New Parking Laws Go Into Effect July 1 - Tenant Resource Center

New Parking Laws Go Into Effect July 1

Hello Best Beloveds! This is your reward for your faithful readership - you are about to have information that NOBODY else has. The new parking laws from 2013 Wisconsin Act 76 go into effect TOMORROW, so this is your chance to know your stuff before the schnauzer hits the fan.  

The new laws give the landlord new rights to tow cars on the rental property, without having the permission of the vehicle's owner.  If you are a tenant who parks on the rental property, or if you're a landlord who includes parking with rental units, then this post is for you. Also, if you're a well-informed person who likes to keep an eye on how we here in Wisconsin are experiencing shifts in tenant-landlord law, then this post is also for you.

The basics of this part of the new law are that landlords have new rights to tow vehicles on private property. These are the 2 scenarios:

  1. If the property does not have a properly posted sign indicating their policy, the landlord can have unauthorized vehicles ticketed by local law enforcement or parking enforcement and then have them towed at the owner's expense. Law is here.
  2. If the property has a properly posted sign indicating their policy, the landlord can have unauthorized vehicles towed at the owner's expense without having the vehicle ticketed. Law is here. 

Summary: A landlord can now tow cars from rental properties, whether or not they put up a sign saying that they tow cars. The sign indicates whether or not the law enforcement has a right to ticket that car.

The little bits and pieces:

  • When we say landlord, we mean the landlord, a manager, a maintenance guy, or anyone who is an "agent of the landlord." A real legal definition of landlord is here.
  • The towing company must notify local law enforcement of the make, model, VIN number, and license plate number prior to removing it, otherwise they may not collect any fees for the service.
  • If the vehicle was stolen, the towing company may not remove it.
  • The towing company can impound the car until the fees are paid.
  • If requested by a property owner or agent, or a law enforcement or traffic/parking official, the towing company must release the personal property in the vehicle during regular business hours upon presentation of proper identification.
  • If the fees are not paid or a written agreement entered into within 30 days, the vehicle can be considered abandoned and disposed of.
  • Municipal administrative fees are limited to $35.
  • The Department of Transportation shall create rules about reasonable charges for removal and storage of vehicles, the notices that must be posted, and guidelines about notifying law enforcement agencies.

All this gets tricky, though, because Wisconsin's Department of Transportation, as far as we know, hasn't created any rules about the implementation of this law. (Are we wrong about this? Please contact us)  There are some other municipalities that are trying to get ahead of the game, though:

  • The Common Council of the City of Madison proposed a bill on June 3, which has not yet been passed. You can get to it here and here.  The main differences from above are that Madison will charge $400 to remove a car from an impound lot, and that the fees for calling in a car unlawfully are $100-1000.
  • We don't know of other cities that are changing their ordinances to reflect the law. Do you? Let us know and we'll put it up!

Some tips for tenants:

  • Make sure that you have up to date contact information for your landlord.
  • Write a letter to the address that you have for your landlord, telling them: 1. The best way to contact you, 2. the make and model of your vehicle, and 3. the make and model of vehicles that regularly visit you and park in your spot.
  • If you are illegally towed, and you have a paper trail showing the vehicles that will be in your spot, then it will be easier for you to hold the landlord responsible for incorrectly towing your car.

Some tips for landlords:

  • Before you start to tow vehicles, are you clear on the exact parking policies in your lease?  If not, it's a good idea to look it up.
  • If you intend to tow vehicles that are parked illegally on the rental property, in accordance with the newly effective laws, then it's a great idea to let tenants know exactly what your procedures will be. Send a letter in advance letting your tenants know: 1. How you will decide to tow tenants, and in what kind of situation, 2. Whether or not you'll contact the tenant prior to towing, so that they may have a chance to move their vehicle, and 3. That this is their chance to make sure that you have up-to-date vehicle information and contact information for each tenant.

Question that remains:

  • How does a towing company or a law enforcement agency decide whether or not a car is "not authorized to park" on the rental property?

We're interested to see how this goes for people - if you have a story about this law's effect on you, let us know.

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