California Towing Law Review


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Here you will get attorney prepared information about California's towing laws from private property. This page does not cover tows from public property or tows by law enforcement. Public property issues can require a review of local ordinances which vary by city and by county.

If you believe you have been the victim of a wrongful tow, or a predatory tow, you may find the answers to your questions here about towing laws in California.

California has extensive towing rules to prevent predatory towing. Even technical violations of the law can entitle you to money.

Although towing companies are supposed to know the law, and do many tows every day, there are some bad towing companies and their low paid employees (often working nightshifts) are not always properly trained on the law. It is surprisingly common to find violations creating a claim for a wrongful tow.

You will see for some violations the statute lists the penalty, such as owing twice, or four times the towing and storage fees. These fees are in addition to all remedies other laws allow. Example: if you vehicle is wrongfully towed the tow company may be liable for 4x the towing and storage fees, plus damages for conversion, plus punitive damages, plus attorney fees if a potential lien sale situation arises.

Issues Covered for California private property towing laws:

- California towing laws
- California tow truck laws
- Predatory towing
- Wrongful towing

The Timing of Tows From Private Property

Immediate Tows

A vehicle can be immediately towed if it:

- Interferes with an entrance or exit to the property.

- Is in a handicap / disabled parking space.

- Is in a fire lane. How long can a vehicle park in a fire lane before it is towed? None. It can be immediately towed.

- Is within 15 feet of a fire hydrant.

- Residential property parking.

- Is at motel or hotel parking where the parking spaces are marked as designated for a particular room.

(Vehicle Code 22953)

One Hour Tows

If the property has free parking open to the public then a vehicle can be towed after it has been improperly parked for one hour.

This applies to restaurants, stores and other places which are private property, there is no charge to enter and park, and the property is open to the public to enter.

Example: A store parking lot says parking is for customers only. If you park there you can only be towed after one hour.

If a vehicle is towed before it has been parked for an hour the penalty is two times the towing and storage fees.

(Vehicle Code 22953)

24 Hour Tows

If you are parked in an "off-street parking facility", such as a parking garage or paid parking, a vehicle can be towed after 24 hours after the parking fee expires.

Example: At noon you pay to park your car for two hours. Your car can be towed at 2 pm the next day. You also owe any additional charges for the extended parking.

(Vehicle Code 22952)

Requirements to Tow From Private Property

The California Vehicle Code towing regulations include four different situations covered in the law for when vehicles can be towed from private property. First, if there are signs prohibiting public parking. This is far and away the most common scenario, covering stores, restaurants, apartments, and the like. Otherwise, if a vehicle is inoperable, is given a parking citation, or is on someone's home then it can also be towed.

These situations are governed by Vehicle Code 22658. These are the California towing company laws. 22658 is the primary California statue for towing cars. If another law allows for towing of a vehicle then that law provides additional grounds for towing.

Signs Prohibiting Public Parking

What notice has to be posted before you can tow a car from private property?

If the private property has signs prohibiting public parking then an unauthorized vehicle can be towed. Here are the requirements for the signage:

- Signs must be at all entrances to the property.

- Signs must be in plain view.

- Signs must be at least 17 inches by 22 inches in size.

- The lettering on the signs must be at least one inch high and state the following:
* Public parking is prohibited

* Vehicles will be towed at the owner's expense

* Telephone number of local law enforcement

* Name and telephone number of the towing company

The owner of the property, or an HOA, is liable for double the towing and storage fees if there is improper signage.

Parking Violation Notices

If a vehicle is given a parking violation notice and 96 hours elapse (4 days) then the vehicle can be towed.

Inoperable Vehicles

If a vehicle cannot safely operate because it is missing a windshield, doors, tires, wheels, transmission, engine, etc., the vehicle can be towed 24 hours after the property owner notifies law enforcement of the situation.

Single Family Homes

If the vehicle is improperly on property where there is a single family home then it can be promptly towed. There is always legal towing of a vehicle from a private home.

Written Authorization Requirements

To prevent predatory towing and ensure the property owner has authorized a tow company to impound a vehicle, the California towing laws and regulations say a written authorization is required before the tow occurs.

The towing authorization must have the following information:

- The time the authorization to tow the vehicle was made.

- When the vehicle was first observed being parked.

- The reason for the tow.

- The name, title, signature, address and telephone number of the person authorizing the tow.

- The license plate, vin, make and model of the vehicle being towed.
If the required authorization is not obtained the towing company is liable for four times the amount of towing and storage fees.

When evaluating illegal towing in California, the written authorization is the major issue.

Police Notification

When your vehicle is towed the tow company must notify law enforcement it has your vehicle and is in transit to a storage facility.

The company has an obligation to report a towed car in California. This happens quickly so when someone sees their car is gone and contacts police, law enforcement can say the car has been impounded and was not stolen.

This notification must occur within 30 minutes of the removal or the tow company owes three times the towing and storage fees. However, there is no liability if for some reason notice could not practically be made.

Storage Facility Requirements

The tow company cannot tow your vehicle more than 10 miles, unless the company has written approval from law enforcement to tow vehicles farther away. This may occur in certain places where there are no vehicle storage facilities available within ten miles.

The storage yard must have an accessible public pay phone.

The facility must be open Monday through Friday, 8 am to 5 pm. After hours (24 hours around the clock), or on weekends or holidays, the facility must be available to release a vehicle, although an additional "gate fee" can be charged.

Getting Your Vehicle Back

What to do if your vehicle is towed in California:

When you claim your car or truck, before paying anything you must be given a copy of the written authorization the tow truck received to tow your vehicle.

The car towing laws in California say the towing company must give you a notice which says:

"If you believe that you have been wrongfully towed, please contact the local law enforcement or prosecuting agency at [insert appropriate telephone number]."
The notice must be in English and in the most popular language spoken in the area.

If your vehicle was towed for blocking an entrance or exit, being in a fire lane, within 15 feet of a fire hydrant, and was towed per a general authorization to automatically tow these types of violations, then before paying the tow company must give you a photo proving the violation.

The storage facility must accept cash or a credit card for payment. It is not required to accept a check, unless the check is from an insurance company.

You can request a "Towing Fees and Access Notice" which lists your rights, including your right to receive an itemized invoice of charges. You should always request this notice and an itemized invoice. There is a long list of items needing to be in an itemized invoice (Vehicle Code 22651.07):
- Identification of who is charging for towing and storage. This includes the name, address, phone, and California motor carrier identification number issued by the DMV.

- Date when the service was done.

- Where the vehicle was towed from.

- Description of the vehicle.

- When the tow truck was dispatched, arrived, and completed its tow.

- Fees for towing, storage, any gate fee, and specification of any other fees.

- How the towing occurred (such as front, back, put on flat bed of truck, etc.)

- Who requested the tow if the tow was not from residential property.

Getting Your Personal Property Out of the Car

If you cannot pay the towing and storage fees you are still entitled to get all of your personal property out of the car at no charge.

The California law for towing vehicles distinguishes personal property from the vehicle. The tow business can hold the car pending payment of towing and storage fees, but cannot hold your personal property from inside the car.

Tow Fees

Tow fees in California are set by statute. Towing fees for private tows cannot exceed the tow charges from local law enforcement.

It is extremely difficult to know if you are being overcharged because law enforcement typically does not publicly disclose their fees.

Lien Fees

If you retrieve your vehicle within 72 hours you cannot be charged an additional lien fee.

When a tow yard puts a lien on a car are they responsible for all back fees on the vehicle? No. As the owner you still remain liable for all other liens and fees, even if the tow company sells the vehicle at a lien auction.

Hooked But Not Yet Removed

If you found a tow truck hooking up your vehicle but it was not yet removed from the property, you can demand the immediate release of your vehicle.

The tow truck must immediately, and without any condition (such as payment of money) unhook or unload your vehicle and give it to you.

Small Claims Court Legal Kit

To pursue a wrongful tow claim you are most likely in small claims court.

This kit will get you prepared to win. The tow company will be sending a representative (not an attorney) who assumes you won't have the evidence or know the law.

Virtually all towing plaintiffs in small claims court miss claims and just try and get their money back. You can get a more - a lot more.

In our exclusive Small Claims Towing Kit you will get:

- How to stop a pending lien sale for free. This can be critical if you do not have the money right away to pay for the tow. You can stop your car from being sold.

- The surprising law you've never heard of which causes a towing company to forfeit all towing and storage fees in addition to the Vehicle Code penalties.

- How to max out the $10,000 in damages allowed in small claims court.

- How to get for free from the DMV the actual name of the towing company's owner and the right business address so you aren't quickly bounced out of court by making a mistake. (Good luck searching the DMV site trying to get this information.)

- Exact code references and information you need to prove your claim. It is a California towing laws summary and handy reference to owed penalties.

- In the "Overview" section you get the tips of what not to do in small claims court. This is what trips up many people and keeps them from winning easy money from tow companies.

- "Fill in the Blank" Legal Brief. The legal research has been attorney prepared in a sample legal brief covering the most common towing violations. Include the sections and modify for your situation, delete any unneeded sections, and you'll have a major surprise for the tow company at the small claims hearing. Having the brief will make it much easier for the judge to rule for you. Included in the brief are "summaries" of common evidence needed for each claim, so you'll know exactly what you need to bring with you to win.

This is information you are not going to find anywhere else or by searching the Internet.

The focus of the kit, going further than the already extensive information on this page, is on private property towing laws in California.

All for less than ten bucks. It's a great deal and you can get it here.

If you want, you can take the information in the legal kit, including the legal brief, and convert it into a demand letter for the towing company to pay you a settlement without going to court.

Some tow companies will pay up quickly as they hate being dragged into small claims court instead of being able to pass off the problem to an attorney.

No matter how you want to proceed, the towing legal kit is a "must have" if you want to make them pay up for towing your car.

Can I Have an Attorney Review My Claim Without Getting the Towing Kit?

This page is viewed a thousand times every month by towing victims. It's simply not possible for individual reviews.

Here's the blunt, behind the scenes truth about towing claim reviews ... this probably is not you, but there are an incredible number of people who easily don't have a claim and were properly towed, or somehow their car was towed months (even years ago) and they say they never knew about it, or are confusing repo or criminal tows by the police with the private property tows this page is talking about, or are a bit crazy, or simply have no concept of how much time can be spent on their life stories and hard-luck issues which can't be used to excuse payment of a good tow.

These are not huge claims and the time required to interview a victim and to try and get the facts and documents, and review everything can be substantial.

Judges can frown heavily on attorneys who bring small claims cases in Superior Court.

While the towing and storage fees are not cheap, asking someone else to put up hundreds of dollars in expensive Superior Court filing fees for a small claims valued case, and heavy time commitment required for a Superior Court case, is not something many attorneys can justify doing. The costs plus a contingency or hourly fee will take a huge part or all of your claim.

That's what the legal kit tries to solve.

Attorneys are not allowed in small claims court, and small claims court is cheap.

The kit already has the legal research done in the sample brief. It is chunked into issues and you simply delete a possible towing issue that does not apply. It is as much "fill in the blank" as possible.

The brief and kit are self-guided and describe the facts and evidence you need to win.

File your small claims action, give the judge the brief you've completed when it comes time for your hearing, and you'll be miles ahead of those who try to wing it on their own.

Less than $10, it's cheaper than a ticket to the movies. The Towing Legal Kit.

How to Get the Towing Kit:

We use PayPal as a payment processor because it handles all major credit cards (you do not need a PayPal account), has state of the art security, and is used by major businesses worldwide.

PayPal will ask if you want to pay with a PayPal account or with your credit card.

After making payment PayPal will either redirect you to the towing kit automatically, or provide a screen with something like:

Return to Merchant, or

Return to Site, or

Return to BSMKLP (our PayPal merchant ID), or

something similar.

Simply click on the link and you will be immediately taken to the towing kit page.

You do not need to wait for anything to be mailed, emailed, or sent to you. PayPal is supposed to make this automated, easy and fast. But if you have a problem please let us know via our contact form and we'll have it taken care of.

If you have a problem with a download on the towing kit page - let us know. The sample brief is in Microsoft Word .doc format.

Please note the url for the towing kit page you are sent to so you can return to the page as often as you want to prepare your towing claim.

Go here to get started.

Free Bonus

Many towing victims have mentioned their financial status which makes a tow even more stressful and painful.

At the end of the Towing Kit Page we have added a bonus section with 7 ways of putting more money in your pocket.

Some ideas add income. Some ideas cut expenses. Either way it is more money for you.

These ideas should be relatively easy and not require a lot of skill.

These won't make you a millionaire, but sometimes even a few bucks can be a lot.

Even if you decide the towing kit is not for you, or are undecided, this bonus should make the kit effectively free because you can make more money than the small investment in the kit.

Go here to get started.

Testimonials and Feedback

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"Thank you for your Small Claims Towing Kit. My court date is three weeks from today. I expect to have a much better experience because of your kindness to prepare the tow kit. Thank you." - David

"Your information is superb. Thank you very much." - Gail

"Thank you. Your kit is excellent." - John

"Thank you so much for the detailed information!" - Rebecca

"Thanks again for your detailed analysis of how to get my truck back. It's excellent." - Jessie

"Thank you. Your kit and information was very informative." - Mike

"Hello! Thanks for the great info about unlawful towing." - Hojoo

"Thank you very much. It is a great resource." - Kevin

The exclusive California towing kit is here.

- California Towing Law
- California Predatory Tow
- California Wrongful Tow


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