Towing Should be Used Sparingly in Recognition of Laws

Last Updated: January 13, 2022By

Space is a scarce and prized commodity in the Bay Area so it is no wonder why parking has become a vexing issue for drivers, landlords, and tenants.

Physically removing a vehicle can fix an immediate problem, but it can invite acrimony later on.


With so much clamor over parking spaces, rental property owners and their agents are faced with a decision on when or when not to tow unrecognized or improperly parked vehicles. As in most landlord-tenant matters, the question we ask is what is reasonable and what concessions can be made?

We were intrigued to come across this article that reported that the Alameda District Attorney has filed charges against a towing company for predatory and unauthorized towing, among other allegations of systematic fraud, largely concentrated in one apartment complex. Granted, it is an egregious example, but it does raise important questions. Under what circumstances can rental housing providers tow vehicles, and should they tow vehicles just because they could?

Private tow truck drivers and their employers clearly get paid for towing cars, and so there is a built-in financial incentive to haul out as many as possible, but state law gives the final say to landlords, property managers, or onsite security.

In order to create a paper trail and for owners to ascertain the whereabouts of a missing vehicle, towing companies are required to notify local law enforcement when a vehicle is hauled away.

Stranding tenants or their guests may not further the interests of landlords and so there should probably be a friendly reminder of parking policies to any violators before taking the extreme measure of towing.

Motorists should be greeted by prominent signage at the entranceway that warns would-be offenders that he or she risks having an improperly parked vehicle towed at their expense. This sign must clearly display the telephone number of the towing company and law enforcement in order for the vehicle to conduct a ‘lost and found” exercise.

Still other parking issues abound. Consult our earlier bog on parking wars in rental units.

Parting thoughts

Parking is the subject of many landlord-tenant disputes and infighting between neighboring residents. It has even become a centerpiece of discussion in creating new housing stock in the form of Accessory Dwelling Units in terms of what parking is needed to accommodate new residents when ancillary units are built.

In our view, towing should be reserved for serial offenders and used as a last resort or in cases when the vehicle presents a clear hazard or egress issue.Bornstein Law can assist in setting common-sensible parking policies, handling any feuding over limited space, and escalating the matter when tenants abuse designated parking areas to a level that encroaches on the rights of others. Towing a vehicle is a Band-Aid fix to remove an immediate nuisance, but is no substitute for a well-thought-out policy of parking rules and resolving disputes surrounding this limited real estate.


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