County’s New Towing Law Takes Effect
Montgomery County’s new towing law, Bill 17-15, passed unanimously by the County Council on July 21 and signed into law by the County Executive, takes effect today, Nov. 30. The new law is designed to address overly aggressive and predatory towing practices and restore regulatory balance in commercial and residential parking lots.
Montgomery County’s Office of Consumer Protection (OCP) typically receives more towing complaints each month than any other single category of complaint, according to a county news release.
Montgomery County’s new towing law is now closely aligned with the State towing law and includes the following provisions:
• Prohibits the use of “spotters” to identify vehicles for towing;
• Requires signs that are 24 inches by 30 inches be posted at entrances and in parking lots;
• Requires property owners to authorize each tow in writing (except between 2 and 9 a.m.);
• Requires photographic evidence of violations or of events precipitating the towing of a vehicle and requires a copy of photograph to be provided to the vehicle owner when retrieving a vehicle;
• Requires towing firms to notify the Police before leaving the parking lot;
• Requires towing companies to accept credit cards as well as cash for the redemption of vehicles;
• Requires towing companies to have personnel available 24-hours-a-day at brightly lit impound lots so vehicle owners can safely retrieve cars at any time;
• Allows vehicle owners to retrieve personal property without charge from a vehicle that has been towed;
• Allows consumers to see the contract between the towing firm and property owner;
• Authorizes the County Executive to set flat rates;
• Limits the amount a towing firm can charge for an incomplete tow; and
• Gives OCP subpoena and enforcement authority.
In addition, commercial parking lot owners that elect to engage in trespass towing are now required to electronically register their parking lots with OCP and to provide annual reports to OCP regarding towing activities. The online registration, as well as additional information about towing, is available on OCP’s website at www.montgomerycountymd.gov/consumer. Commercial parking lot owners have 30 days from the effective date of the new law to register.