News10 Report on Illegal Tow

San Diego’s Team 10 reporter Melissa Mecija interviewed Homeowner Law attorney Dan Zimberoff recently regarding a homeowner association that towed a resident’s car for parking in the same space he had parked in for years. The owner claimed “illegal tow.” The complete report can be found here.

Community associations must follow strict protocols prior to towing a resident’s or guest’s vehicle. If they waver, they may be held liable for Predatory Towing.

Towing from Private Property Requirements

The California Vehicle Code towing regulations include four
different situations for when vehicles can be towed from private property: (1)
if there are signs prohibiting public parking; (2) if a vehicle is inoperable;
(3) if a parking citation was given; or (4) on the property of a single-family
home. Each of these situations is governed by Vehicle Code 22658 which governs illegal tows, also known as Predatory Towing.

Signage Requirements:

If the community association property has signs prohibiting parking,
the signage must adhere to the following requirements:

  • 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.

If there is improper signage, a condo or homeowner association may be held liable for illegal tow, including double the towing and storage fees.

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

Predatory Towing Laws . . . Illegal Tow?

To prevent illegal towing and ensure the property owner
has authorized a tow company to impound a vehicle, 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

If the required authorization is not obtained, the towing
company is liable for four times the amount of towing and storage fees.

If your car has been wrongfully towed from community association property, the association and/or towing company may be held statutorily liable for damages if they violate California towing laws.