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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jan 2007
    Location
    Baltimore, MD
    Posts
    5

    Default Unlawful Tow

    Baltimore, MD: Last night, I was towed from my girlfriends condo complex (who is an owner).

    First, the complex has a huge influx of college students and the condo association has been trying to drive them out by enforcing strict parking rules. Neither my girlfriend or I are students. All owners must pay a fee at move in for a parking sticker, however, I am not an owner and am not entitled to a sticker. For some time, I had to use visitor hang tags (only issued 10 at a time, for $10) but I was warned by the condo association for using a hang tag too frequently and that I would be towed. My girlfriend and I finally got a hold of the head of parking for the Condo Assn and explained that this is a huge loophole and unfair. She hesitantly gave authorization to the property management company to issue me an 8x10 special parking pass that I must place on my dashboard each night if I am parked after 11pm. There is no mention of being towed AFTER 11pm stated on the towing signs around the complex; only that parking is enforced.

    So, last night, I mistakenly forgot to place my permit in the dash, as if fell between my car seat and console. Around 1Am, I remembered that I forgot to put it up, went outside, and the car was gone. The community is gated and a guard is there from 7pm till approximately 5am. Five nights a week, a guard is there that knows me very well, however, last night was the other guard who still sees me every Monday and Tues night. The guard does make rounds and notes any vehicles that are not properly displaying parking permits. He then submits them to the towing company. However, the towing company can come in and tow any vehicle that they deem not showing a particular permit. My girlfriend is going to attend a condo assn board meeting and suggest that no vehicles be towed unless the guard is notified. In this case however, I do not believe that this particular guard would have the sense to realize that my car is legally parked there simply because I'm not on their master tow list, and because he sees me parked there legally EVERY time, except last night. Even though I forgot to display my pass, I do not feel that it automatically makes me illegally parked on the property.

    Anyhow, I have a few concerns. I went and picked up the car 2 hours after it was towed at the cost of $220. The receipt I was handed stated that cost, yet my credit card was charged $228 dollars. Now, Maryland sales tax is 5%. If I was charged that tax rate, the cost would be $231, not $228. Maybe there is a special rate for tow drivers, I'm not sure. Second, Baltimore city code requires the receipt to contain the statement: "Towing from private parking facilities is regulated by City Code Article 31, Subtitle 21. For complaints, please call the Baltimore City Towing board at xxxxxxxxxx". There is no such statement on my receipt.

    The receipt also says in printed handwriting "owner notified". However, in clearly different handwriting underneath of that, it says "No permit". I wonder what I was notified of? Was I notified that I had no permit displayed AFTER I called the towing company? Yes, I was. Was I notified through a phone call from the towing company that my car was towed? No, I was not. There is also no telephone number of the towing company on the receipt I was given.

    Also, according to Baltimore city code Article 31, subtitle 21-3(b), an ATM must be available at any location where persons seeking to reclaim their vehicles will be required to pay the tower. There was no such ATM machine in the building I picked my car up at. In fact, I'm surprised the place even had working electricity. The catch here might be that this company is located in Baltimore County. So, my vehicle was towed from Baltimore City, to Baltimore County, however, I would think that regardless of where the towing company is located, they must follow Baltimore City laws if they are to tow inside city limits, regardless of the location of the business.

    Anyhow, I'm wondering if I have any merit here. I would love to retrieve at least my $228. I also feel that the towing company is in violation of Baltimore city Towing laws, and the condo association is acting in a manner that does not protect person's legally parked on the property.

    I sincerely appreciate any thoughts from anyone who replies.

    Thank you!

    Matt Harrison

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jul 2006
    Posts
    5,438

    Default Re: Unlawful Tow?

    Sue them in small claims. Tell your story to the judge. See what happens.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jan 2007
    Location
    Baltimore, MD
    Posts
    5

    Default Re: Unlawful Tow?

    I think I'm looking for other avenues to pursue before filing a motion in small claims court.

    The first avenue that I have pursued was to place a call to the secretary of the Baltimore Board of Towing. I am also going to speak with the person who is head of parking for the condo association and see if she will pardon me for making a simple mistake, since I wasn't theoretically parked on the property illegally. Technically speaking, I was parked illegally for failing to display my placard.

    My girlfriend and I will be attending the Board elections/meeting next week and will suggest to the board that they find some way to keep a running list of vehicles that are parked on the property legally, placard or not. They should institute a policy that makes the towing company come to the security guard for a tow list, which he compiles anyhow, and only tow those on the list. Why should the towing company be able to come in and not be regulated in any way because one woman gives them the power to. What then is the point of having a security guard walk around the premises taking notes as to who is not displaying the proper tag? The whole process is sneaky, unfair, and predatory. He certainly isn't there to prevent crime, since units are broken into on a weekly basis within the walls of this gated community.

    Hopefully the secretary at the towing board can help me decide if the towing company acted unlawfully:
    1.) There is no telephone number of the towing company on my receipt
    2.) The towing company charged me an $8 fee on top of the tow. If this is a fee for a credit card, I'm not sure as I was not told of one, and no such posting was easily visible at the place of business.
    3.) The aforementioned fee is not on my receipt. It's only on the credit card receipt. I did not notice this till I returned home because the 8 looked like a 0 in the dark.
    4.) According to Baltimore City Code, the driver was supposed to sign the receipt as well, and this was not done.

    Yes, I'm angry that I had to shell out $228 for a tow that may seem to some as being lawful and right because I forgot to put up my placard, which was in the car, just not on the dashboard. As long as I have avenues to take, I will pursue them and see what happens because that kind of money isn't chump change to me. I mean, come on, it wasn't like I was parked in a clearly marked fire lane, or my meter expired. I was on property that I've legally parked on for the last year?

    Any other suggestions?

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jan 2007
    Location
    Baltimore, MD
    Posts
    5

    Default Re: Unlawful Tow?

    Also, the towing sign states that all unauthorized vehicles will be towed. It does not state that this is in effect 24 hours a day. In actuality, towing is only enforced after 11pm and until 5am. I would think that the sign should clearly state that, but since students from the neighboring colleges might park there during the day, the sign should clearly state that towing is enforced 24hours a day, whether it is enforced or not. Obviously, this is a technicality that does not apply to my situation, but might be an issue to take up with the condo association nonetheless.

    I think I'm going nuts over this.

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