Sunday, March 12, 2017


Non-consensual Towing

Odd term right? What it means is that your vehicle was towed and you didn’t consent to it.

Let’s say that you and your friends are going out to dinner. When you get to your favorite restaurant you find that their parking lot is full because the place is awesome. You notice a lot of available parking at a closed business across the street so you park there and go inside the restaurant. You’ve had a wonderful evening – that is until you return to where you parked your car and its gone. Your first reaction is that your car has been stolen, and only after searching for your vehicle do you discover a small, inconspicuous “no parking tow-away sign”. You’re angry and rightfully so. Had you actually seen the dang sign you wouldn’t have parked there.

So you call the towing company to try and get your car back only to be told that their fee is $175.00 and that they only accept cash. And on top of that they tell you that if you can’t get to their lot in the next 10 minutes, they won’t be able to give you your car back until 8:00 the next morning. Nice…

Angry just became infuriated. Who carries that much cash? Where is the closest ATM? And like they expect you to get to both an ATM and their storage lot on foot in the next 10 minutes? Even Uber isn’t that fast.

You’ll show them! You call the police department…. only to learn that there isn’t much they can legally do to assist you. You did after all park in a tow-away zone, and NC general statutes prohibit the regulation of fees that tow companies may charge. The towing and release of private vehicles is largely a civil matter. About the only thing the police department can do is respond with an obligation to help prevent a fight between you and the towing operator.

Unfortunately this scenario has happened far too often in Cary. Cary PD has been called over 150 times for situations just like this since 2010.

It’s sad, especially in an area like our downtown where parking for some businesses is challenging as the current use – a restaurant, brewery etc.. generates more traffic than the original use was designed to accommodate. That happens a lot with redevelopment. Since we all want to see downtown Cary succeed you would think that businesses that are closed in the evening and don’t need their parking would allow adjacent businesses that really need extra parking in the evening to use theirs right? We do. But unfortunately the risk of liability and increased cost deter many from allowing the use of their parking after hours.

While unfortunate, there are some things we can do to hopefully limit situations like the one above from occurring.

Thanks to the hard work of the Cary Police Department and our legal department, we were able to pass a new non-consensual towing ordinance that complies with North Carolina general statutes and better protects vehicle owners, property owners and tow operators.

The new non-consensual towing ordinance does the following:

Requires the posting of visible signage in prominent locations that clearly notifies motorists of any parking prohibitions. Signage must also include the contact information for the specific towing company as well as on-site release requirements.
Towing companies must notify the police of any non-consensual tow along with the vehicle make, color and license plate number so that if a motorist calls the police, the police can inform them of the appropriate towing company information.
Towing companies must respond in person to a motorists call within 30 minutes of receiving a call.
Towing companies must respond to the vehicle storage location within two hours of receiving a release request. Exceptions include between the hours of midnight and 6:00 am.
Towing companies will now be required to accept cash and at least 2 major credit cards – one must be a VISA or Mastercard.
Vehicle storage lots may not be located more than 15 miles away from where the vehicle was towed.
Should a motorist return to their vehicle while a towing company has initiated a tow, the tow truck operator must release the vehicle on site upon the payment of a release fee.
Establishes penalties for towing operators who do not comply with the ordinance. $100 for the first offense, $250 for the second, $500 for the third, $750 for the fourth and so on.

We really hope that this new non-consensual towing ordinance helps alleviate some of the problems that motorists, and in some cases towing operators have experienced. We will also continue to work to better educate business and property owners – especially in our downtown – about the benefits that shared parking affords the surrounding community. Rising tides do lift all ships.