YOUR RIGHTS UNDER CONSENSUAL TOWING:
California Assembly Bill 519 (“AB519”) was signed
by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger on September 30, 2010 and took effect
on January 1, 2011. AB519 added Section 22651.07 – Towing Fees and
Access Notice: Vehicle Owner Rights to the California Vehicle Code
AB519 was introduced in an effort to address consumer confusion over towing laws, confusion that some dishonest towing companies had capitalized on in order to garner profits. By establishing and making widely available a “Towing Fees and Access Notice”, AB519 was designed to alleviate the frustration felt by consumers who do not currently know the laws applicable to tows and to provide ample disclosure of the way a just and law-abiding towing company should operate. AB519 was the product of a stakeholder group of insurance companies, auto clubs, and the towing industry that had been seeking to clarify responsible business practices. The intent of the group was to develop a bill of rights that would advise consumers of all pertinent information regarding a towed vehicle.
California Vehicle Code Section 22651.07 states:
(a) A person, including a law enforcement agency, city, county, city and county, the state, a tow yard, storage facility, or an impounding yard, that charges for towing or storage, or both, except for storage unrelated to a tow, shall do all of the following:
(1) (A) Except as provided in subparagraph (B),
post in the office area of the storage facility, in plain view of the
public, the Towing Fees and Access Notice and have copies readily
available to the public. (B) An automotive repair dealer, registered
pursuant to Article 3 (commencing with Section 9884) of Chapter 20.3 of
Division 3 of the Business and Professions Code, that does not provide
towing services is exempt from the requirement to post the Towing Fees
and Access Notice in the office area.
(2) Provide, upon request, a copy of the Towing Fees and Access Notice to any owner or operator of a towed or stored vehicle.
(3) Provide a distinct notice on an itemized invoice for any towing or storage, or both, charges stating: “Upon request, you are entitled to receive a copy of the Towing Fees and Access Notice.” This notice shall be contained within a bordered text box, printed in no less than 10-point type.
(b) Prior to receiving payment for any towing, recovery, or storage-related fees, a person that charges for towing or storage, or both, shall provide an itemized invoice of actual charges to the vehicle owner or his or her agent. If an automotive repair dealer, registered pursuant to Article 3 (commencing with Section 9884) of Chapter 20.3 of Division 3 of the Business and Professions Code, did not provide the tow, and passes along, from the tower to the consumer, any of the information required on the itemized invoice, pursuant to subdivision (e), the automotive repair dealer shall not be responsible for the accuracy of those items of information that remain unaltered.
(c) Prior to paying any towing, recovery, or storage-related fees, a vehicle owner or his or her agent or a licensed repossessor shall have the right to all of the following:
(1) Receive his or her personal property, at no
charge, during normal business hours. Normal business hours for
releasing collateral and personal property are Monday through Friday
from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., inclusive, except state holidays.
(2) Retrieve his or her vehicle during the first 72 hours of storage and not pay a lien fee.
(3) Request a copy of the Towing Fees and Access Notice.
(4) Be permitted to pay by cash or a valid bank credit card. Credit charges for towing and storage services shall comply with Section 1748.1 of the Civil Code. Law enforcement agencies may include the costs of providing for payment by credit when agreeing with a towing or storage provider on rates.
(d) The Towing Fees and Access Notice
shall be a standardized document plainly printed in no less that
10-point type. A person may distribute the form using its own
letterhead, but the language of the Towing Fees and Access Notice shall
read as follows:
(d) The Towing Fees and Access Notice shall be a standardized document plainly printed in no less that 10-point type. A person may distribute the form using its own letterhead, but the language of the Towing Fees and Access Notice shall read as follows:
Towing Fees and Access Notice
Note: The following information is intended to serve as a general summary of some of the laws that provide vehicle owners certain rights when their vehicle is towed. It is not intended to summarize all of the laws that may be applicable nor is it intended to fully and completely state the entire law in any area listed. Please review the applicable California code for a definitive statement of the law in your particular situation.
How much can a towing company charge?
Rates for public tows and storage are generally established by an agreement between the law enforcement agency requesting the tow and the towing company (to confirm the approved rates, you may contact the law enforcement agency that initiated the tow; additionally, these rates are required to be posted at the storage facility). Rates for private property tows and storage cannot exceed the approved rates for the law enforcement agency that has primary jurisdiction for the property from which the vehicle was removed or the towing company’s approved CHP rate. Rates for owner’s request tows and storage are generally established by mutual agreement between the requestor and the towing company, but may be dictated by agreements established between the requestor’s motor club and motor club service provider.
Where can you complain about a towing company?
For public tows: Contact the law enforcement agency initiating the tow.
Your rights if your vehicle is towed:
Generally, prior to paying any towing and storage-related fees you have the right to: ● Receive an itemized invoice of actual charges. ● Receive your personal property, at no charge, during normal business hours. ● Retrieve your vehicle during the first 72 hours of storage and not pay a lien fee. ● Request a copy of the Towing Fees and Access Notice. ● Pay by cash or valid bank credit card. ● Inspect your vehicle or have your insurance carrier inspect your vehicle at the storage facility, at no charge, during normal business hours. You have the right to have the vehicle released to you upon (1) payment of all towing and storage-related fees, (2) presentation of a valid photo identification, (3) presentation of reliable documentation showing that you are the owner of the vehicle or that the owner has authorized you to take possession of the vehicle, and (4), if applicable, presentation of any required police or law enforcement release documents.
Prior to your vehicle being repaired:
● You have the right to choose the repair facility and to have no repairs made to your vehicle unless you authorize them in writing. ● Any authorization you sign for towing and any authorization you sign for repair must be on separate forms.
What if I do not pay the towing and storage-related fees or abandon my vehicle at the towing company?
Pursuant to Sections 3068.1 to 3074, inclusive, of the Civil Code, a towing company may sell your vehicle and any moneys received will be applied to towing and storage-related fees that have accumulated against your vehicle. You are responsible for paying the towing company any outstanding balance due on any of these fees once the sale is complete.
Who is liable if my vehicle was damaged during towing or storage?
Generally the owner of a vehicle may recover for any damage to the vehicle resulting from any intentional or negligent act of a person causing the removal of, or removing, the vehicle.
What happens if a towing company violates the law?
If a tow company does not satisfactorily meet certain requirements detailed in this notice, you may bring a lawsuit in court, generally in small claims court. The tower may be civilly liable for damages up to two times the amount charged, not to exceed $500, and possibly more for certain violations.
(e) “Itemized invoice,” as used in this section, means a written document that contains the following information. Any document that substantially complies with this subdivision shall be deemed an “itemized invoice” for purposes of this section:
(1) The name, address, telephone number, and
carrier identification number as required by subdivision (a) of Section
34507.5 of the person that is charging for towing and storage.
(2) If ascertainable, the registered owner or operator’s name, address, and telephone number.
(3) The date service was initiated.
(4) The location of the vehicle at the time service was initiated, including either the address or nearest intersecting roadways.
(5) A vehicle description that includes, if ascertainable, the vehicle year, make, model, odometer reading, license plate number, or if a license plate number is unavailable, the vehicle identification number (VIN).
(6) The service dispatch time, the service arrival time of the tow truck, and the service completion time.
(7) A clear, itemized, and detailed explanation of any additional services that caused the total towing-related service time to exceed one hour between service dispatch time and service completion time.
(8) The hourly rate or per item rate used to calculate the total towing and recovery-related fees. These fees shall be listed as separate line items.
(9) If subject to storage fees, the daily storage rate and the total number of days stored. The storage fees shall be listed as a separate line item.
(10) If subject to a gate fee, the date and time the vehicle was either accessed, for the purposes of returning personal property, or was released after normal business hours. Normal business hours are Monday through Friday from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., inclusive, except state holidays. A gate fee shall be listed as a separate line item.
(11) A description of the method of towing.
(12) If the tow was not requested by the vehicle’s owner or driver, the identity of the person or governmental agency that directed the tow. This paragraph shall not apply to information otherwise required to be redacted under Section 22658.
(13) A clear, itemized, and detailed explanation of any additional services or fees.
(f) “Person,” as used in this section, includes
those entities described in subdivision (a) and has the same meaning as
described in Section 470.
(g) An insurer or insurer’s agent shall be permitted to pay for towing and storage charges by bank draft.
(h) A person who violates this section is civilly liable to a registered or legal owner of the vehicle, or a registered owner’s insurer, for up to two times the amount charged. For any action brought under this section, liability shall not exceed five hundred dollars ($500) per vehicle.
(i) This section shall not apply to the towing or storage of a repossessed vehicle by any person subject to, or exempt from, the Collateral Recovery Act (Chapter 11 (commencing with Section 7500) of Division 3 of the Business and Professions Code).
(j) This section does not relieve a person from the obligation to comply with the provision of any other law. (Amended by Stats. 2015, Ch. 740, Sec. 16. Effective January 1, 2016.)