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Get the Facts on Towing

For several consecutive years, towing disputes have topped the list of consumer complaints in Miami-Dade County.  At Consumer Services, we strongly feel that a smart consumer is an educated consumer, and therefore, we want to provide you with the details of regulations pertaining to the towing industry.

Did you know that the towing industry in Miami-Dade County is licensed and regulated by the Consumer Services Department (CSD)?

The Miami-Dade County Towing Ordinance requires all persons and businesses engaged in the recovery, towing or removal of vehicles to be licensed by the CSD.  The Ordinance requires all towers to meet safety equipment requirements, maintain adequate insurance coverage, and comply with vehicle signage, identification and advertising requirements.  It also establishes maximum rates for "non-consent" towing services.  The goal of the ordinance is to ensure equity in the industry. 

Understanding the difference between consent and non-consent tows.
While the Miami-Dade County Towing Ordinance requires all businesses engaged in the recovery, towing, or removal of vehicles to be licensed by CSD, there are two distinctly different categories of tows, consent and non-consent. 

ˇ         A consent tow occurs when the vehicle is towed at the request of the vehicle owner or authorized driver.    

ˇ         A non-consent tow occurs when a vehicle is towed or removed without the prior express instruction of the vehicle owner or authorized driver.  Non-Consent tows include police requested tows (accidents, disabled vehicles, illegal parking, etc.) or the towing of vehicles from private property tow-away zones (shopping centers, office buildings, restaurants, etc.).

Consent Towing Regulation 
Other than the requirements that apply to all towers, the ordinance specifically addresses consent towing by not allowing tow truck operators to approach inoperable vehicles (broken down, involved in an accident, etc.) and offer towing services, unless the business has been summoned by law enforcement or the motorist.  If you call towing business or flag down a tow truck, get written confirmation of the charges before accepting the service.

Non-consent Towing Regulation
Because non-consent tows are not initiated by the vehicle owner or authorized driver, the potential for abuse exists.  The Miami-Dade County Towing Ordinance provides additional protections to consumers who are involved in non-consent towing situations.  The following information highlights those additional protections.

Tow-Away Signs
Unless you are parking at a single-family residence, look for a sign using the phrase "Tow-Away Zone."   This sign means that if you are parked there without authorization, your car may be towed without your permission.  When posted on private property, the sign must include the name and address of the towing service provider and the address of the storage facility.  The Miami-Dade County Towing Ordinance identifies the required locations and lettering requirements of these signs.

Be careful where you park.  If you enter a parking lot for a specific business or group of businesses, the property owner may have your vehicle towed if you leave your vehicle parked there and walk to another location close by but not on the property.

Who Can Have My Vehicle Towed?
To protect consumers from having their vehicles randomly towed at the discretion of a tow truck operator, the private property owner or his authorized agent must provide specific instruction to have a vehicle towed.  The specific instruction must be signed and dated in front of the tow truck operator.  Neither the written contract between the private property owner and the towing service provider nor the posting of tow-away signs serve as the required specific instruction.  

Reporting of Non-consent Tows 
How do you know that your vehicle was towed and not stolen?  If your vehicle is towed from a tow-away zone, the towing service provider must report the tow to the Miami-Dade County Police Department within thirty (30) minutes of the tow.  You may call your local police station to find out where the vehicle is being stored and how you can retrieve it.  Vehicles may not be towed if someone is occupying the vehicle.

Storage Facilities
In most cases, if your vehicle is towed, it must be brought to a storage facility within a ten (10) mile radius of the location from where it was towed. 

The storage facility must have an office that is open from at least 8:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., Monday through Friday, except holidays.  When the storage facility office is closed, the towing service provider must prominently post a notice indicating a telephone number where they can be reached at all times.  If you contact the towing service provider after business hours with a request to retrieve your vehicle, the towing service provider must return to the storage facility within one (1) hour to release your vehicle.

If your vehicle is being stored as a result of a tow, you or your authorized representative must be allowed the opportunity to inspect the vehicle and remove all personal property prior to paying the tow bill.

If you call a storage facility, regarding the retrieval of your vehicle, you must be informed of the documents necessary for the release of your vehicle, the exact charges for towing and storage at the time of the call, the rates at which additional charges may be added, and the acceptable methods of payment.

Each storage site must prominently display a schedule of all charges and rates for non-consent tows.  These rates must be in compliance with the maximum allowed rates set by Miami-Dade County.

The towing service provider must accept at least two (2) of the following forms of payment: cash (including money order or valid traveler's check), a valid bank credit card or valid personal check.

Towing and Storage Rates
As mentioned above, Miami-Dade County sets the maximum allowable rates for non-consent removal and storage of vehicles.  The rates depend upon the size of the tow truck required to perform the tow.   A
list of the applicable rates Requires Adobe Acrobat Reader is available in PDF format.

Questions/Complaints
The intent of the Miami-Dade County Towing Ordinance is to create a level playing field for participants in the towing industry and protect consumers from potential abuse.  If you have a towing-related question or wish to file a complaint about a tower, contact CSD's Consumer Mediation Center via telephone at (305) 375-3677 or the Web at
www.miamidade.gov/csd.

 

 

 

 
 
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