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Colorado lawmakers cracking down on 'nonconsensual towing'

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Posted at 9:57 PM, Jan 17, 2022

SOUTHERN COLORADO — Colorado lawmakers plan to crack down on what they call "nonconsensual towing," which is when companies tow vehicles without the consent of the owner.

"It was our first day moving here. We had just moved in, and I had gotten off of my first day of work and crashed. Woke up around 2:30 a.m. to get all of my work equipment and my truck was gone," said Raymond Guerrero, Colorado Springs resident.

Guerrero says the towing company claimed his truck didn't have a permit to park at the apartment complex.

"I told them, yes I did and I have all of the documentation. They were like sorry, but you'll have to come down either today or tomorrow to pick it up and you'll have to pay the fees regardless," said Guerrero.

Despite showing the company proof of permit, Guerrero says they claimed legal precedence at the time of the tow.

"Which made us legally responsible to pay to get it towed out, regardless of if we had all of the documentation," said Guerrero.

Guerrero had to pay roughly $350 to get his truck back and missed work for the day.

"It should be less expensive. For example, if I came out with documentation as they were hooking it up, there is an automatic $150 hookup fee even if they haven't moved my vehicle. I would like someone to take care of that and some accountability. No one seems to be accountable for nothing," said Guerrero.

During this legislation session, two democrat lawmakers plan to introduce a bill to combat nonconsensual towing and strengthen existing state laws to close loopholes in consumer protection.

“I don’t deny that they are legitimate reasons for people to be towed, but there is a lot of towing that is occurring without documentation about why they’re being towed. People are being towed for expired tags, and in my opinion, that is a law enforcement issue. If you get ticketed by law enforcement for having expired tags, you get a ticket. Law enforcement doesn't make you get out of your car and call a towing company. If you're in an HOA or certain residential communities, towers will tow a car with an expired tag, ” said Rep. Edie Hooton, (D) Boulder.

"Many of my constituents have complained about predatory towing, cars being taken in the middle of the night, cars taken and they have to spend $300 to get in within 24 hours, cars being taken with items that they really need. We thought it would be time to tackle it," said Rep. Naquetta Ricks, (D) Aurora.

State law requires residential communities to draft contracts that specify when and why a company can tow a car, but legislators believe there are gaps allowing companies to take advantage.

“One of the things in this bill is whether or not they can continue to patrol and patrol and kind of like they are circling looking for that opportunity to take the car. In talking with the tow companies, they’re saying the apartment complexes are giving them that right to patrol their parking lot. That is a place where we need to talk with property managers and see if that is indeed the case. If it is, it needs to be done in a better way because it seems like birds of prey just circling, waiting to catch somebody," said Ricks.

"I think in their minds, the consumer is the HOA or mobile home park owner. They consider them the consumer, at least how and how often these tows occur, they're not thinking of the vehicle owner as the consumer. I think that needs to be very clear at the Public Utilities Commission, who exactly is the consumer that's being protected here. You've got a property owner, HOA, and a vehicle owner. There needs to be more clarity and parity," said Hooton.

"The Vehicle Owner's Bill of Rights" would require companies that are towing vehicles without the owner's consent to do the following:

  • Charge the same fees for tows made without the owner's consent as the carrier charges for tows made with the owner's consent. These fees must be filed with the Public Utilities Commission and posted on site
  • Give the owner or lienholder an itemized bill upon demand
  • Before connecting to a vehicle, photographically document the vehicle's condition and the reason for the tow. Failure to document the vehicle's condition or the reason for the tow leads to a rebuttable presumption that any damages were caused by the carrier or that the tow was not authorized
  • Upon demand of the vehicle's owner, retrieve the contents of the towed vehicle or allow the owner to retrieve the contents
  • To remove a vehicle from private property, obtain authorization within the last 24 hours from the property owner, leaseholder, or common interest community
  • Unless ordered by a police officer, not tow a vehicle from private property because the rear license plate shows the vehicle is expired
  • Repeal the two-day waiting period for tow companies to notify the owner and lienholder of a vehicle that was towed without either the owner's or lienholder's consent. Instead requires notice within 10 days after the tow

The legislation would also provide additional resources and funding to the Public Utilities Commission which is in charge of regulating the towing industry.

The Towing and Recovery Professionals of Colorado have always supported good legislation and will continue to do so.

Our main mission is to help the state of Colorado and our communities in providing safe and efficient towing services. We look forward to helping Rep. Hooton and Rep. Ricks with their future bill on private property laws to help protect consumers and the integrity of the towing Industry.

This would Be an excellent opportunity for Rep. Hooton and Rep. Ricks to utilize the Towing Task Force they passed in last year's legislation session.

The Towing and Recovery Professionals of Colorado

"It is really concerning, and something needs to be done," said Guerrero.

Legislators have built an online form for people to submit their stories of nonconsensual towing to share once the bill is introduced in the legislature. Stories can also be emailed to naquetta@ricks4co.com.