If your vehicle has been towed without your presence you’ll still be paying a towing and storage fee. Your vehicle could even be sold if you don’t claim it within 41days. There are limits and strict regulations which govern vehicle impounds and the disposal of abandoned vehicles.
Our company provides towing, storage, and impound services. As a reputable company we want owners and lien holders to understand how this should work, and what your rights are.
By a Law Enforcement Agency
A law enforcement officer may have your vehicle impounded if you’re stopped and unable to legally drive, if it’s blocking traffic and you’re unable to authorize a tow, or if you’re illegally parked. You can reclaim it with proper documentation after paying towing and storage fees. A vehicle and its contents may also be impounded as part of a crime investigation or certain legal proceedings. In this case, the official hold must be released first. For a list of acceptable documents for release, please see https://www.tdlr.texas.gov/towing/consumerinfo.htm.
In most situations, the law enforcement agency doesn’t do the towing and storage itself, but instead contracts the service out to private companies. The towing and vehicle storage facility (VSF) may be two separate companies.
Private Property Tows
Owners of private property such as restaurants, retail shops, and apartments have the right to enforce their parking regulations. The hours and limitations must be clearly displayed along with a telephone number for retrieving your vehicle. If not, call your local law enforcement agency as the towing company should have notified them within 2 hours of the tow. If you return while the wrecker is still hooking up there should be no charge. If they have finished hooking up you can be required to pay a “drop fee” of no more than $125-$225 depending on vehicle weight. For an actual tow-away maximum charges are $250-$900 depending on weight. (Information from https://www.tdlr.texas.gov/towing/consumerinfo.htm.)
Vehicle Storage Facilities
Each storage facility must meet Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation (TDLR) requirements for vehicles towed without consent. For starters, if they receive vehicles 24 hours a day then they must release your vehicle or allow you to remove personal property within 1 hour, 24 hours a day (https://texastowingcompliance.org/vehicle-storage-lot-procedures-2/).
Here are a few things you should know to help avoid overcharges and scams.
- Ask to see the individual person’s TDLR card with license number, and expiration date. Don’t pay unless you see one.
- Upon request, you should receive a copy of their non-consent tow fee schedule and vehicle inventory.
- There is a maximum of $20 for the impound fee plus a maximum of $20 per day for storage ($35 per day for anything longer than 25 feet).
- There can be a $50 notification fee if you don’t claim your vehicle within 24 hours and the VSF has sent a registered letter of notification.
- You should receive a VSF receipt for these fees as well as an itemized towing company receipt. They should include a license number in the company’s name with a telephone number. Both the tow truck operator and person at the VSF should have a TDLR license.
- You may be required to complete a notarized TDLR VSF-011 form if you are an immediate family member or authorized agent of the vehicle owner.
The vehicle storage facility should release your car or truck when you provide a valid photo ID or any of a number of other documents. They should not refuse a release or require a sworn affidavit (a common stalling scam that drives up the storage fee) even if addresses on your documents don’t match.
Request a Tow Hearing?
If something seems suspicious or unfair you can start the TDLR complaint filing. This includes vehicle impound evidence that your vehicle was opened and rummaged through even if nothing was taken. Please note that for convertibles with the top down as well as for broken or open windows the VSF is required to remove and safely store your belongings.
For non-consent towing and storage you have the right to file for a hearing, but that must be done within 14 days. The filing fee for a consumer is currently $20. You should collect info on the towing & vehicle storage facility owner/operators along with location, time, and date details. Request a photograph as proof of the reason you were towed along with the name of the person or officer who authorized the tow. In lieu of a photo you can make a statement. A settlement in your favor may result in a $1,000 fine for the guilty parties plus triple damages.
PLEASE NOTE: The vehicle impound information throughout this post is intended as orientation and guidance in rather complex procedures. It is not to be taken as any form of legal advice.