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Legislative effort to curb costly private parking and towing practices (NY)


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State lawmakers consider Parking Protection Act


ALBANY — State lawmakers are considering legislation to restrict ambiguous rules and costly towing fees at private parking lots.


The proposal is to impose new sign requirements at private lots to ensure people understand where and when parking is allowed and how much it will cost. It also would regulate the practices of towing companies, including limiting how much they can charge and when vehicles can be towed or immobilized.


"Across New York state we're seeing private parking lot operators using predatory practices to force unassuming drivers to pay fees that are unfair," said Assemblyman Sean Ryan, a Buffalo Democrat who crafted the bill.


Ryan's office received complaints from drivers across the state, including hotel guests in downtown Albany who said their vehicles were towed from a church parking lot with inadequate signs. Others complained about a private Buffalo parking lot with a logo implying extremely low rates that weren't being offered. The protections for drivers in the legislation are largely based on the best practices in the parking and towing industry.


"This increased transparency will expand protections for people who use these private pay-to-park lots while still allowing lot owners to immobilize or remove unauthorized vehicles that repeatedly violate posted rules and regulations," Ryan said.


The legislation would require applicable parking hours and fees be clearly displayed, prohibit advertising prices as a range, and restrict private lots from towing or immobilizing an improperly parked vehicle unless there have been previous violations.


"By creating minimum, standard signage requirements for parking prices and implementing a three-strike approach for towing, we are taking important steps to protect New Yorkers from being misled by obfuscated pricing meant to mislead consumers," said Sen. James Skoufis, an Orange County Democrat carrying the measure in the Senate.


The cost of a towed vehicle would be capped at $125 and operators could only charge $15 for the first three days of storing a vehicle. Additionally, if drivers return to a vehicle while it is being towed, the company is required to release the vehicle at that location for a fee at no more than half the towing charge.


An ordinance in the city of Albany requires tow companies to obtain police approval before removing vehicles from private lots near major city events. The ordinance permits a maximum towing fee of $100 for ordinary vehicles, but also allows a $25 fee for dollying, $55 per hour for winching and $35 a day charge for vehicle storage.


The city also has a regulation requiring towing companies to release a vehicle — following payment of a "drop fee" — if the owner returns when a vehicle is on a truck's lift but hasn't been moved, according to the police department. A spokesman for the department could not immediately say how much tow companies can charge for a "drop fee."


A requirement that towing operators accept credit cards would be a welcome change for drivers who have their vehicles picked up in Saratoga Springs by Matt's Service Center, which only accepts cash, according to Saratoga County Chamber of Commerce President Todd Shimkus.


“Nobody carries cash anymore, so they have to find an ATM and figure out a way to get back there," Shimkus said.


Matt's declined on Tuesday to answer questions about the legislation and its business practices. A representative from Capital District Towing hung up the phone when asked about their rates for towing from private parking lots.


In 2007, Albany County adopted a law to address complaints of out-of-control towing by requiring private parking lot owners to post signs clearly describing their requirements for parking. The measure also prohibited kickbacks between parking lot owners and tow truck companies.


The law was challenged in court for violating the rights of property owners and limiting the profits of tow truck companies.



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Whenever I hear the word "fair" it makes me wonder who it's supposed to be fair for.  The violator, a.k.a. trespass parking perpetrator?  Or the tow operator and lot owner paying mortage/rent, taxes, employees, equipment notes/operation/repairs, insurance, and more...sounds like the folks that came up with those "fair" prices need a dose of reality.



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