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Private Property Towing — Know Your Rights

Knowing your rights as a driver is key to avoiding disaster, like someone towing your car.

Cars may be towed under various circumstances. One of the more common reasons a vehicle is towed is drivers parking on private property without permission, or using a lot without paying the required fee. Such behavior is unacceptable, and owners must take certain precautions to ensure drivers are fully aware of the rules.

Private Property Towing — Know Your Rights 1
Knowing your rights can help the inconvenience of getting your car towed.

Private Property and Parking in California

According to the California Vehicle Code, an owner of private property has the right to arrange for an illegally parked vehicle to be relocated to the closest public garage available.

However, these rules apply:

• A warning sign MUST measure AT LEAST 17 inches by 22 inches

• A sign MUST carry the number of the local police

• A sign MUST show the number and name of the company permitted to tow

• A sign MUST announce that all towing will be at the car owner’s cost

Owners of a private lot appear to have all the power, but the driver has multiple rights in all towing cases too:

• YOU CAN contact the company permitted to tow your vehicle, and organize its release at ANY TIME (24/7)

• YOU CAN expect to be given a notice from the towing firm which carries the police’s number – this is so you can contact them to dispute the removal of your vehicle IF you believe it was unlawfully taken

• YOU CAN expect a copy of the tow’s authorization in writing, signed by the property owner or a representative. The General Authorization is acceptable IF nobody qualified to sign the document is available, as well as an image that clearly depicts the parking violation (when the car is actually released)

• YOU CAN lawfully expect to be charged NO MORE THAN the maximum fees to tow and store the vehicle

• YOU CAN expect the choice to pay the towing firm with a major credit card or cash, and the firm is legally required to carry enough money on-site to handle the change

• YOU CAN expect to not be towed within one hour of being parked in a private lot that is free for public use, unless you are in a disabled driver’s space, within 15 feet of a hydrant, or blocking the entrance to the property.

• YOU CAN ask for your vehicle to be removed from the tow truck if you arrive before it is taken, but must pay half of the standard fee.

The automobile towing industry has grown yearly since 2010, due in part to an improved economy: the more cars on the road, the more vehicles to be towed.


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