Last Updated on October 30, 2022 by Lawrence Berezin
How to protect yourself from a predatory tow in NYC
- Have you ever been victimized by a greedy tow truck operator?
- Parked in a commercial lot, gone into a store, and found your car gone upon your return?
- Have you ever parked in front of a private driveway?
- Or, get the boot or tow because of a parking ticket?
If your answer is yes to any one of these questions, it is essential to learn your rights when your car is kidnapped by Captain Hook.
The NYC Department of Consumer Affairs (DCA) licenses private companies that:
- Tow cars that block private driveways
- Parked on private property,
- Immobilized after an accident,
- Broken down.
The New York Police Department tows vehicles that:
- Violate NYC parking, standing, and stopping laws R
- Restrains vehicles with outstanding parking and camera violation judgments.
The NYC Sheriff’s Office and NYC Marshals employed by the City of New York tow vehicles whose owners have outstanding parking and red light camera judgments totaling more than $350.Visit the Department of Finance website for more information about towed vehicles
DCA also licenses private companies that boot cars parked in private lots or on private streets when the cars violate posted parking rules.
10 tow tips that will save you money
- The tow operator must be licensed by the DCA
- There must be a written contract between the owner of the private property and the tow operator
- There must be posted warnings about what makes up unauthorized parking
- The tow operator cannot charge more than $125 for the tow and three days of storage
- The owner of private property must conspicuously post detailed information about the tow operator
- The owner must give express written authorization to tow a vehicle
- A vehicle may not be removed if occupied
- The towed vehicle must be taken to a storage facility maintained by the tow operator
- The tow operator must let the police precinct know within 30 minutes of the vehicle’s arrival
- If the owner or person in control of the vehicle arrives before the removal of the vehicle, she can ask that the vehicle be released subject to payment of a fee of not more than one-half the fee for removal
The NY Code for removal of vehicles on private property
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Other Tow Resources
-NYC Department of Consumer Affairs tow services guide
-NYC Department of Consumer Affairs licensed tow operator search tool
–File Complaint with the Department of Consumers Affairs
Learn the rules of engagement to protect yourself against unjust tow practices. If you were treated unjustly, file a complaint with the DCA.
If I beat a blocked driveway ticket , but the tow was from a private company not the NYPD can I still get refund on the tow?
I’m trying to find a contact form on your site but can’t find one. I remember the days when I could just call you on the phone and you would pick up. Those were ether days.
Anyway, here’s my towing story. Back in March 2011, I parked in Manhattan, got towed, paid the $185 to get my car back.
Then I wrote and sent my defense in the mail instead of paying the summons portion. I remember it took a while. 2 or 3 months (beacuse they kept adding late fees). But they did dismiss summons part.
After I got the dismiss order, went to them in person and said, “Can you give me refund for the towing” and the guy at the window said “I don’t know, where is your towing receipt?” I said, “it should be in the system that I paid” and they insisted I need to find that receipt as well. At the time (that summer) I was in the process of moving and out of an apt I was in for 12 years. There was a lot of packing. And could not find the towing receipt. So, I did not go back. About a year ago, I found the receipt. What should I do now to make this claim? I know the first thing they will say is, “well, its been over 5 years, you can’t collect on that now” to which I want to say “If I’d owed the city a ticket for over 5 years, I wouldn’t be able to tell NYC, well it’s been over 5 years, NYC can’t collect on that now.”
Lawrence Berezin says
How is my dear friend?
Sorry to hear about the tow refund pain.
I’ve never been asked this question before, so I’ll simply share what I would do…I would submit the tow refund form and hope the Evil Empire honors my claim.
Here’s a link https://www1.nyc.gov/assets/finance/downloads/pdf/reflet.pdf
Why not complete it, attach the documents and mail it to the Evil Empire? With a “little luck” you’ll win the tow lottery.
Be well, Samuel.
Michael Davidson says
Hello, I was referred from John Miuccio drom NYC ticket fighter. I am a victim of my vehicle being towed without my consent, as I was admitted in hospital. I have documents to show proof of my absence and towing company invoice, which also shows false information. I am looking for help
Lawrence Berezin says
John is a wonderful man. Please send him my regards.
If you are involved in an unexpected medical emergency, you can raise the medical emergency as a defense to an NYC parking ticket. You will need to submit evidence of the medical emergency, such as:
“Hospital or Clinic emergency admission paperwork”
“Statement from medical staff indicating the nature of the emergency”
However, if it was a scheduled hospital admission, you’ll need to look for another defense. it doesn’t qualify.
PS…Sorry for the delay, I’m recovering from my own “medical emergency.”
Michael Norris says
Hey so I have a crazy one here…..My car was ticketed for parking in a commercial meter zone in literally 30mins, @5:10pm according to the ticket I received. I came back to my car 7pm to find out that it was towed by the NYC Police Dept. I get to the storage facility and find out not only did I get a ticket and tow, but a boot on the car as well. I had to pay a shopping $370(Insane!!!)
I asked the supervisor how come I was booted when I had no outstanding tickets, and the car is registered out of state, and he says once a car is ticketed for illegal parking, it can be booted and you only have 2hours to pay the boot at the storage facility before they tow it and you pay twice the amount.
This seems like predatory parking to me, I’m paying $485 within a 2hr span of time for parking. How is it I get ticketed, booted, and towed within that amount if time?? Is there anyway to fight this and get a refund on the boot at least?
Lawrence Berezin says
I totally despise the unconscionable double penalty for one parking ticket.
Here’s a blog a wrote:
Hi. I was towed from a no parking except delivery trucks between 8 am and 6 pm zone in Manhattan. My car was towed ar 7:20 p.m. (was ticked before 6 p.m.) Is that a legal tow?
Lawrence Berezin says
I’m afraid I don’t know the “honest” answer.
If it were me, since a tow was involved, I would fight it. I would raise your excellent point as a defense.
Keep in mind that NYC is a tow-away zone. A car can be towed anytime and essentially for any reason. However, your car was towed for one specific reason. Because it was parked during restricted hours. Therefore, why should it be towed during “legal” hours?
Please let me know the outcome.
James williams says
So I had my car parked on fairmount place like it’s always is … now if I be a Lil honest my front bumper almost cross over but didn’t the next day I come out my car gone I call police to if they told it they said and no ticket issue too
Lawrence Berezin says
Yikes! Have you found your car? If so, where was it?
My car was towed because I had an Massachusetts inspection sticker that expires on 2023 in the Bronx nyc can I fight for my towed refund
Lawrence Berezin says
Did your car have Mass plates or NYC plates?
In NYC, is it legal for a NYPD officer to tell you to get out of a car so they can tow the the vehicle if it has not been even hooked to the tow truck yet? That’s what happened to me today by an officer and a NYPD tow truck. I read that an owner can stop a Tow in Progress before the tow truck is in motion. The owner of the vehicle being towed, or a person entitled to possession, can request the release of the vehicle before the tow truck is in motion. What happens before it’s even in motion? He said simply said “No” get out the car.
Lawrence Berezin says
I’m afraid your question is beyond my limited scope of parking ticket expertise. But, I can say:
-I’ve never heard of this type of cop behavior
I can’t find any info on how many signs should be posted on private property in nyc. This person went to NYC on Sat to visit a friend. Went into a large parking lot of the friends building. did not find reason not to park in the lot. no signs, no permits on or in the cars that he could see. there are numbers on the floor, but nothing else. he proceeds to visit his friend. his car gets towed. apparently on the other side of the lot at some other area is one sign. tow people are charging more than what is even posted on the 4 year old sign and he’s not able to get his car til Tuesday. he was left stranded with his kids and they live out of state. manager of the building said he was not notified. tow company states some of the spots are paid for and the person who pays for the spot called them. is it legal to have only one sign in a very large private lot with multiple entrances? you’re visiting people in the building and get towed? you have one sign to cover the whole lot around the building? tow company said “that’s NYC”. like, what?
Lawrence Berezin says
What a nightmare!
The signs must be conspicuously posted to comply with the rules.
§ 19-169.1 Removal of vehicles improperly parked on private property.
a. Notwithstanding any other provision of law, where a licensed tow operator removes a vehicle because it is parked on private property in a manner inconsistent with posted instructions, and such removal is pursuant to a contract between the owner of the private property and the licensed tow operator for the removal of any such improperly parked vehicles, such tow operator may collect the following charges from the vehicle owner or other person in control of such vehicle, payable before the vehicle is released: up to but not more than one hundred twenty-five dollars for removal and the first three days of storage; up to but not more than fifteen dollars per day for storage thereafter; except that no charge may be collected for removal or storage of a vehicle pursuant to this section by a person who is not licensed to engage in towing pursuant to subchapter thirty-one of chapter two of title twenty of this code.
b. No owner or operator of parking facilities on private property shall tow or cause to be towed from such private property any motor vehicle unless such owner or operator shall conspicuously post and maintain upon such private property a sign stating the name, address and telephone number of the tow operator, the hours of operation for vehicle redemption, towing and storage fees of the tow operator and the hours vehicles are prohibited from parking and subject to tow.
c. No vehicle shall be removed by a tow operator from private property without express written authorization by the owner of the private property or his or her agent as designated in the contract between the owner of the private property and the tow operator. Such authorization shall be required for each vehicle removed, and shall include the location, make, model, color and license plate number of the vehicle to be removed.
d. A vehicle may not be removed if it is occupied by any person.
e. Notwithstanding any other provision of law, a vehicle which is removed shall be taken directly to a facility for storage maintained by the person licensed to engage in towing pursuant to subchapter thirty-one of chapter two of title twenty of the code who has removed such vehicle and which is within city limits and no more than ten miles from the point of removal. If no such facility is available, the closest available facility for storage within New York city maintained by a person so licensed shall be utilized. Such facility for storage must be a secure place for safekeeping vehicles.
f. Any person who removes a vehicle pursuant to this section shall, within thirty minutes of the vehicle’s arrival at a facility for storage, notify the local police precinct having jurisdiction over the area from which the vehicle was removed, as to the storage site, the time the vehicle was removed, the location from which the vehicle was removed, the name of the person who authorized the removal, and the fact that the removal was pursuant to a contract with the owner of the private property, and shall obtain the name of the person at such police precinct to whom such information was reported and note such name on a trip record together with the time and date that the vehicle was removed.
g. If the registered owner or other person in control of a vehicle arrives at the scene prior to the removal of the vehicle, and such vehicle is connected to any apparatus for removal, the vehicle shall be disconnected from such apparatus and such registered owner or other person in control of such vehicle shall be allowed to remove the vehicle from the premises without interference upon payment of a reasonable service fee of not more than one-half of the charge allowed for removal as provided in subdivision a of this section, for which a receipt shall be given. Each tow operator shall carry a legible copy of this sectiion with this paragraph highlighted, and shall show it to a vehicle owner, or other person in control of the vehicle, who arrives at the scene prior to the removal of a vehicle.
h. The registered owner or other person in control of a vehicle which has been removed pursuant to this section shall have the right to inspect the vehicle before accepting its return. No release or waiver of any kind which would release the person or company removing the vehicle from liability for damages may be required from any such owner or other person as a condition of release of the vehicle to such person. A detailed, signed receipt showing the legal name of the person or company removing the vehicle must be given to the person paying the removal and storage charges at the time of payment.
i. When an owner of private property, his or her agent as designated in the contract with the tow operator, or a tow operator contracting with such owner causes a vehicle to be removed in violation of this section, there shall be no charge to the owner or other person in charge of the vehicle for the cost of removal and storage. Such person who has violated this section shall be liable to the owner or other person in control of the vehicle for any amounts actually paid for removal, transportation and storage of the vehicle, as well as for any damage resulting from the removal, transportation and storage of the vehicle.
j. Any person who violates this section shall be punished as follows: for the first violation, a fine of five hundred dollars; for the second violation within a period of twelve months of the date of the first violation, a fine of one thousand dollars; and for any additional violations within a period of twenty-four months of the date of a first violation, a fine of one thousand dollars.
k. No person may, under authority of this section, cause the removal of any ambulance, police vehicle, fire vehicle, civil defense emergency vehicle, emergency ambulance service vehicle, environmental emergency response vehicle, sanitation patrol vehicle, hazardous materials emergency vehicle or ordinance disposal vehicle of the armed forces of the United States.
l. Authorized officers and employees of the department and the department of consumer and worker protection and members of the police department shall have the power to enforce the provisions of this section and any rules promulgated hereunder.
m. The commissioner of consumer and worker protection is authorized to promulgate such rules as the commissioner deems necessary to effectuate the provisions of this section.
(Am. L.L. 2020/080, 8/28/2020, eff. 8/28/2020)
You may want to check out this rule, too.
§ 2-401 Required Signs on Property.