Followup: City’s towing/impound-fee limit moves forward

(Theft victim’s car in tow-company lot, marked “NIDDLES (needles) … BIOHAZARD”)
Just in from the City Council – a news release announcing that the proposal to limit fees in cases of “involuntary towing” has passed a committee vote and is headed for the full council next week. We reported on the proposal earlier this month. We incluided the proposal with the story of a West Seattle woman who first lost her car (above) to theft and then had to sign it over to a towing company because she couldn’t afford the fees that had amassed since it was found and towed without prompt notification. Read on for the council announcement:

The City Council’s Government Performance and Finance Committee today voted 3-0 to cap fees for impound tows off private property.

The legislation, sponsored by Councilmember Licata, and originally sent to the Council by Mayor McGinn, would place a limit of $183 per hour for the first hour of an impound tow off private property, and $130 for any additional time. It also limits storage rates to $15.50 for up to 12 hours.

Councilmember Licata said, “This legislation protects consumers by setting a fair maximum rate for impounds off private property. It is reasonable to charge for illegal parking on private property, however, people shouldn’t have to pay exorbitant fees to recover their vehicle. The Mayor and Council collaborated in crafting and passing this legislation.”

“I want to thank Councilmember Nick Licata and the entire City Council for working to protect Seattle residents and visitors from predatory business practices,” said Mayor McGinn. “We look forward to the implementation and enforcement of these new rules in January 2013.”

“Setting this cap represents basic consumer protection,” said Councilmember Clark. “We should all be so lucky as to never be towed, but, if we do get towed, it should be a fair rate that represents fair compensation for the tow truck operator and not punitive or predatory.”

Currently, there are no legal limits on what towing companies can charge for tows off private property. Impounds off City streets are negotiated with the Seattle Police Department.

Implementation is planned for January, 2013. A Full Council vote is anticipated for Monday, September 24.

State Representative Pollet, who sponsored legislation passed by the state House of Representatives to set maximum rates, said “This is a major step forward for protecting Seattle residents. It’s encouraging that the towing industry recognizes that there are some companies whose charges were abusive, and I look forward to working with the industry and Seattle to expand this protection statewide.”

10 Replies to "Followup: City's towing/impound-fee limit moves forward"

  • K2 September 19, 2012 (5:45 pm)

    It’s remarkable what towing companies get away with. It’s also remarkable that the council thinks $183 for the first hour is reasonable, not to mention any other miscellaneous fees, surcharges, etc. Never mind what one goes through to actually recover a vehicle; the wild goose chase to determine the location, the aggravation and berating from the tow company etc. I recognize towing is a necessary thing, but the cost to benefit ratio seems rather askew.

  • Edgar September 19, 2012 (7:25 pm)

    As a victim of car theft on two different occasions, I agree with K2. The huge tow bill adds insult to injury. If you are a victim of a crime you shouldn’t be the one punished. The tow companies have a right to run a fair business, but not by ripping off car theft victims.

  • Km September 19, 2012 (7:44 pm)

    well.. at least it’s in the right direction. From their past behavior, tow companies (not all) will find ways to get every penny out of the consumer. It would still be nice to have exceptions with stolen cars that have been reported to the police.
    It just takes a few minutes to run the plate to see if the car was reported as stolen and great possibility it wouldn’t have to be towed in the first place. Or at least the owner could make their own arrangement with their insurance company within a given timeframe.

  • JanS September 19, 2012 (9:34 pm)

    when my car was stolen, eventually towed to a lot out by the airport, no one called me until it had already been in the tow yard for over a week.The charges amassed were between 6 and 7 hundred bucks. The tires, the wheel wells, the hood, engine, battery, transmission, bumper all gone.Even my favorite leopard print umbrella was gone. It was a hunk of nothing. And they wanted me to remove it from their lot that day. I didn’t have the money for the impound, and I had to practically force them to take the title to the car. What a crock. Glad they’re doing something about this !

  • Rick September 19, 2012 (9:53 pm)

    Been victimized 3 times by tow companies over the years. Last time I wasn’t even notified about the recovery until the day before they were going to auction it. Big bucks. Still smell a rat here.

  • WSratsinacage September 20, 2012 (8:07 am)

    Yeah, I am afraid tow companies will find ways around abiding by the maximum tow fee by adding other fees like convenience fee, access fee, road fee, air fee, etc…
    It is a scam on so many levels and the city seems to be in on it to an extent. In my case, after the car was reported stolen to the police the police wrote tickets on it for days vs saying (realizing) hey we found your car. Hello?

  • K2 September 20, 2012 (8:18 am)

    The word userous comes to mind… It’s the car equivalent of loan sharing. I’m glad the issue is beginning to get some attention, but the reality is, it needs to be overhauled, not just reformed.

  • Josh September 20, 2012 (10:51 am)

    Glad to hear something is being done. My stolen pickup was towed from a private lot on Capitol Hill after the thief dumped it. The police notified me of the recovery and location of the truck. I arrived at the towing yard less than 24 hours after the time of towing, after arguing fees I was able to talk them down to only $580! It’s a total scam, NEVER use TBT towing. After this experience I looked at similar reviews online and the complaints are extremely common.

  • Km September 20, 2012 (8:08 pm)

    agree with K2- overhaul.. This thing about private lots.. wonder why the people who call the car in don’t check with the police first.. I watched the city council’s meeting when they addressed the towing issue and it was mentioned about more accountability (tow company and where car is being towed from signing papers), hopefully that will change how some of this is dealt with. Who will be monitoring ‘the system’, if any body. Would like to hear more about stolen cars being towed.

  • John Miller September 24, 2012 (12:23 pm)

    Is this a case where we want the government to tightly regulate a business because the business won’t voluntarily behave like a good citizen? I am just shocked that this has been happening. When I was a kid I wanted to drive a tow truck because they always seemed to be helping people. Shaking my world view.

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