Towing ordinance to kick in by June

Last week, amid a full agenda, Asheville City Council passed an ordinance designed to combat predatory towing, and even beefed up a proposed fine for towers who snatch legally parked vehicles.

In a 6-0 vote (Mayor Terry Bellamy had been excused from the meeting before the agenda item), Council passed the ordinance drafted by City Attorney Bob Oast and modeled on one already in use in Raleigh.

“This is not going to end nonconsensual towing in this town,” Oast said. “But you are doing as much as you can.”

The ordinance, which will kick in after a two-month notification period, includes the following:

• Caps the fee for a completed tow at $100
• Requires a tow service to release the vehicle on the spot if it hasn’t completed the tow and the vehicle operator pays half the towing fee.
• Caps storage fees at $25 per day, and allowing for a 12 hour grace period before such fees kick in.
• Requires storage yards to be within 10 miles of Asheville’s Central Business District or Biltmore Village.
• Requires towing companies to allow free access for vehicle owners to retrieve personal items from a vehicle.
• Requires towers to accept credit and debit cards.
• Requires towers to notify police that a vehicle has been towed within 30 minutes of the vehicle’s removal.
• Requires towers to have a person on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week, who can acknowledge requests to retrieve a vehicle within 15 minutes and release a vehicle within 45 minutes.
• Makes it illegal for anyone to interfere with any tow service that is carrying out a tow.

Council also made some changes of its own, raising the fine for towing a legally parked vehicle to $300 and doing away with a provision that makes it a violation for a vehicle operator to cancel payment of a towing fee made by credit or debit card.

“There’s a whole legal ground for whether you cancel a credit card [payment],” noted Council member Robin Cape.

For complete coverage of Council’s March 24 meeting, see the April 1 edition of Mountain Xpress.

Brian Postelle, staff writer

 

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6 thoughts on “Towing ordinance to kick in by June

  1. PattyR

    These two will cause issues:

    1.”Requires a tow service to release the vehicle on the spot if it hasn’t completed the tow and the vehicle operator pays half the towing fee.”

    and

    2.”Makes it illegal for anyone to interfere with any tow service that is carrying out a tow.”

    How do you do #1 without breaking rule #2?

  2. Kriss

    “Council also made some changes of its own…doing away with a provision that makes it a violation for a vehicle operator to cancel payment of a towing fee made by credit or debit card.
    ‘There’s a whole legal ground for whether you cancel a credit card [payment],’ noted Council member Robin Cape.”

    I’m glad to hear they removed that part which was in conflict with federal law and could never have been legally enforced. I pointed out that fact to the Council and the City Attorney in an email to them on 3/23/09. (I posted a copy of that email in a comment here: < http://tinyurl.com/d3a93o>.)

  3. Feral Rebel

    I suspect this is just lip service to calm the rage of the bastards towing everything they can, and that there will be very very little enforcement.

    Unless you either video inserting your money when you pay, with time stamp, or have APD set up a sting, there is no way in hell an illegal tow can be proved.

  4. cwaster

    It’s a start! If there’s a way for law enforcement to make money off it, it’ll be enforced.

  5. Kriss

    “The fine for an illegal tow should be a charge of auto theft.”

    Of course! How could it be anything but theft? A $300 fine is not much of a deterrent at all. After all, how will the police even know that an illegal tow has taken place? Who’s going to tell them, and then how can it be proven? Most people, especially out-of-towners not familiar with the ordinance, will just assume there’s nothing they can do but pay the towing company’s demands to get their car back, and then leave town, no doubt vowing never to return. A very slim possibility of getting fined a measly $300 will be considered just one more cost of doing business in Asheville, well worth taking the chance of doing an illegal tow and extorting big bucks out of the vehicle owner, with only the miniscule possibility of ever getting prosecuted and fined for it.

    This ordinance won’t put a dent in predatory towing. There’s one thing good that came out of it though. Vehicle owners can now pay towers by credit card. (I wonder who will enforce their right to do that?) And by doing that, they have the right under federal law to dispute charges that are in error, for services never rendered, or for illegal charges. Charges a vehicle owner had to pay for an illegal tow would certainly fall into that category.

    Btw, the link I posted in my earlier comment didn’t work as a clickable link. Hopefully this one will work:
    http://tinyurl.com/d3a93o

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