Colorado Law Cracks Down on Nonconsensual Towing

July 13, 2022 | Bill Henry

For ages, tow companies have roamed the night, scanning residential streets and apartment complexes for vehicles to haul away. Coloradans have had cars and trucks towed without notice and due to the smallest infractions. To get the vehicle back, owners had to shell out hundreds of dollars. Not anymore. A new state law is cracking down on nonconsensual towing.

In this article, discover how the new law protects you and your legal recourse if a towing company breaks it.

BOTTOM LINE

You don’t have to put up with predatory towing. You can recover damages and attorney fees if a towing company violates the new law.

Fight Back Against Nonconsensual Towing

Has your car or truck recently been towed without your permission? If you believe the towing company acted illegally or inappropriately, contact our litigation team. Our experienced litigation attorneys understand Colorado towing laws and can make sure your rights are protected. Call (303) 688-0944 for your free case assessment.

The Vehicle Owner’s Bill of Rights 

The official name of the 2022 legislation is HB22-1314, “The Towing Carrier Nonconsensual Tows” bill, though it is more commonly referred to as the “Towing Bill of Rights” and, more accurately, “The Vehicle Owner’s Bill of Rights.”

The bill unstacks the deck against vehicle owners, who, for too long, were at the mercy of unscrupulous and unregulated carriers and “nonconsensual” towing. This law aims to stop the days when Coloradans wake up to find their car missing, without warning, and must pay hundreds of dollars to get it back.

The Biggest Changes 

We will get into more specifics shortly. But first, it’s important to headline the two biggest, most welcome changes in the recent bill.

Vehicle Return Fee Capped at $60 

You read that right. From now on, tow yards must return your car to you if you are able to pay 15 percent of the total fees, capped at $60, after taking your vehicle without your consent, a nonconsensual tow.

Even if the sum of itemized fees totals hundreds of dollars, the tow company cannot charge you more than $60 before giving it back. As the vehicle owner, you will still have to pay the remainder of the bill, but you will not have to fork it over all at once to get your wheels back.

Towers Must Give a One-Day Notice 

This is another ironclad mandate in the bill. Carriers must give written notice 24 hours before removing a vehicle from a common parking area of a condominium, cooperative, apartment complex, or mobile home park.

Carriers also must get permission from the property owner, leaseholder, or common interest community leadership one day before executing a nonconsensual tow off private property.

What Nonconsensual Towers Must Do Before Taking Your Car 

In addition to giving 24 hours’ notice, the new bill requires that before removing a vehicle from private property without the consent of the owner, operator, or lienholder, a towing carrier:

  • must make sure the property owner has provided adequate signs communicating parking regulations and restrictions that could subject a vehicle to towing.
  • cannot tow your vehicle from private property if the registration on the rear license plate has expired, unless ordered by a police officer.
  • must take multiple photos of each side of your vehicle to document its condition and the reason for the tow. Failure to produce photographic documentation could make the carrier liable for damages to the vehicle or create reasonable presumption that the tow was not authorized.
  • has to release your vehicle back to you if you approach the carrier while they are in the act of connecting the tow.
  • must notify law enforcement within 30 minutes of towing a vehicle of the carrier’s name, the storage location, and a description of your vehicle. If a carrier is unable to contact a law enforcement agency, they must show they made at least two attempts.
  • must contact the vehicle lienholder and owner within 10 days of a tow, and there is no longer a two-day waiting period.
  • is prohibited from paying money or providing any sort of valuable consideration to a landowner or business for the privilege of towing vehicles without the vehicle owner’s consent.

What Nonconsensual Towers Must Do After Taking Your Car 

Not only must carriers return your vehicle to you once you have paid 15 percent of the total fees, capped at $60, but they must also observe the following regulations:

  • allow you to retrieve the contents inside of your vehicle without charging a fee.
  • provide the owner a clearly itemized bill showing each charge and the rate for each fee incurred.
  • charge the same fees for tows made without your consent as for tows made with consent. These towing fees must be filed with the public utilities commission (PUC) and posted at the carrier’s storage location.
  • accept cash and major credit cards, as defined by the rules of the PUC and, when requested, disclose accepted forms of payment.
  • post a sign at the storage location clearly stating the name, telephone number, and hours of operation for the carrier’s business.
  • keep the storage location adequately lit to inspect vehicles for damage.
  • may not charge storage fees for any day when your vehicle was not in storage or prior to notifying you where your car is being kept.
  • provide evidence of their insurance coverage if you ask for it.
  • give written notice of your right and ability to file a complaint with PUC.
  • record certain information about each nonconsensual tow, keep the information on file for three years, and produce the records within 48 hours upon request.

What You Can Recover If You’re a Victim of Predatory Towing

As HB22-1314 states in its last line, “It is a deceptive trade practice to violate the provisions of the bill, and the attorney general is responsible for enforcement.”

The point of the bill was to make clear what towing companies can and cannot do while restating and reinforcing the rights of vehicle owners. Therefore, the bill also needed to have clear penalties outlined to keep dishonest carriers from going back to the practices that prompted this legislation.

Recover Towing Fees & Money for Vehicle Damage

If any carrier fails to comply with the current provisions for a nonconsensual tow, they forfeit their ability to retain any fees or charges for their services.

If you can show that a carrier violated the provisions of this bill during a nonconsensual tow, you can get your fees dismissed, or if you’ve already paid, the carrier must reimburse you.

If a carrier violates any of the provisions above, damages your vehicle during a nonconsensual tow, and then refuses to reimburse the cost of repairs, then you could even recover attorney’s costs on top of reimbursement and have the fees dismissed.

Mediating Nonconsensual Tow Disputes 

The Office of Tow Hearings has been created within the PUC to settle disputes between carriers and owners or lienholders after a vehicle has been towed away without consent.

At this office, hearing officers and administrative law judges can weigh the facts of a nonconsensual tow to determine whether a carrier violated the law or caused damages.

Also, you and the carrier who grabbed your car can use mediation to resolve arguments or set payment terms, then submit the written agreement to the Office of Tow Hearings and a court, both of which are empowered to enforce the deal.

Legitimate vs. Predatory Towing

It is important to understand that towing companies still provide a needed service, even if some greedy operators have given the industry a bad reputation. Thoughtful parking conveniences and regulations would be meaningless without towing companies to enforce them.

Legitimate Nonconsensual Towing 

A nonconsensual tow is when a carrier hooks up and hauls away a vehicle without the owner’s or lienholder’s permission.

For the most part, this is done when that vehicle violates a certain property’s parking regulations. For example, inconsiderately occupying a space clearly designated for a driver with disabilities, or a particular resident or office holder, and refusing to park elsewhere when asked.

Towing carriers are allowed, even required, to monitor certain areas and remove illegally parked vehicles. This practice is legal and beneficial to the community. If a spot is marked “No Parking 24 Hours” or “Tow Away Zone” then there’s probably good reasons why, and a carrier has every right to enforce parking laws.

Predatory Towing 

Predatory towing is when a carrier removes a vehicle without a contract or a direct order from the property owner.

A tow truck does not, by itself, have jurisdiction to roam wherever it pleases to police or remove any vehicle it can for any reason. A carrier must be acting on orders from whoever owns the property they are patrolling.

A carrier also cannot tow vehicles away from a property that already has an enforcement towing agreement with a different company.

Get the Law on Your Side

No law can protect you unless you know what its provisions are and how they benefit you. If you believe you have been targeted by a predatory towing company but don’t know what to do next, it’s probably time to contact a litigation attorney. Don’t waste another day worrying. Call 303-688-0944 to begin your free case assessment.

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