Florida has enacted important legislation regulating the towing of vehicles from private property. In Tampa, aside from Florida Statute 715.07, towing companies must abide by the Hillsborough County Public Transportation Commission Rules. In Pinellas County, towing companies have to follow the rules set forth in the County Code of Ordinances, Chapter 122.
What Makes a Tow Improper?
First, before a vehicle can be towed from a parking lot with more than 20 parking spots, there must be a posted sign at every entrance to the property. If anyone entrance to a property did not have the required sign, or the sign was not very visible or hidden, your car may have been towed illegally. The sign must also contain very specific language, and state the name and phone number of the towing company responsible for the tow. If the sign does not do this, or has the wrong information, you may have been illegally towed.
Your car cannot be taken too far from the point where it was towed. In Hillsborough County, that distance is about 10 miles. In Pinellas, the distance is about 15 miles.
There are also very specific rules about what you can and cannot be charged. In Hillsborough County, that charge is $115 plus $5 per full mile driven for most vehicles. In Pinellas, the charge is $100, plus $3.00 per mile.
While an explanation of each and every improper charge would be too long for the purposes of this article, and they also vary between different counties, excessive and improper charges may mean that you were illegally towed.
If you request the return of your vehicle and too much time goes by before it is released to you, you may have been illegally towed.
If your car is towed and damaged in the process, you may have a lawsuit against the towing company. If you see the towing company towing your car and you ask them to stop, and they try to charge you more than half of the amount allowed in that county, you may have a lawsuit against the towing company.
There are several other requirements under the statute, so it is important that you contact an attorney who is familiar with this area of law to guide and advise you of your rights in this situation.
There are exceptions, such as when a vehicle is blocking a driveway or entrance or interfering with a business’ normal operation. Most of the time, even if you believe the tow was illegal, the best course of action is to not argue, pay the amount demanded (get a receipt!) to avoid more fees. Towing companies are allowed to charge for storage of the vehicle, so the longer the vehicle is at the tow lot, the more it will cost to get the vehicle back. If too much time goes by and the vehicle is not retrieved, the towing company may sell it to pay for the towing fees.
What Can You Do?
If you are in doubt about whether your vehicle was towed away illegally, call our law firm now. We consistently accept cases involving the wrongful or illegal towing of vehicles. Consultations over the phone or in-person are free and, in most cases, there is no out of pocket cost to you. Please contact Fulgencio Law today to speak with attorney Felipe Fulgencio or attorney Bryan Giribaldo. We serve clients in Hillsborough, Pinellas, Pasco, and throughout Florida.