One of my favorite questions to ask seasoned, property management professionals is: what do you know now that you wished you had known when you started in this business? For me, it would be the various ways I interact with residents: relationship counselor, household budget advisor, employment consultant, etc. One of the occasional tasks that I and, most likely, you reluctantly perform is parking enforcer!
We’ve all had our fair share of parking complaints. Like me, you’ve probably had to tow vehicles that violate your parking rules. Removing a vehicle from our properties is an unpleasant but necessary step to ensure a safe, enjoyable community. Being our properties’ parking ‘police’ is tough.
Towing vehicles parked in fire lanes, handicap spaces, or blocking entries and exits makes sense. Removing junk or abandon vehicles improves curb appeal and residents’ quality of life. Like evictions, towing should generally be a last resort. Towing is stressful for residents and onsite staff, and AATC and TAA work hard to ensure that apartment owners may reasonably regulate the use of their parking lots.
A new state law authored by Tarrant County state representative Nicole Collier and supported by AATC and TAA that regulates parking at apartment properties went into effect January 1, so now is a great time to refresh your memory about parking regulations and review your company’s towing policy. Following is some basic information about parking and towing:
TAA REDBOOK: As always, the TAA REDBOOK is an excellent resource of all things parking and tow related. Begin by reviewing The Texas Towing and Booting Act article in the REDBOOK https://www.taaredbookonline.org/resident-life-and-management-issues/fair-housing/the-texas-towing-and-booting-act. This comprehensive article by TAA General Counsel Sandy Hoy describes in detail what apartment owners can and cannot do regarding parking regulation and towing.
What Can Be Towed: Texas law’s definition of vehicle includes cars, trucks, motorcycles, recreational vehicles, and trailers.
Tow Without Risk: Texas law allows apartment owners to tow vehicles without risk if:
- written or oral notice actually received by the vehicle owner or operator; or
- a notice was taped to the vehicle’s front windshield and the vehicle was later illegally parked elsewhere; or
- a notice was taped to the vehicle’s front windshield and the notice was also given via certified mail to the vehicle owner of record and the vehicle is not moved within 15 days after the notice was mailed; or
- the vehicle is unlawfully parked in a properly marked handicap parking space; or
- the vehicle is obstructing an aisle, entry or exit to the parking facility; or
- the vehicle is obstructing a pedestrian or vehicle gate; or
- the vehicle is obstructing garbage truck access to a dumpster; or
- the vehicle is blocking another vehicle from exiting a parking space; or
- the vehicle is parked in a properly marked fire lane; or
- the vehicle is parked in a non-fire lane zone brightly painted “TOW AWAY ZONE” with 3-inch contrasting letters; or
- the vehicle is parked between the property line and the curb, and notice was given via (1), (2) or (3) above; or
- the vehicle is a semitrailer, truck-tractor, or a trailer of any size or type parked without express permission from the rental housing owner; or
- the vehicle is leaking fluid that presents a hazard or threat to persons or property; or
- signs complying with the statute were posted at all entrances to the parking facility; or
- signs complying with the statute were posted at all entrances to the particular portion of the parking facility where parking is limited or prohibited
- the resident was provided with a copy of the towing policy before the lease was signed.
Two Exceptions to Above Lists: 1) you cannot immediately tow upon actual notice (given orally, in the lease, or in a separate written notice) if the towing is for an expired registration sticker or vehicle license, and 2) you cannot ever tow a government-owned emergency vehicle (police or sheriff car, fire truck, emergency medical service vehicle, etc.) for any reason under any circumstances.
Parking permits. Beginning in January 2020, any parking permit(s) issued to a resident must be coterminous with the resident’s lease term, as required by a new law enacted in 2019 by the Texas Legislature (Section 92.0132 of the Texas Property Code). For example, if you are issuing a parking permit to a new resident signing a 12-month lease, the parking permit must be valid for the same 12-month period. Or, if a roommate is being added to the lease in the middle of the lease term, a parking permit issued to the roommate must be valid for the remainder of the lease term. There are no penalties in statute for violating this law, but properties should take care when issuing parking permits to residents to ensure there are no complications regarding the length of the permit terms or towing a vehicle for reasons based on a parking permit. Par. 21 of the TAA Lease contains a provision relating to permits, and it has been updated to reflect changes in the law.
Towing Myths: Some common towing myths are:
- Vehicles may be towed after they have been tagged for 24 hours.
- Vehicles must be tagged for 24 hours before they can be towed.
- Entry signage is always necessary in order to tow a vehicle.
- Property owners or their representatives must be present at the time of towing.
- Towing companies cannot “patrol” to tow vehicles that are illegally parked.
All of the above bullet points are false. The statute doesn’t authorize tagging a vehicle and towing it 24 hours later. It doesn’t require a vehicle to be tagged for 24 hours before towing. It doesn’t require signage for every single type of towing. It doesn’t require the presence of the owner or his representative at the time of towing. It doesn’t prevent a towing company from patrolling an owner’s property to tow illegally parked vehicles (assuming the facility owner has requested such patrolling.)
Conclusion: Per the REDBOOK “the Texas Towing and Booting Act is helpful for the rental housing industry and for residents who have their parking spaces “stolen” by interlopers. Likewise, it is tough on parking facility owners who do not follow the statute precisely. The penalties are severe if you foul up–so be sure of your facts and the law before you tow.”
John Gillespie, WAK Property Management, is the AATC Government Affairs Committee Chair.