Amendments to the Towing Ordinance went into effect on April 1, 2011.
For more details on the amendments...
The North Carolina Supreme Court overruled on sections of the Towing Ordinance on June 12, 2014 in the case of George King d/b/a George's Towing and Recovery v. Town of Chapel Hill, determining that the Town had no authority to enact ordinance provisions that capped the amount of money towing companies could charge for towing services.
In light of this decision, effective immediately, Officers should cease enforcing the following sections of the City's Towing Ordinance: Sec. 6-564 (1) – (4), Sec. 6-565 (a) and Sec. 6-565 (b). Sec. 6-564 (1) – (4) of the City Ordinance capped the fees that towing companies could charge for trespass tows, additional services (ex. using dollies, trailers, lifts, or slim jims), vehicle storage and booting a vehicle. Sec. 6-565 (a) prohibited towing companies from charging a fee for an uncompleted trespass tow, and Sec. 6-565 (b) prohibited towing companies from charging a fee for the retrieval of property from an illegally parked vehicle. Officers responding to a call for service involving a trespass tow or vehicle booting may still enforce the remaining sections of the City's Ordinance, such as: Sec. 6-563, notice and signage requirements (see below); Sec. 6-564 (5), booting services required to accept payment in cash, and at least two (2) major credit cards and debit cards; and, Sec. 6-565 (c) – (f), trespass tow practices (see below). Officers on-scene dealing with situations involving illegally parked vehicles where citizens are requesting towing company operators release their vehicle and/or allow them to retrieve property from their vehicle, are advised to maintain the peace to ensure that the situation remains orderly. Officers can advise citizens that they may wish to seek private legal counsel to address their dispute with the towing company.
Sec. 6-563. Trespass towing of vehicles from private parking lots; signs required.
It shall be unlawful to tow or remove or immobilize by use of any wheel lock or other method, a motor vehicle that is parked on private property or private parking lot without the permission of the owner or lessee of the motor vehicle unless notice is posted in accordance with the provisions of this section on the private property from which the towing, removal, or immobilization occurs. The notice shall meet the following requirements:
(1) The notice must be in the form of a sign structure and not less than 24 inches by 24 inches and not larger than six square feet and constructed of metal, plastic or other type of material that is enduring in nature. The notice shall be prominently posted on the private property at each access or curb cut allowing vehicle access to the property and within five feet of the street right of way line. If there are no curb or access barriers, notices shall be posted not less than every 50 feet facing the frontage of the public street and facing the private parking lot. In addition, a sign not less than 12 inches by 18 inches in size may be posted with lettering on both sides at each parking space from which an unauthorized vehicle could be towed, removed, or immobilized.
(2) The notice shall clearly display the following:
a. In not less than one and one-half inch high letters red in color on a contrasting white background, the words "tow-away-zone" or "towing enforced."
b. In not less than one inch high letters red in color on a contrasting white background, a statement that parking is never authorized by stating "private property - no parking" or where parking is permitted under limited circumstances, by stating "authorized parking only" or "leased parking only", or "parking for ____________ customers only", or "parking for residents only", or a similar phrase that specifically identifies the conditions under which someone may park on the property. If parking is only allowed for a specified time, then the sign shall specifically state the days and hours when parking is permitted.
c. In not less than one inch high letters red in color on a contrasting white background, the phone number that a person can call to retrieve the towed vehicle and the name and address of the storage facility where the vehicle is stored.
(3) The sign displaying the required notices shall be permanently installed with the bottom of the sign not less than three feet foot above ground level and the top of the sign not more than eight feet above ground level.
Sec. 6-565. Trespass towing of vehicles from private parking lots; practices
(c) Any towing service that engages in a trespass tow or any storage facility that receives motor vehicles that have been towed as a result of a non-consensual tow from private property shall accept cash and at least two major credit cards and any debit card for any fee established by this article. Upon request, the employee for the towing service or storage facility will provide a receipt to the owner or operator of the towed motor vehicle.
(d) Any towing service that engages in a trespass tow or any storage yard that receives motor vehicles that have been towed as a result of a non-consensual tow from private property shall have a person on call 24 hours every day who acknowledges requests to retrieve a towed motor vehicle within 15 minutes of receiving an inquiry from the owner or operator of the towed motor vehicle. If the owner or operator wishes to retrieve the motor vehicle, then the towing service or storage facility must make the vehicle available within 45 minutes of the request.
(e) The lot or facility to which a trespass towed vehicle is removed shall be located within the city limits.
(f) No towing service shall remove a motor vehicle from a private lot from the hours of 7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. unless the owner or agent of the private lot signs a contemporaneous specific written authorization for such removal which is presented to the wrecker driver of the towing service. The agent must be someone other than an employee of the towing service. The written authorization shall contain the reason for the tow, the make, model, year, color, vehicle identification number (VIN) and license plate number. The wrecker driver shall contact the non-emergency number for the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department and provide the above information. The motor vehicle will not be removed from the private lot until the driver has been advised of a complaint number.
To view a full copy of the Towing Ordinance, please follow the link: Amended Towing Ordinance 2011.