If a New Jersey common interest community association tows vehicles from its private parking areas and roadways, it should be complying with the Predatory Towing Prevention Act (“Act”). Signed into law in October 2007, the Act primarily increases oversight of tow companies but also regulates a private property owner in towing vehicles from the premises without the vehicle owner’s permission. An affordable housing community association is considered a “private property owner” and must comply with the Act.
Many of the provisions of the original Act were particularly problematic to community associations, and the Act was amended in 2009 with changes that benefited the communities. Common interest community associations should know the following before towing vehicles from their properties:
- The tow company must have a towing contract with the community association.
- The tow company must be in compliance with the Predatory Towing Prevision Act
- Signs must be posted. If towing from unassigned parking spaces or other common elements the signs must be at least 36 x 36 inches in size and conspicuously posted at all vehicle entrances to the property, and must include the following information:
• the purpose for which parking is authorized and time during which parking is permitted;
• text stating that unauthorized parking is prohibited and unauthorized vehicles will be towed at the owner’s expense;
• the name, address, and telephone number of the tow company;
• the charges for the towing and storage of vehicles;
• the address of the facility where towed vehicles can be redeemed and the time during which vehicles can be redeemed; and
• the contact information for the Department of Community Affairs.
- The signage requirement is simplified if a residential affordable housing community association is enforcing parking in assigned spaces that are clearly marked as assigned and the community association has specifically documented approval authorizing removal of a particular vehicle. The simplified sign required in this case must be conspicuously posted at all vehicular entrances and must state that unauthorized parking in an assigned space is prohibited and unauthorized vehicles will be towed at the owner’s expense. The sign must provide a telephone number enabling vehicle owners to immediately obtain information on towed vehicles. The specific dimension of the sign is not specified in the Act, but it must be easily seen by the public.
- No sign is required if the vehicle to be towed is blocking access to a driveway or garage entrance.
- Vehicles must be towed to a secure storage facility located within a reasonable distance from the community association.
- A property manager or board member does not need to be present when towing occurs (although the tow company may have its own requirements).
While the Act has been relaxed slightly with regard to community associations, there are still important legal requirements that must be carefully followed. To ensure your community association is in compliance with the Act, you should consult with your legal counsel.