facilitate investigations into complaints. The Executive proposes a
different set of requirements for this section, going beyond recordkeeping to include notification
as well. The Committee should discuss this issue in the context of the Executive's proposal.
Authorize Office ofConsumer Protection investigators to order release ofvehicle
(©9,
lines 187­
189)
Current law (§30C-7(e)) provides that "a police officer may order a towing service to
release a vehicle, or to stop attaching a vehicle, at any time." OCP believes that extending the
authority to order the release of a vehicle prior to completion ofthe tow to its investigators would
allow the investigators to de-escalate certain confrontations between vehicle owners and tow truck
operators. The Bill would simply give an OCP investigator the same authority as a police officer
to order the release of a vehicle. Staff believes that the inclusion of certain circumstances when
this authority might be exercised is advisable for the benefit of all parties, and to prevent claims
of an arbitrary exercise of the power.
Staff Recommendation:
Authorize OCP investigators to order release of a vehicle to prevent a
breach of the peace or when there is reasonable cause to believe the tow is or would be unlawful,
by amending lines 187-189 as follows.
(e)
A police officer or investigator [[employed
Qy
the]) Office of Consumer
Protection investigator may order a towing service to release a vehicle, or
to stop attaching a vehicle, at any time to prevent a breach ofthe peace or
if the investigator or officer has reasonable cause to believe that the tow
would be or was unlawfuL
Prohibit immobilization ofvehicles on private property without the owners' consent
C©11-14.lines
245-338)
12
http://www.orangecountyfl.net.NewsroomiNewTowingOrdinanceEnforcementBegins.aspx#.
VYwujk
JC2w
13
http://www.ccfi.netiHOAFLTOWAbuse.htmJ
9
14
http://wv.w.Ill£Q!.!~.Ymeraffl!.irs.gov/New~/Consumer%20BIjefs/.¥1l~1:Y.Q!l-shoYl9-kno!.1:about-g<;1ting-to..w~Q...gM
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Current law provides for certain required procedures to
be
followed in immobilizing a
vehicle on private property without the consent ofthe owner. Immobilization is generally achieved
by using a clamping device on the wheel of a vehicle commonly referred to as a "boot." OCP
indicates that the practice is generally not used in the County, and that to immobilize a vehicle
would seem counter to property owner's objective in removing the vehicle from a parking space
or fire lane. As such, OCP has recommended prohibiting the practice. This prohibition would not
prohibit vehicle immobilization for law enforcement purposes.
Staff Recommendation: Prohibit immobilization of vehicles as provided in Bill 17-15.
Executive Branch Requested Additions
Restructure Chapter
30e
(©68-71. lines 3-101; ©90-91, lines 598-616), and technical changes
As noted above, if the Committee chooses to recommend the inclusion of the additions to
the Bill requested by the Executive, a slight restructuring of Chapter 30C would
be
in order. The
restructuring would result in splitting current § 30C-l into two sections, with the first setting forth
the scope and purpose ofthe Chapter, and the second containing definitions, including the addition
of definitions of terms used in the law but not currently defmed (See ©68-71, lines 3-101). Also,
enforcement provisions that are currently scattered throughout the Chapter would be consolidated
into a single new section (See ©90-91, lines 598-616).
The Executive's proposal also includes a number of technical changes, including changing
reference to "towing service" to "towing company" throughout the Chapter, and making several
corrective amendments to make Chapter 30C consistent with current legislative drafting
conventions.
Staff recommendation:
Split §30C-I into two sections, consolidate enforcement provisions into
a single section, and make technical changes as proposed.
Amend the law to align with State law
As previously mentioned, the Executive's proposal would amend Chapter 30C in several
places to be consistent with State law, allowing OCP to enforce the law rather than police. These
amendments are
as
follows:
• Identification, registration, and insurance of tow trucks; age of drivers (©72, lines
130-134);
• Number of signs (©75-76, lines 205-222), this proposal would require signs at each
vehicle entrance to the property, and in lots with more than 45 spaces, one sign for
each 45 spaces
15 ;
• Sign specifications (©76-77, lines 223-251);
• Require 72 hours' notice for trespass tows solely for violation of State motor
vehicle registration law (©81, lines 372-375);
The one sign per 45 spaces is based on the State law requirement of one sign for every 7,500 square feet, and
calculated using the minimum size of parking spaces required in the County Zoning Ordinance.
15
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Storage lot signs and hours of operation (©85, lines 464-467); and
Inspection and retrieval of personal property (©85, lines 468-475).
Staff recommendation: Amend the Bill to make County law consistent with State law as
described above.
Require disclosures in contracts between the towing company and property owner
(©74, lines
164-178
OCP has indicated that property owners are often unaware of their responsibilities and
liability under Chapter 30C. This requirement would simply require all new contracts to include
reference to the liability and obligations ofproperty owners under the law. The inclusion of these
provisions would be a minimal burden on towing companies, and would benefit property owners
by ensuring their awareness of the law. This amendment would in no way impede the actual
towing of vehicles.
Staff recommendation: Amend
the
Bill to require the disclosures discussed above.
Require property owners who wish to engage in non-consensual towing to first electronically
register their commercial lots andprovide statistical reports
C©74-75, lines 181-199)
OCP believes that having a registry of commercial lots engaging in trespass towing, combined
with regular reporting of number of vehicles towed and reason for tows would assist the Office in
identifying and resolving consumer towing complaints. The amendment would apply only to
commercial lots, and would require certain information to be filed with OCP and updated as
necessary. Registration could be done electronically with a minimum burden on the property
owner. The amendment calls for monthly reports on towing activity from each registered lot.
Council staff believes that the monthly reporting requirement may be overly burdensome, and the
same benefit could be obtained through quarterly reports.
Staff recommendation: Amend the Bill to require registration of commercial lots as proposed,
but require reporting on a quarterly, not monthly, basis.
Allow property owners to have a vehicle towed by placing a notice on the vehicle in lieu ofposting
all required signs
(©77-79, lines 252-296)
Under existing law, both residential and commercial property owners may have
unauthorized vehicles towed by following certain notice procedures in lieu of posting signs. The
notice procedures include: (1) securely attaching to the vehicle in a conspicuous place, a time-and­
dated notice of violation that informs the owner that the vehicle may be towed after 48 hours (24
hours for commercial property); and (2) waiting the 48 (or 24) hours before towing the vehicle,
unless there is a repeat violation within a 180 day period.
As already noted, State law requires signs at each vehicle entrance, and at least one sign
for every 7,500 square feet ofparking space on a lot. As such, current County law would arguably
be
less stringent than State law, and the State law would still apply. The proposed amendment
11
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seeks to retain some option for property owners, while making the law at least as stringent as State
law. Under the proposal, owners of residential property and commercial lots with more than 100
spaces would retain the option of towing after affixing the required notice to vehicles, but would
still have to have the required signs at each vehicle entrance.
This proposal seeks to strike a balance between the State law requirements and the need
for flexibility for property owners. Allowing towing after 24 or 48 hours' notice would not add to
the pervasive problem of walk-off tows, and would allow property owners not wishing to place
large numbers of signs on their property an alternative.
It
is not clear why only commercial lots
with over 100 spaces have this option, and Council staff does not believe that extending the option
to all commercial lots would create any additional problems.
Staff recommendation:
Amend the Bill as proposed, but delete the requirement that commercial
parking lots to which the option applies have more than 100 spaces.
Modernize the authorization procedure for each tow to allow authorization via fax and email
(©79, lines 297-318
Current law (§30C-4(c)) requires that each tow be expressly authorized
l6
by the owner or
the owner's agent, and provides that the authorization may take the form of a tow slip containing
certain infonnation. The law is ambiguous as to what other means of express authorization may
exist, leading to uncertainty as to whether a particular tow is, in fact, authorized. The proposed
change would require a property owner to "authorize the towing of a vehicle in writing via tow
authorization form in person, or via fax or email." The clear requirement of a written authorization
would eliminate any confusion over whether a tow is authorized, and the provision allowing this
authorization to be provided via fax or email should minimize any additional administrative burden
on property owners. With the proliferation of internet enabled smartphones, sending an email is
at least as convenient as making a telephone call.
Staff recommendation:
Amend the Bill to require written authorization for each tow in the form
of a tow authorization fonn provided in person, or via fax or email, as proposed.
Require towing companies to provide notice and retain records
(©82-83, lines 382-415)
As mentioned in the discussion of Bill 17-15, current law requires the property owner or
the owner's agent to provide notice to police, and to retain tow slips and records related to tows
(§30C-5). Bill 17-15 would amend this to strike owner's agent, and insert "property manager"
with regard to recordkeeping requirements. The Executive's proposal would go further, and in a
different direction, making the towing company exclusively responsible for notification and
making both the property owner and the towing company subject to recordkeeping requirements.
Requiring the towing company to notify the police and keep records would solve the
problem that the proposed change in Bill 17-15 is intended to address: clarity in what party is
responsible for keeping documentation of tows. Extending the change to include §30C's notice
Tows between 2:00 am and 9:00 am, as well as towing a vehicle that is blocking a fire lane, access to the property,
or a building on the property, are exempt from this express authorization requirement. See
§
30C-4(c)(10).
16
12
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requirements, and shifting the responsibility exclusively to the towing company would seem to be
more convenient for all parties. The requirement that both the property owner and towing company
retain each tow authorization form is important to allow OCP to confIrm authorization when
investigating complaints, and should be of minimal burden to towing companies and property
owners.
Staff recommendation:
Amend the Bill to make the towing company exclusively responsible for
notification and making both the property owner and the towing company subject to recordkeeping
requirements, as proposed.
Prohibit any charge ;fthe consumer returns to the vehicle befOre towing has been completed
C©83­
84, lines 426-447)
Under the current law (§30C-7), a vehicle owner who returns to an unauthorized vehicle
after it is attached to a tow truck but before it is towed from private property is entitled to have the
vehicle released upon payment of a "drop fee" may not exceed one half the maximum "attachment
fee" set under Chapter 30C.17 The proposed amendment would prohibit the charge of a drop fee,
and require the towing company to release the vehicle "without charging any fee."
Council staff believes that prohibiting any drop fee, without regard to whether the tow was
authorized and otherwise proper under Chapter 30C would be unduly punitive to a towing
company.
A
company will incur fuel and labor costs in responding to a call to make an authorized
tow. The company should not have to absorb that cost in the event that the owner of an
unauthorized vehicle returns to the vehicle prior to its removal from the property.
It
is also worth
noting that the State law, and virtually all local jurisdictions pennit the imposition of a drop fee.
Ifthe
Council wishes to limit the amount ofa drop fee beyond the law's current provisions, it could
provide a specifIc amount in the law, as is done in Fairfax County ($50), Arlington County ($25),
and Prince George's County ($50/$100/$350 depending on the gross vehicle weight of the
vehicle).
OCP has expressed concern that the payment of a drop fee appears to the consumer to be a
"shady deal" between the vehicle owner and the tow truck driver, rather than a transaction
authorized by law and for which
the
law
currently requires the issuance
of a
receipt.
To
address
this concern, the Committee may want to require that receipts: (1) provide the fee schedule with a
reference to the County Code; and (2) identify the violation for which the vehicle would have been
towed.
Staff recommendation:
Retain the existing County law providing for a drop fee, and consider
amendments to set the fee at a specifIc amount and to require receipts to include the County fee
schedule and identify the violation.
Require storage facilities to accept payment both in cash and by credit card
C©85-87, lines 476­
529
17
State law also limits a drop fee to "50% ofthe cost ofa full tow." MD Transportation Code,
§
21-10A-5(b)(4).
13
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Existing law
30C-8(a) and (b)) requires a storage site to accept cash and either the two
"most widely used" credit cards (as set in regulation) or personal checks. The proposal would
expressly require that the site accept cash and the two most widely used credit cards. The "personal
check option" currently allowed under
§
30C-8(b)(4), which permits sites
to
not accept credit
cards, so long as they accept personal checks, would be eliminated. This change would give
certainty to what forms of payment are accepted at any particular site, since they would all, at
minimum, accept cash and credit cards.
Staff recommendation:
Amend the Bill to require all storage sites to accept cash and credit
cards as payment, as proposed.
Remove language expressly providing that a property owner is not liable fOr towing when it is
unauthorized
©89, lines 583-586
Property owners are not liable, under existing law, "for the towing of a vehicle if the
property owner did not authorize the towing, expressly or under a standing authorization"
30C­
9(b). The Executive's proposal would remove this language entirely, and could thus leave
unprotected a property owner on whose property an illegal tow is conducted without the property
owner's knowledge or consent. If the intention is to ensure that property owners are vigilant in
making towing companies with whom they contract comply with the law, a better approach might
be to remove the protection for a property owner who has not authorized a tow and has no business
relationship with the towing company that conducted the tow. This would allow property owners
in cases ofpure rogue towing to remain protected.
Staff recommendation:
Amend the existing law so that lines 583-586 read as follows:
(b)
A property owner is not liable for the towing of a vehicle if the property
owner did not expressly authorize the towing, [[expressly or under a
standing authorization]] or does not otherwise have a business
relationship with the towing company.
(c)
Except as provided in subsection (b), a property owner and a towing
Circle
#
1
15
16
This packet contains:
Bill
17-15
Legislative Request Report
Fiscal and Economic Impact statement
Selected Public Hearing Testimony
Eric Friedman
Matt Palmer
Nicola Whiteman (AOBA)
Bill McClain
Rick Chambers
Jason Bradford
21
23
26
30
33
37
14
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Fredric J. Einhorn
Jamie Whaley
Christopher Hitchens
Justin Tarnow
Steve Eisen
Jeremy Kommel-Bernstein
Shannon Nanni
Bil117-15
with
Executive proposals included
38
46
48
49
51
57
65
67
F:\LAW\BILLS\1517 Towing\PH Memo.Docx
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Bill No.
17-15
Concerning: Motor Vehicle Towing and
Immobilization on Private Property ­
Amendments
Revised:
April 13, 2015
Draft No.
~
Introduced:
April 14, 2015
Expires:
October 14, 2016
Enacted: _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ __
Executive: _ _ _ _ _ _ _ __
Effective: _--:-:-_ _ _ _ _ __
Sunset Date: _N:..:.;o=n=e_ _ _ _ __
Ch, _ _, Laws of Mont. Co. _ __
COUNTY COUNCIL
FOR MONTGOMERY COUNTY, MARYLAND
Lead Sponsor: Councilmember Berliner
AN ACT to:
(1)
(2)
(3)
(4)
(5)
authorize the County Executive to set flat rates for certain towing services;
add certain notice and towing procedure requirements;
provide certain additional enforcement powers for the Office ofConsumer
Protection;
prohibit the immobilization of certain vehicles; and
generally amend the law governing motor vehicle towing and immobilization on
private property
By amending
Montgomery County Code
Chapter 30C, Motor Vehicle Towing and Immobilization on Private Property
Sections 30C-I, 30C-2, 30C-3, 30C-4, 30C-5, 30C-7, 30C-8, and 30C-II
Boldface
Underlining
[Single boldface brackets]
Qouble underlining
[[Double boldface brackets]]
* * *
Heading or defined term.
Added to existing law by original bill.
Deletedfrom existing law by original bill.
Added by amendment.
Deletedfrom existing law or the bill by amendment.
Existing law unqffected by bill.
The County Council for Montgomery County, Maryland approves the following Act:
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BILL
No.
17-15
1
2
Sec.
1.
Sections 30C-t, 30C-2, 30C-3, 30C-4, 30C-5, 30C-7, 30C-8, and
30C-II are amended as follows:
30C-t. Definitions; scope; purpose.
3
4
5
*
(b)
Scope.
(1)
*
*
6
7
This Chapter applies to the towing of a motor vehicle from
private property, or the immobilization of a motor vehicle on
private property, without the consent ofthe vehicle owner.
8
9
(2)
This Chapter does not apply to:
[a.](A)
[b.]®
Towing initiated by the vehicle owner;
Towing approved or requested by a police officer,
10
11
12
13
14
15
16
17
firefighter, or rescue squad member in the course of duty
or under the state law on abandoned vehicles; or
[c.]{Q
(3)
Towing a motor vehicle while repossessing it.
Sections 30C-4 and 30C-6 do not apply to:
[a.](A)
Towing from designated handicapped parking
spaces;
[b.]®
Towing from the yard or driveway of a one-family
18
19
dwelling; or
[c.1{Q
Towing from land immediately adjoining an electric
20
21
22
23
or telephone utility building or structure that is not open to
the general public.
(c)
Purpose.
This Chapter does not authorize the immobilization, towing or
holding of any vehicle. To the extent that legal authority to immobilize,
tow or hold a vehicle without the consent of its owner exists, that
authority must be derived from other statutes or the common law. [This]
24
25
26
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BILL
No. 17-15
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The purpose of this Chapter
to protect public safety
Qy
restricting
[restricts] the exercise of any such legal authority.
30C-2. Maximum rates.
(
a)
When charging for towing a motor vehicle from private property
without the consent of the owner, a towing service must [not] charge;
31
32
33
ill
ill
~
~
flat rate established
Qy
the Executive under this Section; or
rate that is not more than a maximum rate [which the county
34
35
36
37
executive must establish by regulation under method (2)]
established
Qy
the Executive under this Section. [The executive
must review the rates at least every two (2) years.]
(b)
The [executive] Executive must set
Qy
method
ill
regulation, and
38
39
review at least every two years, either fair and reasonable flat rates or
maximum rates for each ofthe following acts:
(1 )
(2)
Attaching the vehicle to be towed to the tow truck;
Towing the vehicle to a storage site. This rate must be based on
the distance the vehicle is towed;
(3)
(4)
(c)
Storing the vehicle until it is redeemed; and
Any other service needed to safely remove a vehicle.
40
41
42
43
44
45
46
The fee for releasing a vehicle under section 30C-7 must not exceed
one-half the attachment fee set under subsection (b)(l),
47
(d)
A towing service must not charge for any act not listed in this section
unless that act was expressly requested by the vehicle owner.
48
49
50
30C-3. Administration; rates.
(a)
Each driver employed by a trespass towing service must have a valid
license to operate a tow truck.
51
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BILL No. 17-15
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53
(b)
Every trespass towing service must file with the Office a schedule of its
rates for each action connected with the towing or storage of
unauthorized vehicles. The Office may disapprove a rate
that~
54
55
56
57
ill
ill
(f)
is different from
f!
flat rate set under Section 30C-2; or
exceeds [the}
f!
maximum rate set under Section 30C-2.
*
*
*
58
59
60
The Office may issue subpoenas to compel the production of
documents, papers, books, records, and other evidence in any matter to
which this Chapter applies.
61
62
(g)
Any violation of this chapter is a class A violation.
30C-4. Public notice; tow procedures.
63
64
*
(b)
Signs.
*
*
*
*
65
66
*
(2)
Sufficient numbers of signs must be posted permanently so that at
least one sign is clearly readable from each parking area and each
vehicle entrance to the property at all times. [Alternatively]
Additionally, in a parking lot with more than 100 parking spaces,
at least one sign must be posted in a conspicuous place for each
[75] 25 parking spaces, and each sign must be readable from all
affected spaces.
67
68
69
70
71
72
73
(3)
Each sign must:
[a.](A)
Summarize all parking restrictions on the property
74
75
enforced by towing unauthorized vehicles, including time
and area
[b.lm)
restrictions;
76
77
78
Indicate that vehicles violating the restrictions may
be towed at the vehicle owner's expense; and
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BILL
No. 17-15
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80
[c·lCQ
List the telephone number of each towing service
hired to tow unauthorized vehicles from the property, or a
telephone number that is answered personally at all times
of the day and night by the property owner or an agent of
the owner who is informed of each vehicle towed from the
property.
81
82
83
84
85
86
87
*
(6)
cooperative
or
*
*
association,
may
have. an
An
owner of residential property, including a condominium,
homeowners'
88
89
unauthorized vehicle towed from that property without posting
the signs required by this subsection if:
[a.](A)
A notice specifying a violation of an applicable rule
90
91
or covenant is securely attached to the vehicle in a
conspicuous place;
[b.]fID
on it;
[c.](Q
(i)
The notice informs the vehicle owner that:
the violation must be corrected or the vehicle may
be towed at the vehicle owner's expense 48 hours
after the notice is attached; and
(ii)
an unauthorized vehicle that has received a notice of
the same violation under this Section on the same
property within the previous 180 days may be towed
without any further notice; and
[d.]@
The vehicle is not towed until at least 48 hours after
The date and time the notice was attached is written
92
93
94
95
96
97
98
99
100
101
102
103
104
the notice is attached unless the unauthorized vehicle
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BILL
No.
17-15
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107
108
received a notice of the same violation under this Section
on the same property within the previous
180
days.
(7)
An owner of a commercial parking lot with more than
100
spaces
may have an unauthorized vehicle towed from that property
without posting the signs required by this subsection if:
[a.](A)
A notice specifying a violation of an applicable rule
109
110
111
112
113
114
115
116
117
118
119
or covenant is securely attached to the vehicle in a
conspicuous place;
[b.]{ID
on it;
[c.](g
(i)
The date and time the notice was attached is written
The notice informs the vehicle owner that:
the violation must be corrected or the vehicle may
be towed at the vehicle owner's expense 24 hours
after the notice is attached; and
(ii)
an unauthorized vehicle that has received a notice of
the same violation under this Section on the same
property within the previous
180
days may be towed
without any further notice; and
120
121
122
123
124
125
126
127
128
129
130
[d.]@
The vehicle is not towed until at least 24 hours after
the notice is attached unless the unauthorized vehicle
received a notice of the same violation under this Section
on the same property within the previous
180
days.
(c)
Tow procedures.
*
(5)
*
*
Any property owner or any person acting as an agent of a
property owner, must not:
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No.
17-15
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132
133
134
135
136
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138
[a.](A)
Falsely state that a property owner authorized the
towing of a particular vehicle;
[b.lm}
Record any false information about the towing of a
particular vehicle; or
[c.lCQ
Sign a tow slip before all of the information relating
to the towing of a particular vehicle is recorded on the slip.
*
(9)
*
*
An
agent of a property owner, for the purpose of ordering the
towing of an unauthorized vehicle, must not:
[a.](A)
Be employed by, or have any member of his or her
139
140
141
142
143
144
145
146
147
148
149
150
151
152
153
154
155
156
157
immediate family employed by, any towing service; or
[b.Jffi)
Have any financial interest in any towing service or
the towing of any motor vehicle.
This provision does not apply if the towing service is the record owner
of property from which a motor vehicle is towed.
(10)
An
unauthorized vehicle may be towed from private property
without the express authorization of the property owner or the
owner's agent only[;
a.
b.
Between 2:00 a.m. and 9:00 a.m.; or
If] if the vehicle is directly blocking a clearly marked fIre
lane or access to the property or a building on the property.
ill)
Before towing an unauthorized vehicle from private property,
~
person must obtain photographic evidence of the violation or
event that precipitated the towing of the vehicle.
(d)
(1)
A property owner may move a vehicle within a parking lot
without prior notice to the vehicle owner, but must not remove
the vehicle from the lot, when moving the vehicle is necessary to:
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BILL
No.
17-15
158
159
160
[a.](&}
Remove large quantities of snow or debris;
Repair the parking lot; or
Respond to a threat to a person's safety or health.
[b.](ID
[c.]{Q
(2)
161
162
In moving a vehicle within a parking lot, a property owner must:
[a.](A)
[b.]@}
Take reasonable care not to damage the vehicle;
Pay any cost of moving the vehicle; and
Inform the vehicle owner where the vehicle was
163
164
[c.]{Q
165
166
167
relocated or return the vehicle to its original location as
soon as possible.
W
A property owner or towing service must not employ or use the services
of an individual commonly referred to as
!!
"spotter," whose primary
task is to report the presence of unauthorized parked vehicles for the
purpose of towing or removal. For the purposes of this subsection,
"primary task" means an individual's job function that accounts for
more than 50% ofthe individual's compensation or hours worked.
168
169
170
171
172
173
174
30e-5.
Notice to police.
*
(c)
*
*
175
176
177
The property owner or [the owner's agent] property manager must
retain each tow slip and, for those vehicles towed without a tow slip, a
record of the information furnished to the police, for one year after the
tow. For each vehicle towed without a tow slip, the property owner or
[agent] property manager must record and retain the name of the owner
of the property and, if the tow was authorized by an agent, the name of
the agent. The Police Department, the Office, and the owner of any
vehicle towed by the service may inspect and copy this information at
any time during normal business hours.
178
179
180
181
182
183
184
*
*
*
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BILL
No. 17-15
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186
187
188
30C-7. Incomplete tows.
*
(e)
*
*
A police officer or investigator employed
Qy
the Office may order a
towing service to release a vehicle, or to stop attaching a vehicle, at any
time.
189
190
191
30C-S. Redemption and storage procedures.
*
(b)
*
*
192
193
Payment and promise to pay.
(1)
Cash payment.
A
trespass towing service must accept payment in
cash, or by a traveler's check accompanied by reasonable
identification.
194
195
196
197
(2)
Options.
[a.](A)
Each trespass towing service must accept as full
198
199
200
201
202
203
payment either a credit card slip or a personal check, at the
option of the towing service, validly signed by the vehicle
owner or the owner's agent for the amount of all valid
charges.
[b.
HID
Each trespass towing service must notifY the Office
on the rate schedule filed under Section 30C-3 whether it
opts to accept credit cards or personal checks or both. The
towing service must notifY the Office if it changes that
option.
[c.]{g
The option chosen by a trespass towing service must
204
205
206
207
208
209
210
be available to the owners of all vehicles towed by that
service without the consent oftheir owners.
(3)
Credit card option.
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BILL
No.
17-15
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212
213
[a.]®
Each trespass towing service must accept the 2 most
widely used major credit cards. The Office must define, in
regulations under method (2), which major credit cards are
the 2 most widely used.
[b.]ill)
In
addition, if a trespass towing service accepts any
214
215
216
217
218
219
220
other credit card for any other purpose, it must accept that
credit card under this Chapter.
(4)
Personal check option.
A trespass towing service must, if it does
not accept the 2 most widely used credit cards under subsection
(c)(3), accept a personal check., with reasonable identification, if
the vehicle is registered in Maryland.
221
222
223
224
225
226
227
228
229
230
(5)
Withholding payment.
If:
[a.]®
The vehicle owner withholds payment in a credit
card transaction with a towing service under this Chapter;
and
[b.]ill)
A court in any subsequent civil action finds that the
tow was valid and the amount charged was correct; the
vehicle owner must pay the towing service, in addition to
the amount validly charged, liquidated damages of 2 times
the amount validly charged (but not more than $1,000.00)
and all reasonable costs of collection, including court costs
and a reasonable attorney's fee.
231
232
233
234
235
236
237
(6)
Stopping payment.
If:
[a.]®
The vehicle owner stops payment on a check written
to a towing service under this chapter;
[b.]ill)
The towing service follows the procedures in state
law for collection of dishonored checks; and
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BILL No. 17-15
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242
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248
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255
256
[c.](Q
A court in any subsequent civil action finds that the
tow was valid and the am01.Ult charged was correct; the
vehicle owner must pay the towing service, in addition to
the amount validly charged, liquidated damages of 2 times
the amount validly charged (but not more than $1,000.00)
and a collection fee of $25.00.
*
(a)
*
*
30e-II.
Immobilization [restrictions] prohibited.
Applicability.
A person must not immobilize a motor vehicle owned by
another person [without complying with all requirements of this section]
on private property, without the consent of the vehicle owner.
(b)
[Signs.
The owner of the property on which a vehicle is immobilized
must permanently post a sufficient number of signs which meet all
requirements of Section 30C-4(b)(1)-(5) on the property at least 24
hours before a person immobilizes an unauthorized vehicle. The text of
the sign must reflect that vehicles may be immobilized rather than, or
in
addition to, being towed, and must specify the rate charged to release a
vehicle. The Department of Housing and Community Affairs may by
regulation prescribe the text, graphics, symbols, shape, size, color, or
other elements necessary for a sign to comply with this section.
257
258
259
260
261
262
263
264
(c)
Requirements.
A person must not immobilize an unauthorized vehicle
unless:
(1)
the owner of the property where the vehicle is located has
expressly authorized the person to immobilize unauthorized
vehicles on the property;
(2)
the person, and any business that employs the person to
immobilize vehicles, has registered with the Department of
®
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BILL No. 17-15
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284
285
286
287
288
289
290
Housing and Community Affairs under Section 31A-2 as if
Chapter 31A applies to that person and business;
(3)
the person has been adequately trained to apply an immobilizing
device;
(4)
signs meeting all requirements of subsection (b) have been
properly posted on the property;
(5)
the person attaches to the vehicle's front windshield a notice
prominently warning the operator not to move the vehicle;
(6)
(7)
the person takes reasonable care not to damage the vehicle; and
the owner of the property carries at least $25,000 in liability
insurance which will cover any damage to the vehicle.
(d)
Entrapment not allowed
A person must not immobilize a motor vehicle
on private property if:
(1)
the property is a parking garage or lot which is normally used for
paid public parking and operated by an attendant;
(2)
the vehicle entered the garage or lot between 6 p.m. and 8 a.m.;
and
(3)
the garage or lot was unattended, and access to the garage or lot
was not physically blocked, when the vehicle entered.
(e)
Release of vehicle.
A person who is authorized to release immobilized
vehicles must:
(1)
arrive as promptly as possible, but in any case within 30 minutes
after the owner or operator of an immobilized vehicle calls the
telephone number listed on the sign posted at the property and
requests the release ofthe vehicle;
(2)
immediately release the vehicle after a lawful release fee is paid;
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No.
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(3)
not require the vehicle owner or operator to waive any right to
receive compensation for damages to the vehicle; and
(4)
give the operator ofthe vehicle a receipt which legibly shows:
(A)
the release fee paid,
the date, time, and location ofthe release, and
the name of the person who received the payment and any
business for which the person acted.
(B)
(C)
(f)
Maximum rate.
A person must not charge more to release an
unauthorized vehicle than a maximum rate set by the County Executive
by regulation under method (2). The Executive must set a maximum
rate which fairly compensates the property owner for the reasonable
cost of immobilization, but which does not exceed $50, and must review
the maximum rate at least every 2 years.
301
302
303
304
305
(g)
Payment and promise to pay.
A person who is authorized to release
immobilized vehicles must accept payment:
(1)
306
307
in cash, or by a traveler's check accompanied by reasonable
identification;
308
309
310
(2)
by a personal check, accompanied by reasonable identification, if
the vehicle is registered in Maryland; or
(3)
by the 2 most widely used major credit cards, as defined by the
Department of Housing and Community Affairs.
In
addition, if
the person, or the business which employs the person, accepts
any other credit card for any other purpose, the person must
accept that credit card for this purpose.
311
312
313
314
315
The remedies in Section 30C-8(b)(5)-(6) apply to any payment under
this section.
316
f:\law\bills\15xx towing\bIll2.doc
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BILL
No.
17-15
317
318
319
320
321
322
323
324
325
326
327
328
329
330
331
332
333
334
335
(h)
No lien.
This section does not create or imply a lien in favor of any
person when such a lien would not otherwise exist. This section does
not give any person a right to retain possession of any vehicle
it
would
otherwise have to return to the vehicle owner.
(i)
Public property.
Only a properly authorized agent of a government
agency with jurisdiction over a public road or other public property may
immobilize a motor vehicle on that road or property.
0)
Enforcement; police power.
The Department of Housing and
Community Affairs and the Police Department enforce this section. A
police officer may order a person not to immobilize a vehicle, or to
release an immobilized vehicle without payment, at any time to prevent
a breach of the peace or if the officer has reasonable cause to believe
that the immobilization would be or was unlawful.
(k)]
Civil remedy.
Any person whose vehicle has been unlawfully
immobilized, unlawfully held after being lawfully immobilized, or
damaged while immobilized, may recover from the owner of the
property or any other person responsible for immobilizing the vehicle,
in a civil action, the greater of:
(1)
all actual damages sustained;
or
336
337
338
339
Approved:
(2)
liquidated damages of$100.
This remedy does not replace or limit any other remedy available by
law.
340
George Leventhal, President, County Council
Date
f:\law\bills\1SlO( towing\bill2.doc
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LEGISLATIVE REQUEST REPORT
Bill 17-15
Motor Vehicle Towing and Immobilization on Private Property Amendments
DESCRIPTION:
Bill 17-15 would amend the County's towing and vehicle
immobilization law to authorize the County Executive to set flat rates
for certain towing services; add certain notice and towing procedure
requirements; provide certain additional enforcement powers for the
Office of Consumer Protection; and prohibit the immobilization of
certain vehicles.
"Trespass towing," the towing of a motor vehicle from private
property for compensation without the consent of the vehicle owner,
is subject to certain predatory practices which lead to confrontations
that threaten public safety.
To protect public safety by strengthening the regulation of trespass
towing
in
the County.
Office of Consumer Protection
To be requested.
To be requested.
To be requested.
To be researched.
Josh
Hamlin,
240-777-7892
To be researched.
PROBLEM:
GOALS AND
OBJECTIVES:
COORDINATION:
FISCAL IMPACT:
ECONOMIC
IMPACT:
EVALUATION:
EXPERIENCE
ELSEWHERE:
SOURCE OF
INFORMATION:
APPLICATION
WITHIN
MUNICIPALITIES:
PENALTIES:
Subject to Class
"A"
violation.
F:\LAW\BILLS\15xx Towing\LEGlSLATIVE REQUEST REPORT.Doc
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i.
ROCKVILLE, MARYlAND
MEMORANDUM
May 5,2015
TO:
FROM:
George Leventhal, President, County Council
Jennifer A.
Hughes~
Director, Office
of~ge~~udget
Joseph F. Beach, DIreCtor,
Dep~mance~-
FEIS for Bi1117.15, Motor
Property - Amendments
SUBJECT:
Vehic~e~g
and Immobilization on Private
Please find attached the fiscal and economic impact statements for the above­
referenced legislation.
JAH::Fz
cc: Bonnie Kirkland, Assistant Chief Administrative Officer
Lisa Austin, Offices ofthe County Executive
Joy Nunni, Special Assistant to the County Executive
Patrick Lacefield, Director, Public Information Office
JosephF. Beach, Director, Department of Finance
Eric Friedman, Director, Office or Consumer Protection
David Platt, Department ofFinance
Helen Vallone, Office ofManagement and Budget
Alex Espinosa, Office ofManagement and Budget
Naeem Mia, Office ofManagement and Budget
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Fiscal Impact Statement
Council Bill
17-15
Motor Vehicle Towing and Immobilization on Private Property
1. Legislative Summary.
The purpose ofthis legislation is to amend Chapter 30C, Motor Vehicle Towing and
Immobilization on Private Property with respect to: setting flat rates for certain towing
services, add certain notice and towing procedure requirements, provide certain
additional enforcement powers for the Office of Consumer Protection, and prohibit the
immobilization of certain vehicles.
_ _ _...._.n
._~.e.stimat(Lof..changes_~Co.unQLrevenues-and-expend:itw:es-xegaroIess.-ofw:lletb.er_
...._ _ _ _ __
the revenues or expenditures are assumed in the recommended or approved
budget. Includes source of information, assumptions, and methodologies used.
In
the event this bill results in an increase in the number of non-consensual towing
• complaints filed with OCP and this increase results in the number of civil citations fIled
by OCP; a slight rise in County revenues might be expected. However, no such growth
in
the number of civil citations is expected.
3. Revenue and expenditure estimates covering at least the next 6 fiscal years.
No expected change to response in #2 above.
4.
An
actuarial analysis through the entire amortization period for each bill that
would affect retiree pension or group insurance costs.
Not Applicable.
5•.
An
estimate of expenditures related to County's information technology (IT)
systems, including Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems.
Not applicable.
6. Later actions that may affect future revenue and expenditures
if
the bill authorizes
future spending.
Not applicable.
7.
An
estimate of the staff time needed to implement the bill.
Two OCP investigators examine and handle non-consensual towirig complaints. This
bill may result in a slight rise in the number ofcomplaints filed with OCP. However, it
is anticipated that OCP staff would absorb any moderate increase in the number of
complaints.
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8.
An
explanation of how the addition of new staff responsibilities would affect other
duties.
. Not applicable.
9.
An
estimate of costs when an additional appropriation is needed.
Not Applicable.
10. A description 9f any variable that could affect revenue and cost estimates.
_ _ _ _ _--..:::..A=d=d=.iti=.·o=-:n=al investigative and support staff
may
be needed to investigate and
han=d=.le=d~--:-
_ _ _ _ __
complaints if there is a significant increase in the number of non-consensual towing
complaints filed with OCP.
11. RangeS of revenue or expenditures that are uncertain or difficult to project.'
It
is difficult to predict with any certainty if there will be a significant increase in the
number of complaints filed with OCP, or the amount of time it would take to educate
property owners and towing firms regarding the amendments.
12.
If
a bill is likely to have no fiscal impact, why that is the case.
Not Applicable.
13. Other fiscal iJnpacts or comments.
The County Executive's Office will provide legislative suggestions to enhance
amendments
to
Chapter 30C in an effort to curb overly aggressive non-consensual towing
practices in Montgomery County.
14. The following contributed to and concurred with this analysis:
Eric Friedman, Director Office of Consumer Protection
Marsha Carter, Management and Budget Specialist III, Office of Consumer Protection
Edward Lattner, Chief, Office of the County Attorney
Helen P. Vallone, Senior Management and Budget Specialist, Office of Management
and Budget
'"
Date
@
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Economic Impact Statement
Bill 17-15,
Motor Vehicle Towing and Immobilization on Private Property
­
Amendments
Background:
This legislation would:
• Authorize the County Executive to set flat rates for certain towing services,
• Add certain notice and towing procedure requirements,
• Provide certain additional enforcement powers for the Office of Consumer
Protection (OCP), and
• Prohibit the immobilization of certain vehicles.
- _ _ _ _
-I.S-Z!p~e~ciu.fi&c:I.balu.,ly~.J.;Bill
17-15 provides for the following:
• adds public safety to the purpose of the law,
• establishes flat rates,
• gives subpoena authority to OCP under Chapter 30C of the County Code,
• requires more low signage to be posted on properties,
• requires that a tow be authorized at all times of the day,
• required photographic evidence ofviolation,
• prohibits the use of "spotters", and
• prohibits the immobilization or booting on private property.
·1.
The sources of information, assumptions, and methodologies used.
Source of information and data is the Office of Consumer Protection. The
assumption is that the flat rate would be similar to the overall average of the current
towing fees. There are no methodologies used in the preparation of the economic
impact statement. OCP provided data on the estimate of the economic impact.
2. A description of any variable that could affect the economic impact estimates.
Currently there are three sets oftowing fees: hookup fee, mileage fee, and storage fee.
The most controversial fee is the per mileage fee. According to OCP, the overall
average of the sum of the three fees is
$168. Bill 17-15
would eliminate the three-fee
structure and set a fixed rate. As such, OCP assumes that an average fixed rate could
be $168 which is the same as the overall average ofthe sums of the current three sets
of fees. Therefore, since the flat fee structure would replicate the overall average of
the current rates, there is no net economic. impact.
However, on a case-by-case basis, ifthe fixed rate is set at a level that is less than the
current sum of the 'individual towing fees, a towing company would receive less
revenue than with a fixed rate. If the fixed rate is set ,at a level that is greater than the
current sum of the individual towing rates, a towing company would receive more
revenue than with a fixed rate. Overall, the result would be a zero sum effect for the
County's economy, that is, the revenue differentials from towing companies and
individuals would offset each other. Therefore, according to OCPthe impact from
Page 1 of2
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Economic Impact Statement
Bill 17-15, Motor Vehicle Towing and Immobilization on Private Property­
Amendments
the fixed rate would be similar to the average of the current rates, and there would be
no overall "net" economic impact to the County.
3. The -Bill's positive or negative effect, if any on employment, spending, savings,
investment, incomes, and property values in the County.
Given the assumption that the flat rate would be the same as the overall average ofthe
current fees, there is no effect on employment, spending, savings, investment,
_ _
---'in.~s.
and property values in the County. However, since Bill 17-15 woul=d_ _ _ _ __
require more tow signage, the cost to the towing company would increase for
purchasing and installing the signs. Since, Finance assumes that each sign would
range between $10 and $20, the additional expenditure would be minimal and have
no significant impact
on
business spending.
.
4.
If
a Bill is likely to have no economic impact, why is that the case?
See #3 above.
5.
The following contributed to or concurred with this analysis: David Platt and Rob
Hagedoom, Finance; Eric Friedman, Director, Office of Consumer Protection.
Date
Page 2 of2
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\
OFFICE OF CONSUMER PROTECTION
Isiah Leggett
County Executive
Eric S. Friedman
Director
TESTIMONY ON BEHALF OF TIIE COUNTY EXECUTIVE ON BILL 17-15, MOTOR
VEHICLE TOWING AND IMMOBILIZATION ON PRNATE PROPERTY-AMENDMENTS
June 16,2015
Good evening Chairman Elrich and Members of the Public Safety Committee. I am Eric
Friedman, Director of the Office of Consumer Protection, and I am here to testify on behalf of
County Executive Ike Leggett support of Bill 17-15. Thank: you for the opportunity to share 25
years of experience investigating complaints regarding whaUs commonly referred to as "non­
consensual", "trespass", or "impound" towmg practices in Montgomery County.
Montgomery County's towmg law (Chapter 30C) was first enacted in 1989. The
challenge was, and continues to be, how to enact legislation that results in the appropriate
balance between the need to establish parking restrictions and the need for fairness and civility
with respect to enforcement.
This is no easy task and unfortunately, we are today faced with a situation in which the
balance has tipped and resulted in a climate
in
which several towing firms are exploiting the
intent of Chapter 30C by engaging in overly aggressive towing practices; also sometimes
referred to as predatory towing.
It
is important to note that this type of towing is an extraordinary act which in any other
context would be considered a theft. Approximately 30,000 vehicles are towed out of shopping
centers and residential parking lots each year in Montgomery County. The average cost to
retrieve each vehicle is $160. Acco;rdingly, the relatively few towing
firms
that engage in non­
consensual towing are generating 4.8
million
dollars in revenue each year in Montgomery
County.
The Office of Consumer Protection currently has 2 investigators in Montgomery County
that receive and investigate towing complaints filed by consumers. You will be hearing firsthand
from some of these consumers just how frustrating this experience can be and how such overly
aggressive behavior is a powerful force
in
discouraging consumers from ever returning to the
business districts in Bethesda, Silver Spring, Wheaton, and Rockville.
100
Maryland Avenue, Suite
330 •
Rockville, Maryland
20850 • 240-777-3636 • E-\x 240-777-3768
www.montgomerycountymd.gov/consumer
-
-.
montgomerycountymd.gov/311 'Ii
li
ij"
"'.li,111
240...773...3556 TTY
.
_,5ft'C.~
-ftf311r
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County Executive Ike Leggett applauds the efforts of Councilmember Roger Berliner
in
recognizing this problem and taking the initiative to amend Chapter 30C.
In
supporting this
initiative, the County Executive has several recommendations to enhance the intent and effort to
curb overly aggressive towing practices and to restore an appropriate balance.
The County Executive's recommendations include:
../ Prohibit any charge
if
the consumer returns to the vehicle before towing has been
completed.
../ Require certain disclosures
in
the contract between the towing company and property
owner to ensure that the property owner is aware of its liabilities and obligations.
../ Modernize the property owner's procedures for authorizing each tow by establishing
documentation via fax and email.
../ Require property owners who wish to engage
in
non-consensual towing to first
electronically register their parking lots and provide statistical reports .
../ Update the definitions and the requirements regarding signs and photographs to align with
the State towing law.
../ Clarify that vehicle owners cannot be charged to inspect or retrieve their personal property
from their vehicles .
../ Add definitions for commercial and residential property.
../ Allow property owners to have a vehie1e towed by placing a notice on the vehicle in lieu
of posting all of the signs required by current law.
The Office of Consumer Protection looks forward to working with the County Council to
craft legislation that will help to establish the needed balance in the marketplace. Thank you.
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Towing issues from the side of a business that relies on having parking
I have consistently been amazed at the total lack of understanding people, including our elected
leaders, have in regards to the enforcement of private parking. No business wants to tow we just do not
have any other viable alternative.
Eric Freidman believes that 200 people complained out of an estimated 40,000 tows. This means there
were at least 40,000 instances of parking poaching. In the meantime the county parking enforcement
wrote over 180000 tickets last fiscal year with over 4500 hearings contesting those tickets. I think the
assertion that towing is costing business in these areas is short sighted and shifting the blame.
We have 7 parking spaces for our store in Bethesda. Every time someone parks and walks off it could
end up costing us thousands or tens of thousands of dollars in business. Most people do not realize the
damaged caused by
pa~king
for just a few minutes
People park in our lot even when there is plenty of parking in the garage and the street.
To avoid county parking tickets the drivers of a delivery service across the street will park in our lot,
watch the street and then run out at the last minute to move the car and avoid the tow.
At night people will park in our lot thinking that because we are seemingly not open that we are no
longer entitled to our spaces. Aside from the fact that I work when the store is closed and the sign on
the door says
"or
by appointment" are we to go look for other parking when shop or eat because
somebody is parked in our lot? We also have a deal with a valet service to use our lot at night on the
weekend so every parking poacher costs them money.
On occasion when we attempt to nicely ask poachers to move or put a polite printed note on the
windshield we are met with foul language and physical threats.
When potential customers call to make an appointment and learn where we are in Bethesda they are
hesitant to come until we explain that we have parking. When they arrive and find all the spaces taken
by 3 or 4 "just a few minuter's they drive to another store on their list. When this happens I lose that
customer and all their referrals forever.
To give you an idea how important the customer parking is I spend more for the parking spaces per
month than I do on my mortgage payment every month.
Mr. Berliner asserts that the towing problem is worse now than 20 years ago. The reason is the county
parking became more restrictive and expensive. Twenty years ago we could park free in the evenings
and weekends. The day the county changed from free parking on Saturday's in Bethesda the parking
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predatory practices of county parking enforcement by poaching private parking. I know this is true
because my lot will be full of poachers while there is a half empty garage next door and there will be
empty parking meters up and down the street. People avoiding the meters and county parking
enforcement results in more tows and more lost business for the lot owners.
Most people think the tow company can not get there fast enough but they know the parking
enforcement is always on the prowl. Additionally, the cost of paying the meter has gone way up and so
have the parking ticket fines. In front of my store the meters are $2.00 per hour and $45.00 if you make
an error.
I was told by Eric Friedman to put up a gate or chain and suggested that I leave my store to open the
gate when the customer arrives. Even if this was a viable option I do not have the whole lot. We can call
the police but do we really want to take the time of the police for this? We are not allowed to boot or to
ticket and this does not free up the space anyway. Allowing walk off towing frees up the lot owners time
to run their business.
We have had people walk into the store and walk out then across the street to another store so they can
claim they were a customer. Why should a business who has the foresight to provide parking be
punished because a neighboring store did not do the same? Why is it so hard for people to ask the store
owner first before going to the next store?
When I walk into the lot and see my parking taken how am I to know how long the car will be there or to
wait before calling for a tow? How am I to know they will just be a minute?
Is the county prepared to limit the towing company's costs as well as its charges? Are you aware the
county may charge $271.00 when they tow?
If there are around 100 valid complaints from 40,000 tows and the Eric Friedman thought the actual
complaints would be higher the reason they were illegal tows is based mostly technicalities due to the
complex set of rules and not that the person wasn't parked where they should not be parked. It's like
beating a speeding ticket because the officer missed some detail on the ticket and not because you were
not speeding. They also fail to address the number of times a person steals parking and does not get
towed.
Eric Friedman also suggested that towing practices were less than civil. Is it civil to steal parking?
The implication that the business owners are in cahoots with the towing companies for profit is so
preposterous it is laughable. The loss of a parking space costs businesses so much more than any
potential small sum from the towing company. No towing company has ever suggested this.
The signage requirements are very costly for businesses and what I have found is people have torn
down and defaced signs in order to get around being towed. This makes this requirement costly and an
ongoing cost.
The best solution would be for the county officials to launch a campaign of education about the parking
problem. Making residents aware they are the problem and that we would not have a towing issue if
people would respect private parking. It is like the speed cameras, if you want them to go away then
stop speeding.
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The best and only defense parking lot owners have is towing enforced by towing companies without
having to interrupt business owners every time someone poaches a spot.
As you can see by now the idea that the person towed is a victim is false. The victim is the business who
was without the space for their customers.
I am asking the council to consider that the owners of private lots need help against the predatory
parkers 200 times more than the people who claim to be wrongfully towed. Find a way to protect the lot
owner. They are the ones entitled to defend their rights. These new regulations are an invitation to
private parking abusers.
Lastly, I ask that you consider that the county itself makes more money on the county parking
enforcement and engages in exactly the same behavior it apparently finds abhorrent in the tow
companies.
Please feel free to contact me on this issue. My number is 301 523 5821
Thank you,
Matt Palmer
@
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23
- APARTMENT AND OFFICE­
BUILDING ASSOOAnON OF
METROPOLITAN WASHINGTON
STATEMENT OF THE APARTMENT AND OFFICE BUILDING ASSOCIATION OF
METROPOLITAN WASHINGTON
FOR THE JUNE 16,2015 PUBLIC HEARING ON
BILL 17-15 MOTOR VEmCLE TOWING AND IMMOBILIZATION ON PRIVATE
PROPERTY
Good evening President Leventhal, Vice President Floreen, members of the Council and
staff. My name is Nicola Whiteman, and I am the Senior Vice President of Government Affairs
for the Apartment and Office Building Association of Metropolitan Washington (AOBA), a non­
profit trade association whose members· are owners and managers of more
than
112,000
apartment units and over 33 million square feet of office space in suburban Maryland, including
over 24 million square feet of office space and more
than
57,000 apartment units in Montgomery
County. I appear today to testify on Bill 17-15 Motor Vehicle Towing and Immobilization on
Private Property. Bill 17-15 proposes numerous changes to the County's towing and
immobilization current law, some of which will be problematic for AOBA members. AOBA's
primary concerns are with the proposals to: (1) grant the Office of Consumer Protection (OCP)
broad subpoena power; (2) increase the signage posting requirements for property owners; and
(3) require a property owner or property manager's consent to tow an unauthorized vehicle from
private property between 2:00am and 9:00am.
I.
Process of Towing Motor Vehicles Must Be Fair and Transparent to Affected
Parties.
AOBA's commercial and multifamily members believe that the process of towing
vehicles must be fair and that specific procedures must be followed to verify and document
unauthorized parking. Ensuring that only vehicles belonging to parking violators are removed
from private property requires the property owner/manager or other person to monitor the
parking areas to distinguish between authorized and unauthorized vehicles. Taking the necessary
steps to ensure that a violation did occur is consistent with the statutory intent to prevent
unauthorized towing and preserve consumer confidence in the process.
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ll.
AOBA Opposes Eliminating Statutory Language Allowing Towing of Unauthorized
Vehicles from Private Property without the Property Owner/Agent's Consent
Between 2:00am and 9:00am.
The legislation proposes to delete language allowing towing of unauthorized vehicles
from private property without the property owner or agent's consent between 2:00am-9:00am.
The bill instead would only allow the towing of unauthorized vehicles from private property
without the property owner or agent's consent if the vehicle is blocking a fue lane or
building/property access. AOBA recommends that the Council maintain existing law or revise
the bill to clarify that the property owner's consent for each separate tow during these hours is
not required and that the property owner can grant such consent via contract.
Many AOBA members own or manage commercial andlor multifamily properties in the
County where there is no on-site staff available to grant consent between the hours of 2:00am­
9:00am. Additionally, building owners and managers need to safely clear unauthorized vehicles
from private property to ensure that adequate parking spaces are available to authorized vehicles
belonging to tenants, visitors and employees. AOBA commercial and multifamily building
owners and managers routinely respond to tenant complaints- about the lack of parking due to
parking violators. For commercial retail tenants, the lack of available parking could result in the
loss of revenues
if,
due to the lack' of reliable parking, customers elect to patronize other
businesses.
ID. AOBA Supports Retaining Current Statutory Language Allowing a Property
Owner or the
Owner's Agent
to Maintain Towing Slips.
Current law requires a property owner
or the owner's agent
to maintain towing slips and
a record of information provided to the police. The legislation proposes to substitute ''property
manager" for "owner's agent." AOBA supports retaining the existing statutory language.
Current law provides the necessary flexibility for property owners to designate their towing
company as the agent. A towing company-designated as an owner's agent then assumes the
responsibility for retaining the towing slips or information provided to the police for those
vehicles towed without a towing slip. The legislation unnecessarily shifts this burden to the
property owner by removing the ability of owners to allow their agent to perform
this
function.
Notably. current law mirrors towing laws in Prince George's County, Maryland.
EXAMPLES OF BEST PRACTICES IN THE REGION
Prince George's County, Maryland Sec. 26-142.05. Tow slip.(a)
The towing company shall
present to the property owner or property owner's agent a tow slip, approved by the Director as
to form and content, which shall consist of one (1) original and two (2) copies. The towing
company and the property owner
or the property owner's agent
shall cause said tow slip to be
completed by filling in all pertinent data. Before towing or removing the subject vehicle, the
towing comptUly shall cause the property owner or property owner's agent to sign said tow slip
in
the place provided.
The tow truck operator shall keep the signed tow slip with them while
towing the vehicle to the approved tow storage facility. at which time it will be placed with
the licensee's daily tow log.
2
@
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IV.
Current Signage Requirements Provide Adequate Notice.
Posting parking permit and restriction signs on private property is one of the most
important actions a property owner can take to ensure and enforce compliance. With effective
signage, residents, visitors, staff and vendors should never have any question about where to
park.
Current County signage requirements coupled with recent changes to state law are
designed to inform the public about the applicable parking restrictions for a property. State law,
for example sets forth requirements governing both the size and visibility of the signs.
Specifically, the signs must be at least 24 inches in height and 30 inches in width. Additionally,
the signs must be clearly visible to the driver of a motor vehicle entering or being parked in a
parking
10t.
1
AOBA understands that the proposed signage changes are in response to the desire
to ensure signage visibility. These concerns are addressed by the existing statutory requirements.
Current law affords property owners two alternatives for posting signage. First, a
sufficient number of signs must be permanently posted so that at least one sign is readable from
each parking space and vehicle entrance at all times. OCP's concerns are met if a property owner
meets the "sufficient number" standard under existing law. If, for example a sign is not visible
from a space then there is an
insufficient
number of signs and the owner is in noncompliance.
Alternatively, for large parking lots with more than 100 spaces, the owner must post one notice
for every 75 spaces. Here again adequate is' provided, as these notices are in addition to the state­
requirement for posting notices at the entrance. Current law thus achieves the stated intent - to
notify drivers of any parking restrictions and the applicable procedures for noncompliance. Too
many unnecessary signs can be unsightly to occupants and customers and could
harm
the desired
aesthetic of a property or community. Current law appropriately addresses the need to inform the
public about any parking restrictions while minimizing the visual clutter that occurs when
numerous signs are placed on property.
V.
Proposed Expansion of OCP's Enforcement Powers.
The legislation proposes to vest OCP with the authority to issue subpoenas. While it is
certainly appropriate to grant such authority to the applicable enforcement agency, AOBA is
concerned that the bill as introduced is overbroad and
grants
OCP expansive subpoena powers
without any statutory guidance on the use of such authority. Currently, the bill will allow OCP to
"issue subpoenas to compel the production of documents, papers, books, records, and other
evidence in any matter to which this Chapter applies." AOBA strongly recommends defining the
scope of the documents subject to the subpoena authority to include, for example, the
information required by Montgomery County Code
§§
30C-3 (valid license, schedule of rates,
proof of insurance, and contracts) and 30C-5 (towing slips and other information provided to the
police).
ISee MD Transportation
Code
§
21-10A-02. Signs ("(a)
In
general. "The owner or operator ofa parking lot or the
owner's or operator's agent may not have a vehicle towed or otherwise removed from the parking lot unless the
owner, operator, or agent has placed in conspicuous locations, as described in subsection
(b)
of this section, signs
that: (1) Are at least 24 inches high and 30 inches wide; (2) Are clearly visible to the driver of a motor vehicle
entering or being parked in the parking lot; ...
(b)
Location: The signs described in subsection (a) of this section
shall be placed to provide at least 1 sign for every 7,500 square feet of parking space in the parking lot:')
3
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· VI.
Conclusion.
Thank
you for the opportunity to testify and AOBA looks forward to working with the
Council on this
important
issue.
EXCERPTS MONTGOMERY COUNTY CODE
Montgomery Connty Code
Sec.
3OC-3. Administration; rates.
(a)
Each driver employed by a trespass towing service must have a valid license to operate a tow truck.
(b)
Every trespass towing service must file with the Office a schedule of its rates for each action connected
with the towing or storage of unauthorized vehicles. The Office may disapprove a rate
that
exceeds the
maximum rate set under Section 30C-2.
(d)
Each trespass towing service must furnish the Office proof that it carries the insurance required under
Section 3IA-15(b). Each trespass towing service must inform the Office of the type of business
organization or ownership in which the service operates and the names and current addresses of all owners
or,
if
the service is a corporation, of the officers ofthe corporation.
A property owner must not order the towing of an unauthorized vehicle unless the property owner has
entered into a written contract that authorizes a towing service to tow vehicles from the owner's property.
This provision does not apply if the towing service is the record owner of the property from which a motor
vehicle is towed. The property owner must keep on file each contract that
is
in effect, or that was
terminated within the previous 12 months. The Office, the Police Department, and the owner of any vehicle
towed by the service may inspect and copy any contract during normal business hours. The Office may
issue model contracts that meet the requirements ofthis Chapter.
(e)
Montgomery County Code Sec. 30C-S. Notice
to
police.
If a towing service tows an unauthorized vehicle from private property, the property owner or the owner's
(a)
agent must notify the County or municipal Police Department with jurisdiction over the site of the tow
before the towing service leaves the property. The owner or agent must tell the Police Department
(1) The name ofthe towing service;
(2) The make, model, color, year (if known), and registration plate number of
the
towed vehicle;
(3) The address the vehicle was towed from;
(4) The time the vehicle was towed; and
(5) The storage site where the vehicle will be stored.
(b)
The property owner or the owner's agent must promptly notifY the police department if the towing service
moves the vehicle
to
another storage site.
(c)
The property owner or the owner's agent must retain each tow slip and, for those vehicles towed without a
tow slip, a record of the information furnished to the police, for one year after the tow. For each vehicle
towed without a tow slip, the property owner or agent must record and retain the name of the owner ofthe
property and,
if
the tow was authorized by an agent, the name of the agent. The Police Department, the
Office, and the owner of any vehicle towed by the service may inspect and copy this information
at
any
time during normal business hours.
(d)
The property owner or owner's agent must promptly notifY the County Police Department by telephone of
each vehicle that has remained in a towing service's possession for 72 hours. The property owner or
owner's agent must tell the Police Department:
(1)
All
information required under subsection (a); and
(2)
The vehicle identification number of the towed vehicle.
4
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30
June
16, 2015
Comments Involving
Bm17-1S
Motor Vehicle Towing
Good evening. I thought maybe we should talk a little more about how towing
really works, and why it is done. My name is Bill Mcclain, and I have been a
property manager in this area for more than
20
years.
Fairness:
There seems to be a feeling, at least in the press that towing is a scam or a crime
of some sort against tax paying citizen. Nothing could be further from the truth.
The Property Owners, the Management Companies, and even the Tow
Companies don't direct how towing 'takes place 'or where it'takes place".
Al. of
us are responding to the often desperate concerns of our Tenants. They are
residents on apartments, who find someone in their parking space when they
, come home from work at 4AM or they are the small business whose hard won
clients say they are going somewhere else because there is no parking left near
their business.
Both
these examples are-of tax paying people who need and,
require that we defend their rights. So we hire towing companies to put up
signs and to tow violators away.
2AM Towing:
Not many of our property managers '{oryoul would want to have to confront a
drunken or angry person about to have his/her car towed away at 2AM. Also, I
have 28 buildings which I manage, and I would not like to be called all night to
confirm multiple towing at all these buildings, any more than I would want to be
called all' night for eacli pass ofa snow plow in winter at all my properties.
Owners Agent:
For large properties in particular, we hire the towing companies to be the
Owners' Agent and our Agent, justas we do for sno.w removaJ,grass cutting,
etc. The towing company maintains the towing records, towing slips, etc. We
would use them or review them if a question arose regarding a disputed tow.
Signage:
I can only tell you that I have never been towed because the signs are good (and
better than most municipal"no parking" signs). I have received those kind of
tickets before because someone acting in good faith still often cannot figure out
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where on when parking is OK on city streets. Most people who get towed know
they are trying to take advantage of others, just as if I drove home today and
parked in my neighbors' driveway down the street, and then walked to my
house-.
t
would know that what 1 did was notright,even-if my driveway was
-rufl­
of my family cars/visitors. Signage is not the problem. At some properties, I
have actually put signs inside frequent IIdestinations/offices/businesses", telling
people that if they have parked and left our lot, they will be towed. Even that
signage doesn't seem to make much difference. Signage is really not the
problem
Spotters:
Perhaps the silliest thing I hear is that IIspotters" should not be used. I'm 69 and
I have stood outside in this kind of 95 degree weather watchingjust 30 spots in
a 200 spot parking lot. In one hour I turned away more than 30 people from
those 30 spots (one telling me it OK because my GPS took me here).
The only way to keep track on a big parking lot (we are not a police force) of
who should be towed is to use someone (usually a tow company person). to
record that someone drove into the lot in this model car, with this license plate,
at this time, and left (went to the metro, got into a construction truck with
several others to go to work, or went to the doctors' offices next door).
I believe- anyone parking correctly should want IIspotters" for theproo.f i.n the.
records that they provide. If you were not that car, and you still got towed,
then we can prove it. We can actually retrace your steps. The spotter records
are the best protection for an innocent person. Most of the time, however, we
use the records to prove that the person who arrived in the
"No
WALK OFF" lot
at lOAM, left the lot to go across the streetto a friend's 'apartment or a doctor's
office at 10:05AM, got towed at llAM, and did not come back until 12PM. That
person would very often then walk into a store, buy a pack of gum, and tell me
(and any newsman available) that he/she is a Ilcustomer" of the shopping center
and he/she was doing nothing wrong when their car was inexplicably towed.
I've also had nearby apartment tenants tell me at one property that they will
park in ouroffice-Iot-nertdoor
if
they want'to.
lilt
is their right", and they will
also not pay the parking fee to an attendant either.
®
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Bottom-line:
Businesses and Residential Renters need more protection from people who
want to do as they please and-take parking (and vitat businesslfrom-those- who
have paid for their rights to have parking available to them and to their clients.
That is really the bigger problem. Conversely, I have found in all these years a
very, very small number of people towed from lots who should not have been
towed-. Towing should be- fair and-transpar-ent, but it should not be made too­
hard to do when needed.
Willia m McClain
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3/
Towing Legislation
6/16/2015
7:00 PM
Rick Chambers 301-370-1790 Cell
Owner
&
Operator of Three Towing Companies, Operating in Three
Counties.
Silver Spring Towing: Montgomery
&
Prince Georges Counties
Authorized Parking Management: Montgomery County
Prince George's Towing and Parking Management: Anne Arundel and Prince
George's Counties
1.
Price Comparison and towing hours between Counties (Data from
County Websites)
2, Cost of doing business in Montgomery County
3. Growing concerns for safety of Property Management and Tow
Personnel ( Data from A.O.B.A.
&
PMA)
4. Business Afraid to Enforce Towing (Negative News Coverage Hurting
their Business)
5. This Legislation is protecting the wrong people(Violators of Parking
Rules)
6. Rate Structure (How can a rate be established without knowing the
costs?)
7. In favor of a set tow fee (Eliminating mileage charges)
8. Trespass Towing is not Predatory Towing (Protects Private Property
Owners TAX PAYERS)
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Rates
and
Fees
. Per the towing codes of Prince Georges County
And Anne Arundel County .
·Pri.,ceGeorges County
HOOKUP AND INITIAL TOWING FEE
.$175.00
VEHICLES GVWR UP TO
10,000
LBS.
• $300.00
VEHICLES GVWR BETWEEN
10,001
LBS. THRU
26,000
LBS.
• $750.00
VEHICLES GVWR FROM
26,001
LBS. OR MORE.
STORAGE·
.$50.0() After the first 18 hour period
•. $50.00 for each calendar day
Anne Arundel County
HOOKUP AND INITIAL TOWING FEE
.$285.00
VEHICLES GVW UP TO
9,999
LBS.
• $350.00
VEHICLES GVW BETWEEN
10,000
LBS. THRU
14,000
lBS.
• ·$500.00
VEHICLES GVW BETWEEN
14,001
LBS. THRU
19,500
LBS.
• $750.00
VEHICLES GVW FROM
19,501
LBS. OR MORE.
STORAGE
• $50.00
PER DAY AFTER THE FIRST DAY OF STORAGE
. ADMINISTRATIVE FEES
• $50.00
AFTER THE FIRST BUSINESS DAY
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Sec.
26-142.03. - CCII"leI't
and
loc:aIion
a
sip.
I
Code
d
0nInn::es
I
PriratGeorge's CCIUlty. MD
I
Mtricode Ubrary
Sec. 26-142.05. - Tow slip.
(a) The towing company shall present to the property owner or property owner's agent a tow slip,
app'roved by the Director as to form and content, which shall consist of one (1) original and
two
(2) copies. The towing company and the property owner or the property owner's agent shall
cause said tow slip to be completed by filling in all pertinent data. Before towing or removing the
subject vehicle, the towing company shall cause the property owner or property owner's agent
to sign said tow slip in the place provided. The tow truck operator shall keep the signed tow slip
with them while towing the vehicle to the approved tow storage facility, at which time it will be
placed with the licensee's daily tow log.
(b) The tow slip shall provide, as a minimum, spaces for filling in pertinent data as make and model
of the vehicle, vehicle identification number, date and time of towing, license plate number,
location towed from, name of complaining party, specific reason for the towing of the
unauthorized vehicle, name and phone number of towing company, the tow company's license
number, and location where vehicle will be stored.
(c) If the property owner has a written contract with the licensed towing company, the property
owner or property owner's agent shall not be required to either sign a complaint or tow Slip prior
to the towing or removal of an unauthorized vehicle from his property in the following instances:
(1) Ifthe towing occurs during the hours of
9:00
P.M. and
6:00
A.M.; or
(2) If the vehicle is directly blocking a clearly marked fire lane, no parking zone, a handicapped
parking space or access to the property or a building on the property.
(d) Prior to the towing or removal of an unauthorized vehicle pursuant to this Section, the towing
company shall photograph the vehicle in a manner that clearly documents the unauthorized
parking of the vehicle. A copy of the photograph shall be kept with the vehicle while being
transported and at the location where the vehicle is stored. The photograph shall be available
for inspection by any interested party for a period of at least one (1) year. A copy of the
photograph shall be provided to the vehicle owner upon request.
(e) A receipt shall be provided upon release of the vehicle. The receipt shall specify the name,
address and phone number of the towing company, the make, model and Vehicle Identification
Number (V1N) ofthe vehicle, the license plate number, the tow company's license number, the
time at which the vehicle was towed, the location from which the vehicle was towed, the reason
for the towing, the location where the vehicle was towed and any other location at which the
vehicle was stored. The receipt shall also include information on the legal right of the vehicle
owner to request a hearing pursuant to Section 26-142.10 of this Code.
(f)
Each towing company shall provide to the property owner a written list of all vehicles towed for
which a signed towing slip was not obtained within twenty-four
(24)
hours of the tow. The list
shall specifically identify each vehicle, including make, model, Vehicle Identification Number
(VIN). and license plate number. The property owner shall be responsible for keeping this list for
at least ninety
(90)
days.
(CB-27-1987; CB-101-2001; CB-82·2004; CB-41-2005; CB-40-2009)
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6'1612015
Sec.
28-142.05.
~
Tow
slip.
I
Code
afOniI"BlCeS
I
PrinceGeorge's
Cc:uty. MD
I
MU"icode
Um-ary
Sec. 26-142.01. - Parking on posted property; determination of owner.
It shall be unlawful for any person to park or cause to be parked a vehicle on private property
which
has been posted against parking pursuant to this Division without the consent of the owner of
said property. The last owner of record of a vehicle found parked illegally on private property. as
shown by the files of the Motor Vehicle Administration. a comparable agency in any other state or by
any other evidence, shall be presumed to have been the owner of such vehicle at the time it was
parked and the person who parked or caused to .be parked said vehicle. Any property owner desiring
to utilize the procedures provided by this Division shall enter into a contract for such towing service
with a towing company licensed by the Department.
(CB-27-1987; CB-40-2009)
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data:textJhtrnl;charset=utf:.8.%3Cu%2Oclass%3D%22clulks%22%2Ostyle%30%22box~sizjrg%3A%2Obader-bax%3B%2(margin%3A~%2IXlpt%201...
111
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32
My name is Jason Bradford. I have been a towing professional in Montgomery County
for over 20 years. As the sole provider for my household, I supplement my income by
performing private property towing, in which Custom Towing holds contrasts. Having to contact
an authorized agent of the property at 2,3 or 4 am, wake them and their household, potentially
multiple times, to have them sign a ticket for a vehicle that is unauthorized
is
unreasonable. I
know I would not be happy if this
was
taking place in my home, would you? Putting a sign
every 25 spaces for a lot holding over 100 cars will look cluttered and trashy, is this how you
want visitors to see our county? I feel the current rate that is set by the county is fair and
reasonable. I understand having your car towed is frustrating, I myself have had to deal with it
not only as a tow truck operator but, on a personal level as well. Thank you for your time and
for letting me speak.
Jason Bradford
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FREDRIC
J.
EINHORN
Attorney At Law
.
77 South Washington Street
Suite 206
Rockville, Maryland 20850
(301) 762-5400
Fax (301) 340-9455
June 16, 2015
COMMENTS ON
Bill No. 17-15 - Motor Vehicle Towing and Immobilization
On Private Property - Amendments .
In behalf of G&C Gulf, Inc. , I submit the following
comments on a number of provisions of Bill No. 17 15- Motor
Vehicle Towing and Immobilization On Private Property­
Amendments.
I.
Police Power
!
Public Safety - Applicable Law
As it
proposed to be amended, Section 30C-1. (c) of the
Montgomery County Code would state:
liThe purpose of this Chapter is to protect
public safety by restricting the exercise
of any such legal authority."
With respect to questions of the "consti tutionali ty" of a
county ordinance, the Court Of Appeals of Maryland has stated:
i.
the test for "constitutionality under the Due
Process Clause" is whether the ordinance, as an exercise of the
police power, bears a
and substantial relationship to the
public health, morals, safety, and welfare of citizens. Bowie
Inn, Inc. v. Bowie, 274 Md. 230, 236, 335 A.2d 679, 683 (1975);
and,
the use of the police police power will not be
interfered with unless
is shown to have been misused or
abused,
or where it is
shown to have been exercised
arbi trarily, oppressively or unreasonably.
Salisbury Beauty
Schools v. state Board of Cosmetologists, 268 Md. 32, 48, 300
A. 367, 377 378 (1973).
ll.
1
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II.
Tows Between 2:00 a.m. And 9:00 a.m.
A.
The proposed amendments to Section 30C-4. (c) (10) of
the would operate to diminish, not to enhance, the safety of
residents of apartment buildings, condominium regimes and
townhouse developments, who arrive home somewhat before 2: 00
a.m. through 9:00 a.m. and find there is no parking space to
park their vehicles in safe proximity to their residences
because:
ei ther
(i)
their own assigned parking spaces are
oQCupied by an unauthorized vehicle or (ii) non-assigned
parking spaces are occupied by unauthorized vehicles and
(iii)
n~ither
the property owner nor the property owner's agent is
present on the property to take the required photographic
evidence of the violations and to then authorize the tow of the
unauthorized vehicles.
B.
Under current Section 30C-4.(c) (10):
"An unauthorized vehicle may be towed from
private property without the express
authorization of the property owner or the
owner's agent only;
a. Between 2:00 a.m. and 9:00 a.m.; or
b. If the vehicle is.directly blocking
a clearly marked fire lane or access to the
build
. proper
t
y.-Or-...a-J
.
ng a
n
t
b
e
prop
m:.:t"
___.._.__..._._._ ............_.___ ...._.
¥~.
C.
The proposed amendment of Section 30C-4. (c) (10)
deletes
a.
above thereby prohibiting the towing of an
unauthorized vehicle between 2: 00 a.m. and 9: 00 a.m. without
the express authorization of the property owner or the owner's
agent.
At 2:00 a.m. - the middle of the night - a resident
entitled to use either her/his assigned or an un-assigned
parking space is prevented from so doing because an
unauthorized vehicle is occupying the parking space.
It is
this resident - a member of the public - whose safety will be
put at risk by the deletion of a. above.
D.
There is no "real and substantial relationship
II
to
enhancing public safety by eliminating the authority to tow an
unauthorized vehicle from private property without the express
authorization of the property owner or the owner's agent
between 2:00 a.m. and 9:00 a.m.; rather, eliminating such
authority will adversely affect public safety.
E.
There is a "real and substantial relationship
II
to
maintaining public safety by not eliminating the authority to
tow an unauthorized vehicle from private property without the
express authorization of the property owner or the owner's
2
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agent between 2:00 a.m. and 9:00 a.m.
There is a "real and substantial relationship" to
enhancina public safety if the time frame for towing an
unauthorized vehicle from private property without the express
authorization of the property owner or the owner's agent is
expanded to be between 9:00 p.m. and 9:00 a.m.
F.
F.
Does a property owner have potential liability to a
resident who was unable to park his vehicle in either the
resident's assigned parking space or in an unassigned parking
space and who then sustains injury as a result having to park
somewhere else?
III.
Signage Requirements
A.
Currently, Section 30C-4(b) (2) provides:
" (2)
Sufficient numbers of signs must be
posted permanently so that at least one
sign is clearly readable from each parking
area and each vehicle entrance to the
property at all times.
Alternately, in a
parking lot with more than 100 parking
spaces, at least one sign must be posted in
a conspicuous place for each 75 parking
.
·...sP.a~r--arui-·..@6l-Ch-s.i.gn-must--he
rea
d
able-fr.onL........__...:__
~
__._.____.___
.~
___.__
all affected areas."
B.
Section 21-10A-02(b) of the current State towing law
(effective on October 1, 2012), provides:
" (a) In general. -
The owner or operator
of a parking lot or the owner's or
operator's agent may not have a vehicle
towed or otherwise removed from the parking
lot unless the owner, operator, or agent
has placed in conspicuous locations, as
described in subsection
(b)
of this
section, signs that:
(1 )
Are at least 24 inches high and
30 inches wide;
(2) Are clearly visible to the driver
of a motor vehicle entering or being parked
in the parking lot;
(3)
State the location to which the
vehicle will be towed or removed and the
3
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name of the towing company;
state that state law requires
(4)
vehicle be
available for
that
the
reclamation 24 hours per day, 7 days per
week;
(5)
state the maximum amount that the
owner of the vehicle may be charged for the
towing or removal of the vehicle; and
(6) Provide the telephone number of a
person who can be contacted to arrange for
the reclaiming of the vehicle by its owner
or the owner's agent.
(b) Location.
The signs described in
subsection (a) of this section shall be
placed to provide at least 1 sign for every
7,500 square feet of parking space in the
parking lot."
C.
G&C Gulf exp?nded over $85,000 .. 00 for new signs to
comply with the current state towing law's additional signage
requirements.
D.
The proposed change to· Section 30C-4. (b) (2) would
substitute "Additionally" for "Alternately":
.
" (2)
Sufficient numbers of signs must be
posted permanently so that at least one
sign is clearly readable from each parking
area and each vehicle entrance to the
property at all times.
Additionally, in a
parking lot with more than 100 parking
spaces, at least one sign must be posted in
a conspicuous place for each 25 parking
spaces, and each sign must be readable from
all affected areas.
E.
To comply with the proposed "Additional" requirement
of 1 sign for every 25 spaces for parking lots with more than
100 parking spaces, a towing company would be required to post
2 additional signs for each 75 parking spaces.
G&C Gulf
estimates its cost would approximate $200,000.00 for new signs
to comply with the propos·ed requirement of 2 additional signs
for each 75 parking spaces.
F.
There is no "real and substantial relationship" to
the public safety of the proposed amendment to increase the
signage requirement, and making what now is an "alternative"
into an "additional" requirement" would be an an arbitrary,
.4
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oppressive and unreasonable exercise of the police power.
i.
Section 30C-4 (b) (2) of the Montgomery County
Code now requires: "Sufficient numbers of signs must be posted
permanently so that at least one sign is clearly readable from
each parking area and each vehicle entrance to the property at
all times."; thus, under current Montgomery County law 'public
notice' is already mandated.
Additional signage requirements are now imposed
by Section 21-10A-02(b) of the current State towing law which
now requires:
"The signs described in subsection (a) of this
section shall be placed to provide at least 1 sign for every
7,500 square feet of parking space in the parking lot."·
ll.
The proposed "Additional" signage requirement
would be an arbitrary and oppressive exercise of the police
power because it serves no public safety purpose that is not
now fully accomplished by current County and State law, and it
would impose unecessary and large costs on towing companies to
give the same 'public notice' as is provided by current County
and State law signage requirements.
lll.
vi.
The proposed signage requirement would be an
unreasonable exercise of the police power because it serves no
purpose that is not now fully accomplished by current County
and State law and cannot be connected to an existing need to
give the 'public notice' because there is no such existing
·-·····---fl:eed-~··-·<·
-- ------ - - - - - - ---«--«--.--<-- - - < - < - - - - - - - - - - - - - - . - - - - __
IV.
Proposed New Recruirement For Obtainincr
Photographic Evidence Of. Violation Before
Towing An Unauthorized Vehicle And Proposed
New Limitation On Using Individuals To
Report On .The Presence Of Unauthorized
Vehicles
A.
Proposed
Sect~on
30C-4. (c) (11) provides:
"Before towing an unauthorized vehicle from
private property, a person must obtain
photographic evidence of the violation or
event that precipitated the towing of the
vehicle."
B.
Proposed Section 30C-4. (e) provides:
property owner or towing service must
not employ or use the services of an
individual commonly referred to as a
"A
5
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"spotter", whose primary task is to report
the presence of
unauthorized parked
vehicles for the purpose of towing or
removal.
For the purposes of this
subsection,
"primary task" means an
individual's job function that accounts for
more than
50%
of
the
individual's
1I
compensation or hours worked.
These proposed new sections are incongruous, neither
has a relationship to public safety, and their passage would be
an arbitrary exercise of the police power.
D.
It is not illegal under Maryland law for an
individual to be a "spotter" whose "primary task" (however
defined) or whose non-"primary task" "is to report the presence
of unauthorized parked vehicles for the purpose of towing or
removal".
What is the qualitative difference between a report
being made by individual whose "primarytask
li
(however defined)
"is to report the presence of unauthorized parked vehicles for
the purpose of towing or remOvc;i.l" and a report being made by an
individual whose non-"primary task" ·"is to report the presence
of unauthorized parked vehicles
tor
the purpose of towing or
removal".
E.
c.
"real. and substantial
.
P-··-·---relatieftSh-:ifr'-----··t:e--~-ie-safety-
of
maki~
it
illegal
[~---.-.----­
Class
A
criminal violation under the Montgomery County Code]
for a "property owner or towing service
ll
to "employ or use the
services of an individual commonly referred to. as a "spotter"
if it is not illegal for an individual to be a "spotter" who
reports "the presence of unauthorized parked vehicles for the
purpose of towing or removal"?
That the "primary task
lt
(however defined) of an individual may be to "report the
presence of unauthorized parked vehicles for the purpose of
towing or removal" has no relationship to public safety, let
alone a "real and substantial. relationship" to public safety.
G.
How is public safety enhanced by prohibiting the
employment or use of the services of an individual whose whose
"primary task" (however defined) ·is to. "report .the presence of
unauthorized parked vehicles for the purpose of towing or
removal"? It is not. What is the public safety rationale for
the proposed prohibition? There
none.
While proposed Section 30C-4. (c) (11) requires
"photographic evidence· of .. the violation or event that
precipitated the towing of the vehicle
ll ,
proposed Section 30C­
4. (e) operates to impede the ·gathering of that required
"photographic evidence" and to then "report the presence of
i.
6
F.
What
is
the
nexus
the
@
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unauthorized parked vehicles for the purpose of towing
removal". There is no logic to nor rationale for this.
or
ii.
What is the logic for preventing employment of
an individual having as his I1primary task" (however defined)
the gathering of the required "photographic evidence" and to
then "report the presence of unauthorized parked vehicles for
the purpose of towing or removal".
The required "photographic
evidence" would exist or not exist irrespective of whether the
"primary task" (however defined") of the individual taking the
photograph is to "report the presence of unauthorized parked
vehicles for the purpose of towing or removal".
How is public safety enhanced if a "property
owner or towing service must not employ or use the services of
an individual commonly referred to as a "spot
t
er" , whose
primary task is to report the presence of unauthorized parked
vehicles for the purpose of towing or removal"? By what logic
or rationale does the "primary task" (however defined) of the
individual reporting lIthe presence of unauthorized parked
vehicles for the purpose of towing or removal" (a) relate to
the who gathers or the existence of the required "photographic
evidence" or (b) to who reports "the presence of unauthorized
parked vehicles for the purpose of towing or removal"?
lll.
Proposed
V.
Exclusion - Of
Property
Owner's
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_______________________________
...
Information.
A.
The proposed revision of Section 30C-5. (c) excludes
"the owner's agent" as a person who can retain and record tow
information.
By what logic or rationale is _public safety
promoted by preventing "the owner's agent" from being the
keeper of that information? There is no "real and substantial
relationship" to the public safety of preventing "the owner's
agent" from being the keeper
of that information.
VI.
Proposed Delegation Of Authority To
"investigator employed by this Office
l1
To
Order A Release Of A Vehicle Or To stop
Attaching Vehicle At Any Time.
A.
The proposed revision of Section 30C-7. (e) would vest
an "investigator employed by this Office" with the power to
order a "towing service to release a vehicle, or to stop
attaching a vehicle, at any time." It is an arbitrary exercise
of the police power to grant the exercise of these powers
without any substantive or procedural safeguards and controls.
7
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What determination (s) is the "investigator"
required to make in order to exercise the power and how does
the "investigator" obtain that necessary information to make
such determination(s)?
i.
Does the "investigator" need to be personally at
the site of the tow in order to exercise the power or may the
"investigator" exercise the power by phone?
ll.
Is the "investigator" required to examine the
required "photographic evidence of the violation or event that
precipitated the towing of the vehicle" before determining
whether to order the release of the vehicle?
lll.
iv.
How does the "investigator" get the required
"photographic evidence ·of the violation or event that
precipi tated the towing of the vehicle" before determinming
whether to order the release of the vehicle?
Thank you for your consideration of the above.
8
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MEADOWS AT NORTH LAKE
HOMEOWNERS ASSOCIATION, INC.
P.O. BOX 1130
GERMANTOWN, MD 20875
Telephone: 301-258-7711 X 160 Fax: 301-258-8362
www.meadowsatnorthlake.com
May 27, 2015
Roger Berliner
Councilmember, District 1
Chair, Transportation, Infrastructure, Energy
&
Environment Committee
100 Maryland Avenue, 6
th
Floor
Rockville, MD 20850
RE:
Bill 17-15, Motor Vehicle Towing and Immobilization on
Private Property, Amendments
Dear Councilmember Berliner:
I am writing
as
an Officer arid sixteen-year member of the Meadows at North
Lake Homeowners Association, Inc., a 294-townhome community
in
Germantown, MD
20874. The other members of the Board of Directors, as well as several members of the
community, have asked me to write to you to express our disagreement with the proposed
amendments to Bill 17-15 and how the amendments will negatively affect the people who
live in our community.
I'd like to begin by saying that parking is probably the most difficult issue that my
community grapples with. On a regular basis, we discuss it within the HOA board and
with residents who express concerns to us.
We have had rules in place regarding parking since 1992. Those rules were
revised
in
2005, and have been unchanged since. We are fortunate in that those rules
provide each home with two reserved spaces and still allow for more than thirty visitor
spaces for our community guests.
The motivation for instituting our community's current parking rules came in
response to resident requests. Despite the generous number of spaces available, many
residents were having trouble finding a place to park near the homes they lived in. This
was
due to a growing number of residents who
disreg~ded
the limit of two vehicles per
home, and began keeping three, four, and even five vehicles
in
our lots. Multiple
residents complained that upon arriving home after work and/or after dark, they could
fmd nowhere to park-leaving them no options other than to park up to half a mile or
more away on adjacent county-maintained streets, then walk to their homes. People were
afraid for their personal safety while making those walks.
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Under such circumstances, contacting the owners of the offending vehicles was
difficult, if not impossible. In addition, the police were unable to assist our community
members because our parking lots are private.
Our current rules and our ability as a board to regulate our community's parking
lots have become increasingly important as our community ages. Many of our families
have become multi-generational and own several vehicles. More than 30 percent of our
residents are tenant families, and the community vestment that was present when the
community was younger is diminishing.
Homeowners in our community generally support our parking rules because they
focus on maintaining safety and preventing crime by eliminating unauthorized vehicle
parking and storage. By having a neutral third-party towing company, we have
eliminated the fear ofreprisal from neighbors. Because the tow company patrols our
community at night, they may deter other crime. Additionally, the towing service and the
associated benefits come at no cost to the homeowners.
As the amendments to Bill 17-15 are written, my community could no longer
operate within our practice and budget. To employ our management agent to patrol our
community for unauthorized or stored vehicles would be very costly to the homeowners,
and unreasonable to delegate
to
a Board volunteer. Additionally, the costs associated with
our management company signing, storing, and maintaining tow files will add to our fees,
whereas our contracted towing company previously provided this free.
While the issue of predatory towing may be a very serious concern for county
residents using commercial lots, the amendments to Bill 17-15 do not clearly differentiate
practices between commercial and residential property owners, as it pertains to tow
procedures and notice to police. We do not support the current amendments to Bill 17-15,
and are interested in the additional amendments that you have indicated you will be
proposing, to ensure the property rights of homeowner and condominium associations,
such as the Meadows at North Lake ROA, Inc.
Cordially,
Jamie Whaley, Treasurer
Meadows at North Lake ROA, Inc.
Managed by Community Association, Inc.
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MONTGOMERY VILLAGE FOUNDATION, INC.
10120 APPLE RIDGE ROAD
MONTGOMERY VILLAGE, MARYLAND 20886-1000
(301) 948-0110
FAX (301) 990-7071
/7
www.montgomeryvillage.com
Testimony of Christopher Hitchens, General Counsel
Bill
17-15
Motor Vehicle Towing and Immobilization on Private Property - Amendments
Montgomery County Council Public Hearing, 7:30 pm June 16, 2015
Good Evening.
I'm Christopher Hitchens. I'm the General Counsel for the Montgomery Village Foundation.
The Foundation supports Bill 17-15 if it is revised so that the provisions requiring additional signs
and the prohibition on overnight towing do not apply to residential parking lots in community
associations.
Within the Foundation, there are 10 homes corporations and 11 condominium associations
representing more than 10,000 dwelling units, and 40,000 residents. When the Bill was proposed,
we heard consistently from Associations that they have adjusted their practices to comply with
changes in Chapter 30C and state law in the past few years, and that the current statutory
requirements have been working for Associations, notwithstanding that there are many consumer
complaints about towing in commercial lots.
Our Associations generally question why towing procedures for community association parking lots in
the County need to be changed, if the impetus for the changes is to regulate abusive towing practices
that have occurred on commercial lots.
The two specific concerns MVF Associations have raised are:
• They do not want to be required to place additional signs in their lots. This objection is both to
the detrimental appearance of more signs and also to the costs of installing each new sign.
• Associations do not want to be prohibited from towing cars overnight by having to give
authorization for the tow immediately before it is towed.
This objection reflects the
impracticability of having a Board President or a Community Manager available in the after mid­
night hours.
We brought these concerns to Council Member Berliner and he is willing to address our concerns in
additional amendments that would clarify that residential lots would not require additional signs and that
cars could continue to be towed from residential parking lots in the overnight hours without property
owner authorization immediately prior to the tow.
MVF has also discussed this approach with the Community Associations Institute and we share the
view that this approach will be in the best interests of community associations.
Thank you.
@
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I sit on the board of directors for the Oxford Crossing
Condominium Association. We have contracted a towing
company to enforce our parking rules. The cases
involving community members calling in a violation are
understood. However, when up to eleven cars are
removed and held ransom in one single evening
something is not right. I have witnessed firsthand tow
truck operators breaking the same rules they inforce
such as: parking in fire lanes; driving over landscaping;
blocking in cars and driving at night without headlights
on. These overzealous and greedy tow truck firms rely
heavily on dangerous bullying tactics in order to seize
community members private property. Surveying the lot
before the times we enforce, ignoring the drop law and
dragging tires are all too common practice. I got a chance
to ask an employee of the tow truck company who or
what was responsible for such predatory behavior. He
responded with a shrug of his shoulders and said "well
what you gonna do about it?". His absence of
accountability and empathy left me shocked to say the
least. He and his employer truly do believe they can't be
touched. They get to play pirate every night and we are
expected to just lay down and take it. Weill say NO I'm
not going to take it and either are my neighbors. We are
going to fight back to keep our own property in our
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possession. And it starts with passing this new law into
effect. This new law will hold tow truck companies and
those that do business with them accountable for
predatory towing. No private for profit business should
be able to operate without oversight or liability.
I
have no
doubt in my mind that those that oppose this new law
will stand to gain from it not being passed. Anyone that
puts the profitability of a business before the sovereignty
of an entire community has admitted by their own
actions just what their true agenda is. Let us be clear why
we are here tonight: We are here because property
owners rights have been sacrificed on the altar of towing
enforcement. The time is now to be on the right side of
history and see this law into effect.
Thank you
®
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3
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READ AND UNDERSTAND THE FOLLOWING BEFORE SIGNING BELOW: Once we receive your complaint, it
will
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Date:
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