Many community associations are struggling with their highest delinquency rates ever and, with foreclosures stalled and housing values still recovering, there are limited ways to address persistent debtors. At the same time, it is discouraging to association members that delinquent unit owners continue to enjoy common services such as snow removal, street lighting, roadways maintenance, etc., while not contributing toward the cost of providing them. Unit owners and their tenants who continually defy association rules are similarly frustrating to members. Towing the vehicles of these delinquent and noncomplying unit owners – and their tenants – may provide a strong incentive to pay and/or conform.
In order to tow vehicles, an association must first ensure that it has the authority to do so. Many governing documents permit the association to suspend a unit owner’s right to use the common property for delinquency and rule violations. While an association may already be withholding pool passes or disabling clubhouse access fobs, suspending the right to park in common property parking areas may also be permissible. Once a unit owner’s privileges are properly suspended, an association may then tow the owner’s vehicles parked on the common property. Do not confuse common property with limited common property; for this purpose, there may be an important distinction.
Associations towing vehicles from their private property must also comply with the Predatory Towing Prevention Act. Among other requirements, the Act mandates warning signs; these signs must be at least 36" x 36" and be conspicuously posted at all vehicle entrances. (No sign is required for an association to tow a vehicle blocking access to a driveway or a garage.) The signs must also state the purpose for which and time during which parking is permitted, that unauthorized parking is prohibited, that unauthorized vehicles will be towed at owner’s expense, and information on the towing company. Another requirement of the Act is that the association must have a written contract with the towing company.
Towing vehicles can be an important enforcement tool for associations. But towing should only be done after thorough planning by the board of directors and consultation with legal counsel. If you want to know if towing is right for your community and learn how to implement a towing program, we would be happy to assist.