Hello Faithful Readers! Remember when I wrote about Parking and then Parking, and now we're talking about Parking again! Recap: 2013 Wis. Act. 76 passed, and it said that landlords (and their agents) could have cars towed and possibly ticketed if those cars were parked in the wrong spot. But, the Dept. of Transportation was supposed to make regulations so that everyone knew what the rules were about towing and ticketing and such. Those regulations were supposed to be passed by July 1, 2014, but that didn't happen.
What did happen: On July 28, 2014, they made some new "emergency" regulations. On Sept. 26, 2014, Gov. Walker signed the regulations. On Oct. 2, 2014, they were published in the Wisconsin State Journal (and went into effect at that point). On Nov. 11, 2014, there was a hearing about the emergency regulations. On March 1, 2015*, these regulations are due to expire.
Recap of the changes from 2013 Wis. Act. 76
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:
- 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.
- 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.
Changes from the New Dept. of Transportation Regulations:
Fees: A towing service may charge the vehicle owner actual costs related to towing and storage, but not to exceed the following amounts:
- $105 for a regular tow.
- $120 for a flatbed tow.
- $20 per 24-hour period of outdoor storage.
- $25 per 24-hour period of indoor storage.
- $50 drop fee.
- $20 per tow dolly fee for indoor structures and blocked vehicles.
- $25 uninsured relocation fee.
- Municipal Service Fee: If the town wants a fee beyond those that the towing company charges, it cannot be more than $35.
- The landlord is not allowed to charge any fees for removing an unauthorized vehicle, according to these regulations.
Signs: In order for the sign to be "properly posted," all these things must be true:
- The sign must say that parking of unauthorized vehicles is not allowed (for example: "Private Property").
- The sign must say that unauthorized vehicles may be towed (for example: "Tow-Away Zone").
- The sign shall be conspicuously colored and legibly marked with contrasting letters not less than two inches in height.
- Each sign shall be erected on an adequate support.
- There must be at least 4 feet from the ground/curb/parking surface to the bottom of the sign.
- It must be possible to see and read the sign from each parking space were unauthorized parking is not allowed.
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.
Tips for landlords:
- Before you start to tow vehicles, do you know 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've been getting conflicting information on when, exactly, this emergency rule will expire. The written stuff says 3/1/15, but according to this page, it was supposed to end 2/28/15, and was extended until 5/5/15. Our sources say it'll end on 4/29/15, but we can't find it written anywhere. Confused much? Us, too. We'll update this page as soon as we get the correct dates.