Private Property Towing- Know Your Rights!


Private Property Towing- Know Your Rights!


It was an emergency, this you have to believe me. I know I might sound pathetic, you can call me an animal lover or a tree hugger, but to me, a street dog not older than 6 months that had been run over is an emergency. At the time this happened I simply didn’t have time to find a parking spot. And so, I parked my car in a private parking space, which belonged to one of the businesses adjacent to my Vet. I should note that the aforementioned business was a lawyer’s office. And lawyers are not always kind when it comes to their parking spaces.

I got out of the Vet’s office just in time to see my car being hooked up to the tow truck. All of my pleads were in vain. The tow truck driver said I would have to come down to the impound lot to get it released. I asked him how much it was and he quoted a shockingly exorbitant fee. I asked if I could drive with him to the impound lot, as I had no other means of transportation. But he refused. So I had to get a ride in a taxi, a very long and expensive ride. When I reached the impound lot I was told that in addition to the towing fee I had to pay a fee for the distance towed, and a dozen other charges. I wanted to argue, but what would I do? I’m only 5’3” and 150lbs, so there was little I could do to intimidate the impound lot guys, and since I use my car for my work I would be losing money if I let it sit there, not to mention the overnight fees. So I paid. And you can trust me when I say it was a lot.

After getting back home my husband went online and checked our rights. What we discovered shocked both of us. If I had known the facts then and there I could have avoided the entire ordeal (pay attention especially to articles 3 & 4). So for now, we decided to appeal to the court to see if we can get our money back. Nevertheless, we decided to share our insights with you so you will know your rights and avoid being ripped off, in the case you too make the mistake of rushing somewhere when your vehicle is parked in someone else’s private spot.

Know your rights!

  • If your vehicle is missing, call the SFPD. Owners of property and towing companies need to notify the SFPD within 1 hour and 30 minutes of of towing a vehicle.

  • Use your smartphone, it has a camera. A visible sign of at least 17″ x 22″ written with 1″ letters must be present or else the tow is considered illegal.

  • If your car is still being hooked up to the tow truck and the tow truck is not moving, the law declares that you are entitled to have your car released at a fee of half the regular towing fee!

  • Your car can only be towed if the owner of the property or a tenant thereof is present and has signed a document authorizing the tow. And you have the RIGHT to receive a copy of all authorization papers.

  • Your vehicle can be towed a distance of up 10 miles from where it was parked.

  • It is your RIGHT to pay not more than the maximum legal towing fee that is 250$ + 80$ per day of storage. And you may pay cash or with any major credit card.

  • A towing company is required to be open for releasing your vehicles 24 X 7 X 365.

  • When being towed, the towing operator must supply you with a brochure outlining all of the above information and more.

  • If your car was towed, the towing company is REQUIRED by law to send you a written notice – you must be properly registered in the DMV in order to receive these.

  • Finally, if you believe you have been illegally towed, report to any of the following hotlines:
    District Attorney Consumer Protection (415) 551-9575
    SFPD Tow Car Permit Division: (415) 553-1115
    Commercial Vehicle Unit (415) 553-1757

The dog by the way is fine. His name is Rexy now, and he likes our backyard. Every morning, when I take him out for a walk, he takes extra special care to mark my car. I think he realizes what kind of trouble me and my car got into by helping him out!