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Towing complaints increase after Colorado's Towing Bill of Rights takes effect

People report tows without 24-hour notification, as PUC examines rules
Towed car
Posted at 6:09 PM, Oct 25, 2022

LAKEWOOD, Colo. — Susan Sanders moved to Colorado last month, and it has been a rough ride.

"I had an accident in my previous vehicle. The vehicle was totaled," she said.

Sanders bought a used car last week as a replacement and brought it home from the dealership around 9:30 p.m. last Thursday. Her Lakewood apartment complex, Dartmouth Woods, requires a monthly $8 online parking permit for residents. She registered her previous car, but had not updated her new plates.

Less than two hours after she parked her new car, Wyatt Towing towed it, charging her $367 to get it back. Her car was also dented during the tow, Sanders told Contact Denver7.

"There was no notice. It was just gone," Sanders said. "I think that people deserve to have some kind of warning, especially in a situation where a vehicle is obviously a new purchase — it has a temporary tag on it. I was hoping for a little grace."

Colorado's so-called Towing Bill of Rights took effect in August, and requires towers to give 24 hours' notice before towing cars from residential areas, such as apartment complex parking lots.

"I'm shocked. And we have gotten more and more complaints coming through," said Representative Naquetta Ricks, D-Arapahoe, who co-sponsored the legislation.

Ricks said there are some limited exceptions to the 24-hour notice rule, such as fire lanes or specifically marked lots that require displayed permits. Still, she said that what happened to Sanders is exactly what lawmakers were trying to stop with new protections.

"I know that some customers have gotten the money back because they've questioned illegal tows," said Ricks. "And we just have to continue to do that situation, because it seems like the tow truck companies are still out there kind of lurking in the shadows."

Case in point, Sanders recently took late-night photos of Wyatt's tow trucks parked in her apartment complex parking lot.

"I find it very threatening knowing that there's someone driving around our parking lot waiting to find the next person to victimize," said Sanders.

Tow operators are also now required to take photos before a tow, but the photos sent to Sanders are too blurry to tell the damage to her car was not there before.

She has filed a complaint with the Public Utilities Commission (PUC), which confirmed an increase in towing complaints since the Towing Bill of Rights went into effect.

"Every day when I come out to get in my car, I wonder if it's going to be there," said Sanders. "I don't think what happened is fair."

Here are some key changes from the Towing Bill of Rights:

  • Requires towing carriers to photograph the condition of a motor vehicle and the reason for the tow, prior to hookup
  • Requires 24 hours notice for nonconsensual tows, with limited exceptions (such as a motor vehicle parked in or effectively obstructing a designated and marked fire zone)
  • Updates the requirements for signage at storage facilities and private properties
  • Requires towing carriers to release a motor vehicle’s contents, upon request, within 30 days of statutory notification
  • Requires towing carriers to release towed motor vehicles upon payment of 15% of the overall fees, not to exceed $60.00, subject to the signing of a form that affirms the remaining balance is still owed to the towing carrier
  • Eliminates drop charges, but towing carriers will still be required to release motor vehicles, upon request, if the motor vehicles have not yet been removed from the private property
  • Prohibits the towing of motor vehicles for reason of expired registration/plates, unless authorized by law enforcement
  • Prohibits kickbacks for the privilege of towing motor vehicles

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