In October, 2007, Governor Corzine signed into law the "Predatory Towing Prevention Act" (the "Act"). The Act became effective on October 19, 2008, and can be found at N.J.S.A. 56:13-7 et al. While the Act became "effective" on October 19, 2008, the registration provisions of it have not yet become operative. The registration provisions provide that no "person shall … engage in the business of towing unless registered" with the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs. Each such registration must be done annually, and accompanied by a fee. The registration provisions are scheduled to become operative on April 16, 2009. As a result, New Jersey’s towing companies are pressing the legislature to enact Senate Bill S-2073, which if enacted will limit the reach of the Act. The towing companies and its trade organization, Garden State Towman’s Association, are advocating support of S-2073.
Prior to the Act, the government had received massive amounts of complaints about: (1) random towing by unscrupulous towers on public streets and private property; (2) excessive fees related to claiming towed vehicles; (3) towing in areas where the driver/operator had no idea his vehicle was subject to towing; (4) inconsistent and inadequate local ordinances and/or regulations. The Act does not regulate common interest community associations, or provide for any penalties for community associations should they run afoul of it. However, in order to ensure that a community association can secure the services of a reputable towing company, or ensure that such a company will agree to operate in that community association, a common interest community association must comply with its terms. Associations should do several things. First, it must post a sign "in a conspicuous place at all vehicular entrances to the property which can easily be seen by the public." That sign must be no smaller than 36" high by 36" wide. The sign must state the following: (a) the purpose or purposes for which parking is authorized and the times during which such parking is permitted; (b) unauthorized parking is prohibited and unauthorized vehicles will be towed at the vehicle owners’ expense; (c) name, address and telephone number of the towing vendor that will perform the towing; (d) a list of charges for the towing and storage; and, (e) street address for the storage facility where towed vehicles will be stored and may be redeemed, together with the times during which the vehicles may be redeemed.
Second, a towing company may not remove a vehicle during normal business hours without a written consent, given to the towing company’s employee at the time of the vehicle’s removal. No such general authorization is required though, for normal business hours, should the vehicle at issue be within 15 feet of a fire hydrant, etc., or be parked in a manner that interferes with the entrance or exit to the association. No written authorization is required for towing outside of normal business hours. Lastly, a towing company must immediately release a vehicle to the vehicle’s owner or operator when that person engages with the towing company employee, prior to the vehicle’s removal from the property. In such an instance, the owner and/or operator of the vehicle is not liable for any towing-related fees.