Montgomery County Towing Amendments
New laws will take effect in Montgomery County, Maryland on November 30, 2015 which will impact parking and towing policies in community associations. This article will highlight the new requirements under Chapter 30C of the Montgomery County Code (“Code”) of which all community associations in Montgomery County need to be aware.
Initially, it is important to note that the recent amendments to Chapter 30C of the Code do not alter the towing regulations instituted by the Maryland legislature in 2012. As a refresher, in 2012, the State of Maryland enacted changes to the state law regulating towing of vehicles (MD Transportation Code Sec 21-10A - Towing or Removal of Vehicles from Parking Lots) mostly impacting community associations by requiring signs of a specific minimum size (24" x 30") and with certain, very specific language. After these laws were enacted, Montgomery County issued a clarifying statement regarding the relationship between Chapter 30C of the Code and the existing Maryland towing laws. The County stated, in pertinent part, that 1) the signs required by the State were a minimum requirement, 2) that towing notice stickers could no longer be used in the County in place of towing signs and 3) that all other signage requirements in the County Code remained in effect. The important take away from this is that the State towing laws are a minimum requirement which must continue to be observed even after the 2015 amendments to Chapter 30C are factored in. Where one body of law is more restrictive or imposes additional requirements, the more restrictive requirements must be observed.
Amendments to Chapter 30C
Below you will find a helpful checklist which you can refer to in order to ensure that your community is meeting the new requirements prescribed by the 2015 amendments to Chapter 30C.
Associations should work with their management companies and towing companies to make sure the following requirements regarding signs are met:
- At least one (1) sign is clearly readable at all times from each parking area and vehicle entrance, OR
- if a parking lot has more than 45 parking spaces, there must be at least one (1) sign posted in a conspicuous place for each 45 spaces
- All signs must be at least 24 inches high by 30 inches wide;
- All signs must clearly establish parking restrictions on the property, including time and area restrictions;
- All signs must state that a vehicle parked in violation of the restrictions may be towed at the vehicle owner’s expense;
- All signs must state that County and State laws require that towed vehicles be available for redemption 24 hours per day, seven days per week;
- All signs must state the maximum amount that the owner of a vehicle may be charged for the towing or removal of an unauthorized vehicle;
- All signs must list the name and telephone number of each towing company hired to tow unauthorized vehicles from the property and the location to which the vehicle will be towed;
- All signs must be sized and located so that they are able to be read by motorists in daylight and at night.
Authority to Tow
- Associations must expressly authorize, in writing, each individual tow from their property – The “in writing” requirement can be satisfied by submitting an email or fax to the towing company;
- The towing company does not have to be authorized in writing when:
- The tow is between 2:00 a.m. and 9:00 a.m.; OR
- If an unauthorized vehicle is blocking a clearly marked fire lane or access to another vehicle, property or a building on the property
- Photographic evidence of the violation that caused the tow must be available for inspection by any interested party for at least one year;
- A vehicle may not be towed from private property for failing to display a current registration until 72 hours after a notice of violation is placed on the vehicle.
- Associations must now also ensure that the following provisions are contained in any towing contract with a towing company:
- A statement that a property owner and towing company are jointly and severally liable for a violation of any duty imposed by Chapter 30C;
- Including a statement which subjects the towing company or property owner to a fine of $1,000 for violation of any duty imposed by Chapter 30C;
- A statement that the property owner is responsible for posting proper signage to notify the public of parking restrictions;
- A statement that the property owner is responsible for expressly authorizing the towing of a particular vehicle.
We strongly advise that all community associations in Montgomery County review their parking and towing policies with their management company and attorney to ensure compliance with the new statutory requirements. As noted above, if the proper procedures are not followed, an association could be subject to fines by the County for violation of the Chapter 30C requirements.