Predatory tow practices target of Colorado bill

DENVER (KDVR) – A hearing at the Capitol for a bill targeting tow truck companies drew more than 60 residents and business owners. The bill is sponsored by State Reps. Edie Hooton and Naquetta Ricks.

In the hearing, tow companies said the proposed changes are like “using a hammer to swat a fly” and could put hundreds of employees out of work. Lawmakers say too many cars are being held for ransom for the wrong reasons. They say safeguards need to be put in place to protect consumers from price gouging and being put in a position to easily lose their mode of transportation because of excessive fees that are difficult for many to pay.

Parking signs provide clear warnings about the possibility of being towed, and the bill’s sponsors emphasize that it is the driver’s responsibility to follow the rules, but they add that some towing companies are taking advantage of the situation.

“The whole purpose of the bill is to create some transparency for vehicle owners,” Hooton said.

Christopher Padilla testified that the vehicle willed to him by his deceased mother was towed.

“The fees were so were excessive upwards of $ 180 to $ 200 a day that by the time I figured out everything, they were already auctioning off my vehicle,” he said.

What the bill targeting tow companies would do

The bill would:

  • Require towing companies to provide 24-hour notice before removing a vehicle from an apartment complex or mobile home park
  • Ban towing for expired plates on private property
  • Reduce the cost to drivers who have their cars towed from private property
  • Companies would not be able to keep and sell vehicles if the owner can not afford to pay the fees within a designated time period.

One Capitol Hill resident testified that leaving illegally parked vehicles in place for an extended period of time poses a risk to parking space owners who are handicapped or will have to leave their cars elsewhere and walk at night.

“It puts a lot of stress on people that are paying for parking and doing what they’re supposed to do,” she said.

The bill would also change guidelines for selling unclaimed vehicles, which towing industry employee Sherryl McGee said “would be absolutely devastating.” McGee added that property owners can be penalized for allowing the presence of vehicles with expired plates.

“There’s a reason that the property companies have an expired plates rule. There’s a reason, because somebody has been sued, ”she said.

Towing companies say 5-10% of tow bills are unpaid. Wyatt’s Towing testified that 6.5% of vehicles are returned at no charge to those who have pointed out extenuating circumstances.

Some towing companies are actually on board with the idea of ​​documenting tows with pictures and letting owners inside a towed car to collect important personal items like medication but say other measures will affect safety and cost jobs.

Others representing apartment complexes and auto recycling businesses say the bill could put them out of business.

A vote on the measure could come by the end of next week.

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