Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Towing a Tenant's Car: Making Sure Your "Abandoned Vehicle" Policy Won't Expose You To Risk

Question: I have a tenant who has parked an inoperable vehicle in my parking lot. This is a clear violation of his lease agreement and we called the tenant repeatedly about his car and he did nothing. Earlier in the week my courtesy officer “tagged” the car and this morning we had it towed. This afternoon I received a call from Legal Services threatening to sue because I did not follow the “abandoned vehicle towing statute”. Is there really such a thing?

Answer: The relevant state law that applies to this situation is Alabama Code 32-13-4. It states that a car that has an expired license plate or is inoperable in a parking area of an apartment community or other private property that is leased or made available to tenants, residents, and guests is considered “abandoned” after a period of 30 days or more. After that period of time has elapsed, the property manager can post a dated notice in a conspicuous place on the vehicle in question stating that the vehicle has been determined to be abandoned or inoperable and will be removed at the direction of the property owner in seven calendar days from the date of the notice. That notice should include the name and address of the last registered owner of the vehicle and the name and address of the property manager and should also be mailed to the last registered owner of the vehicle. At the expiration of the seven days the property manager can contact a towing company and have the car towed at which point the last registered owner of the vehicle will be responsible for the costs of the tow and any lien the towing service may have on the vehicle. Please note that within 24 hours after removing the abandoned vehicle, the property owner should give written notice to law enforcement that they have removed the vehicle from the property. The property manager is liable to the owner of the motor vehicle only for gross negligence under this statute.

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