To walk to your parking spot only to see asphalt where your tires had been hours before is nothing short of horrifying. Your first thought is grand theft auto. Your second? How will you find a ride, money and hold your composure when you arrive at the tow lot.
In 2009, Richmond City Council voted in favor of raising the towing cost to $125 per day. The limit for the previous 10 years was $65. City council did say that towing companies can face criminal charges for not following code on towing prices. However, that does not prevent owners from being ripped off in more subtle ways.
I took a friend to pick up his car that had been rightfully towed within the previous hour. He called and was told he needed to be pay $200 in cash, with no mention of their other credit and debit card options. When we arrived, the man taking the payment said it was actually $201. They get away with this because at that point, would you really bother calling the police to submit that claim? They have your property, and all you have to do is pay them an extra dollar to get it back.
Your car is being held hostage and every day the ransom goes up a little more. If the owner of a vehicle comes to claim the car after it has been hooked to the tow truck but before they drive away, the owner still has to pay about half the original fee. After 30 days have passed, the tow company is legally allowed to retitle your car if you haven’t paid the fees to claim your vehicle. There is very little regulation regarding these prices.
Towing companies are extortionists, who are making a terrible attempt at disguising themselves as legal businesses.
After many years living in this city without the blemish of even a parking ticket, I joined the ranks of those who have paid exorbitant fees to get their personal, expensive property back. These companies cruise around the city scouring for violations and slithering into parking lots with their engines off to hook another car and paycheck.
I have a private lot behind my apartment, which I pay a monthly fee to use. I don’t pay that fee to the towing company. I pay that fee to my rental company. When I spoke to them about signing a new lease and they told me to pay my fees on Monday, Oct. 6 (rent is due on the 5th of every month), I assumed all was well. But at 8 a.m. Sunday Oct. 5th, my car was gone, the October parking pass still hung up on the mirror.
I understand the need for businesses to keep lots clear for paying customers, and keeping cars out of fire lines even if it will only be there for ten minutes. It is an entirely different matter when it comes to private parking lots. The only ones getting hurt are residents if the spots they pay for are taken by someone who hasn’t. There are reports of towing companies hooking cars just minutes after midnight when their registration expires, or ignoring desperate notes in the windows about car trouble or lost keys. This type of predatory towing is not helping the parking situation in our city.
I was lucky enough to have friends who drove me to the tow lot the very next day, and lucky enough to have $125 to get my property back. Even after an appeal to my rental company who told me to pay my rent and parking costs a day later, they said it was a private company managing the lot and they had nothing to do with it.
Richmond citizens should not fear for the loss of their property. Regulation needs to be put into place for protection from towing companies.