The Cost of Getting Towed

Loudoun is a County of Home Owners Associations (HOAs). One of the defining characteristics of HOAs is the debate over, and enforcement of, parking regulations. The HOA where I live, for example, has no assigned parking. It also was built at a time when planners included sufficient parking for the number of townhouses to be built. These factors make my neighborhood a great place to live. This doesn’t mean that people from anywhere can park wherever they like for as long as they like, but it does mean that when we have visitors for a couple days, they do not need to worry about where to park.

That doesn’t mean that people don’t get towed. If a car is left too long in one spot, or is clearly not owned by someone who lives here, it will be towed away. I know that other HOAs are much more aggressive in their towing policies than mine. That brings us to the issue of towing enforcement and costs. As of right now, there are no rules on how much a towing company can charge someone to get their car back.

Ever accidentally park your car in an unauthorized space? Then you would know that exorbitant towing fees often ensue.

Towing fees normally total $125 with administrative or storage fees sometimes included. However, many Loudoun residents were facing towing fees of up to $600. – The Loudoun Times

$600 is a lot of money to be able to get your car back. Especially when that car is so necessary to simply live life in Loudoun. Luckily, our Board of Supervisors, at the behest of Leesburg’s own Kelly Burk, is doing something about that. This month the Board voted unanimously to establish an Advisory Committee to look into and manage towing fees. The goal is to bring Loudoun more in line with neighboring jurisdictions when it comes to commercial towing.

If you’re one of the constituents who complained to Supervisor Kelly Burk (D-Leesburg) about the wide variance of prices charged by Loudoun towing firms – she and the rest of the supervisors heard your call.

The board voted at its Oct. 19 meeting to form a citizen advisory committee to ensure fees charged by towing companies in Loudoun are fair. The committee will include one towing representative, one government representative and one citizen.

Virginia code allows for two types of towing enforcement regulations: police tows, or law enforcement towing, and non-consensual towing, which is the towing of vehicles that have trespassed onto private property. Other regional jurisdictions, including Fairfax County, already have towing advisory boards. – The Loudoun Times

I am glad that the Board has established a Committee to investigate towing prices. Towing impacts people with low incomes quite harshly. A lot of towing happens in rental complexes and townhouse communities where the residents are often in the lower tiers of County income. Thus, high towing fees when these neighbors do get towed impact them more heavily than others who have more disposable income to work with each month. Also, people with higher incomes often live in single-family homes on private parking, and can park without any worries about towing. This is not true of renters or people in townhouse communities whose cars and trucks must be parked in community parking lots. Thus, people with lower incomes are not only more impacted by the cost of towing, they’re more likely to be towed in the first place!

Now, I’m not against all towing, far from it. Follow below the fold for some further explanation.Lest someone think I am against all towing, please understand that I believe that towing is a perfectly valid way to enforce community rules. It can be critical for ensuring people get what they signed up for when they moved into a neighborhood. I am not against towing. I simply believe that the cost of being towed should be proportional to the infraction. If getting your car out of impound for an HOA parking violation costs 25-50% of your monthly mortgage or rent, that is not proportional, that’s simply taking advantage of someone with no option but to pay.

It is great to see Supervisor Burk was able to get the unanimous consensus of the Board on this issue. There are very few things of substance on which this Board votes unanimously. (Indeed, it often appears that the Supervisor from Sterling votes “no” simply out of spite.) Supervisor Burk excels in heads-down leadership that focuses on getting things done, and it is this kind of leadership that leads to 9-0 votes.

So yes, the Board can make progress to get things done for the residents of Leesburg and Loudoun. Supervisor Burk has shown us how.

(Crossposted from Leesburg Tomorrow.)