In order to tow in Montgomery County, Chapter 31A of the County Code requires that you register with the Montgomery County Office of Consumer Protection. This registration process applies to trespass, police and consumer requested towing. A key provision of the registration process requires tow companies to provide a certificate of insurance. A company cannot be registered without this proof.
In addition to the registration requirements, trespass towing and immobilization services are regulated by OCP under Chapter 30C. Police requested tow services are regulated by Montgomery County Police Department and, other than the registration requirement, consumer requested tow services are unregulated.
For your reference, a link to the county code that governs towing, is available at County Code.Below, we have highlight some key provisions of the trespass towing and immobilization laws.
Property owner must have a written contract with the tow company before the towing begins.The property owner must keep the contract on file.The Office of Consumer Protection and the Police Department can inspect the contract to make sure it is in compliance with Code.
Vehicles cannot be blocked in order to collect a fee. Vehicles must be raised at least six inches off the ground to collect a drop fee, which is one half the current hook-up rate (see rate regulation).
Each driver must have a valid drivers license.
Signs:This is where many violations will occur.The property owner must post signs at least 24 hours before towing commences.The signs must be at each and every entrance and must be clearly readable from each property area and each vehicle entrance at all times.The signs must summarize restrictions on the property enforced by towing of unauthorized vehicles including time and area restrictions.There must be a telephone number for each towing service hired to tow unauthorized vehicles or a telephone number that is answered at all times of the day and night by the property owner.The signs must be sized so that they are readable by motorists in daylight and at night.For residential property, signs are not necessary if a warning sticker is placed on the vehicle in a conspicuous place and 48 hours notice is given prior to the tow.(30C-4(b)(6)). OCP provides signs for a limited fee for use by property owners.
Tow procedures:The tow company must obtain specific authorization for each and every vehicle that is towed between and .Between the hours of and , the tow company may tow without obtaining authorization. The property owner or the tow company must retain documentation of who authorized each tow. Authorization can be on signed tow slips or in a log. OCP, police and owner may inspect and copy authorization slips/logs.
Notice to police:The towing service must notify the police with the name of the tow service, a description of the vehicle--including model, color, year, and the registration plate of the vehicle, the address where it was towed from, the time the vehicle was towed and the address where the vehicle will be stored. This notification must be done before the towed vehicle leaves the lot from which it was towed.This is to prevent unnecessary stolen reports being written. A second notice to the police is required after the vehicle has been in the towers possession for 72 hours.
Handicap vehicle owners:A towing service may not under any circumstances tow a vehicle with a valid handicap registration plate or disabled permit, unless a police officer authorizes the tow or the vehicle is blocking is clearly marked fire lane or access to another vehicle, the property or a building.(30C-6)
Each trespass towing service must display at the redemption area a copy of the current rates and a statement that these rates do not exceed the rates on file with the Office of Consumer Protection.Each towing service must also display a sign furnished by us.The receipt should reflect the amount paid to redeem the vehicle.Note:A tow service must give a receipt even for a drop fee.
Redemption and storage:Complaints arise at the redemption and storage area. The storage site must not be more than 12 miles from the origin of the tow.All storage sites must be located in MontgomeryCounty. The storage site must be brightly lit at all times.The storage site must remain open for redemption of vehicles at least two hours after the completion of the last tow.
Payment:Many disputes occur because of payments.If the vehicle is registered in the State of Maryland and the tow service accepts checks, then it must accept a personal check from that owner with proper identification.If the tow service accepts credit cards, it must accept a signed credit card regardless of where the vehicle is registered.Our Executive Regulation defines the two most widely used credit cards as Visa and MasterCard. The tow companys license file in the Office of Consumer Protection reflects whether they accept checks, credit cards or both for trespass tows.
Other: Towing companies should be aware that there are other types of tows:(police, consumer requested, and repossessions) that may also be regulated by other county and state laws. For information on Police tows, please visit Montgomery County Police Department, Abandoned Vehicle Section.