The City of Euless Wants to Enforce Towing Regulations, So Towers Are Threatening to Sue

Categories: Transportation

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Amy Silverstein
For a moment, it seemed that one small suburb in north Texas was prepared to take on the tow truck industry. It was less of a crackdown and more of an "education campaign," according to Euless Police Department Lieutenant E.J. Starnes. The police were concerned that apartment complexes had made it too easy for tow truck companies to come in and take residents' cars away.

A police spokesman sent an email to apartment managers, asking them to come to a meeting to learn about local towing laws. "Please forward this to all of the other managers and do your best to get full attendance," the email said. The police would even provide free lunch.

News of the meeting did not go over well with the towing industry, which promptly threatened to sue the city.

James Mosser, a Dallas-based attorney who represents tow truck companies, sent the city a letter on November 8.

"You have ignored my telephone calls and have not returned my telephone calls," Mosser wrote to Euless City Attorney Wayne Olson before getting to the meat of the matter:

Any attempted enforcement of the Euless city ordinance Sec. 90-93. and Sec. 90-96, will be met with legal action, because it is a violation of federal law. Each of the following ordinances are in violation of 49 U.S.C. 14501. You should know this. Your staff should know this. You should inform the City of this fact. You should return your telephone calls....Your staff has no idea what I am talking about. So again please call me. As I have told your staff and the City of Euless if you do not discontinue your unlawful enforcement of the above reference ordinances I will seek injunctive relief, sanctions, and monetary damages.

Reached by telephone, Mosser accuses Euless of violating federal laws regulating interstate commerce. "One of the issues is that when property managers get threatened by the city, they put towing on hold," Mosser says. He says he threatened the lawsuit after a client of his, Excalibur Towing, called him and said that a wrecker driver had been getting hassled by Euless Police Department officers, though Lieutenant Starnes says he has no record of that.

The police department, Mosser adds, is trying "to intimidate the apartment complexes so they won't hire the towing companies."

All of this of course suggests that there's a pretty cozy relationship between apartment complexes and tow truck companies, an issue we've written about a lot. Mosser more or less denies that his client gives kickbacks to landlords, but adds: "If I did know, I wouldn't tell you."

The whole Euless towing fight was triggered by -- what else -- an angry apartment resident. James Barr had been living at the Westdale Hills apartment community for less than three weeks when he got a warning sticker from Metro Parking Solutions. There was nothing wrong with the way he was parked. The tow truck company actually just had an issue with the mechanics of Barr's car. More specifically, his inspection sticker was out of date. Barr forgot about the notice until he woke up early on October 25 and found that his car was missing.

He paid $473 at a lot 10 miles away to get the car back, and then he got some legal advice from Pat Johnson, the former tow truck company owner who now blogs about predatory towing. Johnson described Barr's case on his website, and both men got in contact with Lieutenant Starnes.

It turned out, Metro had violated a few local rules: Tow trucks in Euless aren't supposed to take a car to a lot that's more than three miles away. Also, someone from the actual Westdale apartment complex was supposed to sign the tow slip before Metro took action.

"These towing laws change. And they are very confusing and they are extensive.
There's just a lot to learn," says Kathy Riggins, an administrative assistant at Westdale Asset Management.

After hearing the complaints, it occurred to Starnes that other apartment complexes might not be following the rules, which have been in place since 2012. So he scheduled that informational tow law meeting. "We need to inform our apartment complexes, 'Hey, this is what the ordinance says, make sure that y'all are in compliance with our ordinance.'"

On Thursday, city officials were still figuring out what to do about Mosser's legal threat, and the meeting was canceled. The Euless Police Department still plans to enforce the ordinance until they are ordered otherwise from the City Attorney's office, Starnes says.

Meanwhile, Metro Parking Solutions was supposed to send a $473 refund to Barr, but that check appears to have vanished.

"The money was left at the office where he lived," says Scott Gorby, the General Manager at Metro Parking Solutions. The Westdale leasing office says they can't comment on that. Barr says he's still out $473.

"I haven't gotten anything back," Barr tells Unfair Park in an email. "The battle is just beginning."


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28 comments
NotReallyThanks
NotReallyThanks

Not living in apartment complexes avoids many of these hassles

pat.johnson
pat.johnson

The key to make towing companies and parking facilities abide by the Texas Towing Law, is for area law enforcement agencies to arrest those committing violations.  The first offense is a citation, the second offense is a Class B Misdemeanor, which would subject the person to arrest and transported to the County Jail.  Everything that evolves around towing from private property carries a criminal penalty, so there is no need for cities to pass more regulations, when the State Law has been on the books for 20 years, and law enforcement just decides to take the do nothing approach.  Cities like Euless are passing similar ordinances all over Texas and as always are threatened with a lawsuit by the towing industry attorneys.  The best thing to do if towed in Euless is to file criminal charges against the wrecker driver and whoever signed the authorization to tow the vehicle, as no property manager has yet to testify under oath in Court that their maintenance staff installed the towing signs.

2DollaHolla
2DollaHolla

its all under the table pay outs for the leasing agents & management from tow co's....... same old story since the 1995, and it happems all over dfw

pat.johnson
pat.johnson

The President Elect of the Apartment Association of Greater Dallas, Barbara Middlebrook is Vice President for Westdale Asset Management.  The Apartment Association for years has never enforced their Code of Ethics, as it is commonplace for property managers to accept something of value from the towing company to enforce parking regulations.  The $473 that Barr paid to Metro will enable him to collect $2419 from Westdale Asset Management for the statutory violations of the Texas Towing Law. It's important to remember, you never want to include the towing company when going after the parking facility in a statutory hearing in Court.  There is no filing deadline for statutory hearings, as last week in Collins County, 6 victims towed a year ago from a business was awarded $1800 each because the parking facility owner allowed the towing company to install the towing signs, which is a violation, for providing something of value to the parking facility.


ScottsMerkin
ScottsMerkin topcommenter

this totally sucks and is bullshit, but man, once you got the first notice it would have been real easy to plop down $35 for your inspection.  $473 towing problem averted.

everlastingphelps
everlastingphelps topcommenter

I think that the stupid towing companies should actually read 49 USC 14501 before they start spouting off, especially (C)5:

(5) Limitation on statutory construction.— Nothing in this section shall be construed to prevent a State from requiring that, in the case of a motor vehicle to be towed from private property without the consent of the owner or operator of the vehicle, the person towing the vehicle have prior written authorization from the property owner or lessee (or an employee or agent thereof) or that such owner or lessee (or an employee or agent thereof) be present at the time the vehicle is towed from the property, or both.

ruddski
ruddski

Tow truck drivers are generally fat, stupid, and block the passing lane. Tow company owners are generally parasitical scumbags.

CitzenKim
CitzenKim

What the hell business of Westdale Asset Management's is it if a resident's car that is legally parked on their property has an expired registration sticker??  They are OBVIOUSLY getting a kickback on towing.

I wouldn't rent at Westdale Hills.  Hope the word gets around about this cr*p.

TheCredibleHulk
TheCredibleHulk topcommenter

They should hold that meeting and force the towing companies and their toady lawyers to defend this bullshit.

It's a damn shame that it'll cost money to have to do so, but that would probably be money well spent on behalf of the citizens in the long run.

pat.johnson
pat.johnson

@ScottsMerkin actually, the expired inspection sticker exposed the scam going on, now more victims will come forward knowing they can win a landfall.

dsmithy3211
dsmithy3211

@everlastingphelps Forget the towing company, the lawyer himself should be reported to the Texas Bar for this.

Texas Rules of Professional Conduct 4.01(a): "In the course of representing a client a lawyer shall not knowingly make a false statement of material fact or law to a third person."

pat.johnson
pat.johnson

@CitzenKim It would be wise that nobody rents from any property managed by Westdale Asset Management.  To prove the point how corrupt these people are, go park your vehicle with an expired inspection or registration sticker and see if it is towed with merely an orange warning sticker attached to the front windshield.  If you don't receive a Certified Letter from the "apartment complex" allowing 10 days prior to towing, Westdale will be paying you $1000 plus triple what you pay to retrieve it.  I know of some vehicle owners allowing their vehicles to remain in storage for 30 days before paying the $935 to recover $3000 from the property management company for committing the violation.

everlastingphelps
everlastingphelps topcommenter

 @CitzenKim Property owners generally do it as a way of getting junky and non-running cars off the property.  The problem is, they get into faustian deals where they sign on to get a couple of problem cars towed, and then all of the sudden the towing company is trolling the lot and towing a whole bunch of cars that aren't a problem.

That is why they are deathly afraid of this Euless code.  It would prevent them from just yanking a bunch of cars that the property owner really didn't want towed.

ScottsMerkin
ScottsMerkin topcommenter

@pat.johnson @ScottsMerkin ok, but this isnt the first rodeo about this stuff here, so maybe for his buddies yeah, but wouldnt personal responsibility be be something to teach as well?  Cause/effect right.  Some apartments clearly state that if your sticker is expired you will be towed and that is not illegal

pat.johnson
pat.johnson

@ScottsMerkin @pat.johnson yes, but apartments in Texas are required to follow the law as well and provide the 10 day warning notice prior to towing a vehicle with an expired inspection or registration sticker...period.  Those property managers that don't follow the notification requirement are subject to arrest, as someone pulled over for an expired sticker by law enforcement are issued a warning or citation that is dismissed when proof the expired sticker has been renewed, as vehicle owners who are towed without the required notice are forced to pay upwards of $300 to get their vehicle back because of oversight.

everlastingphelps
everlastingphelps topcommenter

I don't think that complying with state law is one of their concerns, as evidenced by these stories.

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