Chesapeake considers amending tow truck law

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by Arrianee LeBeau, 13News Now

WVEC.com

Posted on May 9, 2014 at 3:56 PM

Updated Friday, May 9 at 5:55 PM

CHESAPEAKE -- Chesapeake wants to make a change to current towing laws in order to strike a balance between property owners and residents.

Currently, city code does not allow a tow truck company to patrol any property, regardless if they are given permission by a property owners' association, condominium association or property owner.

The new law would allow tow truck companies to patrol residential and commercial private parking lots but would set conditions to deter "predatory towing."

Officials described predatory towing as an arrangement that allows tow truck companies to make agreements with property owners to tow a vehicle whenever they spot a violation.

The city is asking for  public input and comments by June 6, 2014.  Click here to comment.

Below are the recommended changes:

The proposed ordinance allows a tow truck company to patrol and tow unauthorized or unlawfully parked vehicles in decal controlled private residential property and private commercial parking so long as the following conditions are met:

There is a written agreement between the tow company and the private property owner or authorized agent;

There is proper signage explaining that the private property is patrolled; Vehicles that have flat tires, license plate or state inspection expiration, or similar violations are not to be towed;

For properties owned or managed by property owners' associations, vehicles without parking decals or placards may be towed;

For private commercial parking, a written notice must be placed on the unlawfully parked vehicle providing 48 hours' notice to move the vehicle, except for vehicles parked in fire lanes, handicapped parking spaces, or blocking the legal movement of any other vehicle;

A photograph of the vehicle is taken and stored before the vehicle is towed clearly showing the vehicle's license plate and the written notice displayed on the vehicle's windshield, and also showing the vehicle is unlawfully parked or parked without permission in a residential or private commercial parking lot.

The ordinance is also amended to define a reasonable amount of time as no more than two hours for the maximum amount of time the owner of any towed vehicle must wait for the release of their vehicle during regular business hours.

The ordinance is also amended to provide a cross reference to § 74-311 to clarify when an owner of a vehicle may stop the towing process. It is unlawful under § 74-311 for a tow truck service to refuse to release a vehicle if the owner or custodian seeks to reclaim the vehicle before it is towed.

However, if a vehicle has been hooked up or is in the process of being hooked up to the tow truck, the tow truck service may charge a $25 fee before releasing the vehicle. Tow truck operators must also allow an owner or custodian of a vehicle to remove personal items from the vehicle prior to towing the vehicle.

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