KNOW YOUR RIGHTS WHEN YOUR CAR IS TOWED
HOW WAS I SUPPOSED TO KNOW I COULD NOT PARK THERE?
Before a car can be towed from private property a notice must be placed in a location and be of such size that it is clearly visible to any driver approaching any individually marked or unmarked parking space or at the entrance of a parking lot that consists of restricted parking spaces. The notice must state:
- That parking on the property without authorization is prohibited;
- The vehicle will be towed and held at the vehicle owner’s expense; and
- The name, address, and phone number of the facility where the vehicle will be towed and stored.
Vehicles parked on streets or on public property in a “no parking” or “loading zone,” as indicated by signage and curb color, may be towed at the request of the police. The towed vehicle may also be ticketed. A vehicle parked in a metered stall may be ticketed by the police and towed if the meter has run out.
A vehicle parked in an unmetered stall may be ticketed by the police and towed if the vehicle is in the stall past the time permitted on the sign.
WHO IS AUTHORIZED TO TOW MY CAR?
HRS §290-11 (a) allows the owner, occupant, or person in charge of the property to have a car towed from their property.
I GOT TO MY CAR WHILE THE TOWING COMPANY WAS STILL HOOKING IT UP.
If you show up on the scene when your car is in the process of being hooked up or is already hooked up on the tow truck, the towing company must unhook your car upon your request and not charge you a fee.
HOW MUCH CAN A TOWING COMPANY CHARGE ME?
A towing company may charge the following fees for towing your vehicle:
- $65 for the tow OR $75 if a dolly is used; plus
- $7.50 per mile towed; and
- $25 per day for the first seven days of storage; and if stored more than seven days,
- $20 per day for every day thereafter.
- OVERTIME CHARGE: $15 if the tow occurs between 6:00 p.m. and 6:00 a.m., Monday thru Thursdays, or 6:00 p.m., Friday and 6:00 a.m. Monday.
- DIFFICULT HOOKUP: $30 if the tow is an above or below ground hookup in a multilevel facility.
IS SOMEONE REQUIRED TO NOTIFY ME OFFICIALLY THAT MY CAR WAS TOWED?
Yes. The towing company must determine your name and address through state and county records and notify you in writing by certified or registered mail at the address on record, within 15 days of towing your vehicle, with the following information:
- Where your vehicle is located;
- A description of the vehicle;
- The maximum towing charges and fees allowed by law;
- The telephone number of the Consumer Information Service (now known as the Consumer Resource Center, see below for contact information) of the Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs; and
- That if the vehicle is not recovered within 30 days after the mailing of the notice, the vehicle shall be deemed abandoned and will be sold or disposed of as junk.
WHAT IF I HAVE NOT RECEIVED A NOTICE FROM THE TOWING COMPANY 15 DAYS AFTER MY VEHICLE WAS TOWED?
If you are the legal owner and/or the registered owner of the vehicle, and the towing company has not mailed the notice as described above, you may recover your vehicle from the towing company without paying tow and storage fees. However, a notice does not need to be sent to you if your address or name cannot be determined. Absent evidence to the contrary, notice will be deemed to be received by you 5 days after mailing.
RECOVERING A VEHICLE BEFORE WRITTEN NOTICE IS SENT BY REGISTERED OR CERTIFIED MAIL.
If you go to the towing company to recover your vehicle before the written notice is mailed and within 15 days of your car being towed, the towing company must provide you a receipt with the following information:
- The maximum towing charges and fees allowed by law; and
- The telephone number for Consumer Information Service (Now known as the Consumer Resource Center) of the Department of Commerce and Consumer Affair.
Towing companies must accept cash or credit card for payment of fees. If the towing company does not accept credit cards, it must provide an automatic teller machine (ATM) on site.
WHAT IF THE TOWING COMPANY CHARGED TOO MUCH FOR THE TOW AND STORAGE?
If the towing company charged you fees in excess allowable under the law, you may sue the towing company for damages sustained, plus reasonable attorney’s fees.
WHERE CAN I REPORT ILLEGAL TOWING?
You can report illegal towing to the Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs’ Consumer Resource Center (formerly Consumer Information Service) at (808) 587-4272.
WHAT ARE TOWING COMPANY HOURS?
If you’re on O’ahu, the law requires towing companies to offer towing services, including releasing vehicles kept in storage to registered owners, legal owners, insurers, or designated representatives, twenty-four hours a day, every day of the week.
POINTS TO REMEMBER
- Save yourself the trouble (and money) and don’t park on private property without authorization of the person in charge or illegally park on public streets.
- Observe parking restrictions posted on street and parking lot signage.
- If you arrive on the scene while your vehicle is being hooked up, the towing company must unhook your vehicle without charging you fees.
- If you try to recover your vehicle from a towing company 15 days after it was towed and you have not received the proper written notice, you may recover your vehicle without being charged for towing and storage fees.
FILE A COMPLAINT
If you believe your vehicle was towed not in accordance with Hawaii law, please file a complaint with the Consumer Resource Center by calling (808) 587-4272 or toll free at (800) 468-4644 or go the CRC website online.