Bill 17-15 will take effect on November 30, 2015. This new bill will amend Montgomery County’s towing law in order to decrease “predatory towing practices,” according to Ruth O. Katz, a community associations’ attorney in Bethesda.
This bill will impact homeowners associations’ ability to enforce parking in their respective neighborhoods, which could subject the associations to as much as 3 times the towing or storage fees. This law will affect local communities in three specific ways:
No More Verbal Confirmation for Towing
With the new bill, homeowners associations must authorize each individual tow from a neighborhood parking lot by filling out a tow authorization form. This form is submitted to the specific towing company (in person, by fax or by e-mail) then the tow must be approved by the Office of Consumer Protection. Along with the proper form, photo documentation is required for at least a year. The photograph must be given to the vehicle owner along with the towing receipt.
The only exceptions to this process are when the tow is between 9 p.m. and 2 a.m. or if an unauthorized vehicle is blocking a fire lane or access to another vehicle, property or building on the property.
Communities Must Post Multiple Visible Towing Signs
Homeowners associations are required to post enough parking/towing signs so that at least one sign is visible from anywhere in each parking area and vehicle entrance. These signs shall also state all parking restrictions and that county and Maryland State law requires towed vehicles can be redeemed 24 hours per day, seven days per week.
If a community parking lot has 45 or more parking spaces, there must be at least one sign posted in a conspicuous place for each individual space. Maryland State law requires one sign for every 7,500 square feet.
Communities should consult their towing companies to determine how many signs are necessary based upon the size and layout of their parking lots to abide by this new bill.
Towing Contracts Will Include New Conditions
The towing company will write contracts to include:
- The property owner is responsible for posting sufficient parking restriction signs as well as annually reporting the number of vehicles towed off their property and the reason why.
- The property owner is responsible for authorizing any tows using the above-mentioned process, and that the existence of a contract does not constitute authorization.
- The property owner or towing company are jointly liable for any violation of any duty imposed by the towing law and the payable damages are three times the amount of any towing release or charged storage fees.
- Any violation of any duty imposed on the property owner or towing company subjects the responsible party to a potential fine of up to $1,000.
Lastly, a vehicle that does not display its current registration cannot be towed from a private property for that specific reason until 72 hours after a notice of violation is placed on the vehicle.
Remember that each community in Montgomery County has different obligations with this new bill, so feel free to talk with your homeowners association for further details about what your community can expect. If you would like to review Bill 17-15 in full, click here.