Parking in the City of Tallahassee is at a premium!! With approximately 175,000 residents and more than 60,000 students, those who drive often realize it’s difficult to find a place to park. Private property owners, whether residential or commercial, can legally limit or regulate parking on their property. Ignoring posted signs regulating the parking on private property can result in your vehicle being towed. Tallahassee’s City Manager has designated the Chief of Police to enforce the provisions of Florida Law and City of Tallahassee ordinances reference trespass towing.
Trespass Towing is defined as towing or removal of a vehicle that is illegally or improperly parked on private real property, at the property owner's direction. This is legal under Florida law and City of Tallahassee ordinance, and is authorized 24 hours a day. Private property owners may contract with wrecker companies to remove vehicles from the property and store the vehicle at the wrecker company site until it is released to the owner. The vehicle owner will be responsible to the wrecker company for all costs associated with the towing and storage of the vehicle.
Two types of trespass towing:
- At any time of day, the property owner or agent may request that an illegally or improperly parked vehicle be towed from their property. The requirement is that commercial and multi-unit residential properties must have signs posted to indicate that unauthorized vehicles will be towed at the vehicle owner's expense.
- Between midnight and 7 a.m., owners of properties used for residential purposes may elect to authorize a towing service to remove vehicles without a verified request to remove a specific vehicle. The owner must comply with the requirement that a photograph of the "offending" vehicle be taken prior to its removal demonstrating the violation of law, rule or regulation for which the vehicle is being towed. This type of tow is referred to as a "Roam Tow". Commercial properties may elect to utilize Roam Towing 24 hours a day.
Before the Tow
- Confirm whether the property requires a parking decal to park at the property and obtain a decal IMMEDIATELY.
- Inquire as to the property's rules and regulations for visitors or overnight guests. Many properties require visitor permits and provide limited permits to their tenants.
- Ask for a written copy of the property's parking rules and regulations when you sign your lease or move in.
Before parking in a business/commercial lot:
- Look for signs at the entrance that warn individuals that parking is for patrons of certain businesses or for certain hours.
- Expect that the property owner has someone watching to see if you are complying with the signage.
During the Tow
If you have parked a vehicle illegally or improperly, and observe the wrecker operator in the process of removing your vehicle, you may avoid having to pay for the tow, but ACT FAST. Under City ordinances, there are three distinct stages to towing:
- No Fee Situation - From the moment that the wrecker enters the parking lot to remove your vehicle until the vehicle is physically connected, you are entitled to have your vehicle released without charge. "Physically connected" shall mean one half of the wheel lift apparatus surrounding a tire or the winch hook being properly hooked to the vehicle in an appropriate place on the vehicle where it can safely be towed or winched.
- Drop Fee Situation - From the time that a vehicle is physically connected until the vehicle has been physically removed from the property, the vehicle owner is entitled to have the vehicle released upon payment of a fee equal to half of the tow fee ($44.00). The wrecker operator is required to give you a reasonable amount of time to obtain payment.
- Full Tow - Once the vehicle physically leaves the property, the wrecker company is entitled to the total towing fee. ($88.00)
After the Tow - Trespass Tow "Bill of Rights"
If your vehicle was illegally or improperly parked, and gone upon your return, there should be signage on the property indicating the name and telephone number of the wrecker service that removed the vehicle. City Ordinance sets the maximum fee that the wrecker service may charge at $88.00. Some of the other regulations that apply are:
- Vehicles may be picked up within one hour after requested, provided the towing fees have been paid.
- The towing charges can be paid using cash, debit card, or major credit card (Visa or MasterCard). Using a debit card may result in an additional fee.
- You cannot be charged for storage the first 24 hours after the vehicle is towed. After 24 hours, you may be charged for storage at a rate of $15.00 per day.
- An after-hours release fee of $30.00 may be charged for releasing a stored vehicle between the hours of 11 p.m. and 8:00 a.m. NOTE: It may be advantageous to wait until after 8:00 a.m. the next day to avoid the after-hours fee within the first 24 hours.
- After three days, an administrative fee of $33.00 plus postage may be charged if a certified letter is sent to the vehicle owner pursuant to section 713.78, Florida Statutes.
- You can retrieve any personal property from the vehicle prior to paying the towing fee. The company may opt to charge an access fee, if the request to retrieve personal property is after business hours.
- You should inspect your vehicle prior to paying the towing fees. The tow/wrecker company cannot require you to sign a waiver which would release the company from liability for damages noted by you at the time the vehicle is picked up. The wrecker company is responsible for any damage done to enter the vehicle, if the entry was not done with the standard of "reasonable care". Proper remedy for damages in this situation is through civil court.
- A detailed, signed receipt showing the legal name of the wrecker company or person towing the vehicle must be given to you at the time of payment, whether requested or not.
Once a vehicle is towed, the wrecker company legally has a lien for the cost of the towing fee and other associated costs. It is unlawful for a motor vehicle owner to remove their vehicle from the wrecker company property without making full payment or the consent of the wrecker company. The maximum penalty for removing a vehicle under lien is a fine of $500.00 or 90 days in jail (Section 713.58, Florida Statutes).
If the vehicle owner believes that the vehicle was improperly towed, the vehicle owner may:
- Pay the towing and associated fees to retrieve the vehicle, then file a small claims action against the wrecker company, or;
- File a lawsuit in county court pursuant to section 713.78(5), Florida Statutes, which will require the filing of a bond with the court equal to the charges for towing and storage. Upon posting the bond, the clerk will issue a certificate authorizing the vehicle owner to retrieve their vehicle.
If a vehicle owner believes that a provision of Florida law or City Ordinance has been violated, you can file a complaint with Tallahassee Police Towing Administrator Joe Gandy via email or by calling (850) 891-4766.
Frequently Asked Questions about Towing
When is Roam Towing allowed?
Roam towing is allowed only between 12:00am and 7:00am on residential property other than single-family dwellings.
What is residential property?
Examples of residential property are apartment complexes, condominiums, duplexes, triplexes, etc., that have common owners or management companies.
Can vehicles be towed from residential property during the hours of 7:01am and 11:59 pm?
Yes. There are three times when vehicles can be towed during non-Roam Tow hours; (1) Complaint tows are when the management or their agent authorize the towing service to remove specific vehicles. No photographs are required. (2) The property owner or agent personally tells the driver not to park there and they refuse to move. No photographs are required. (3) Emergency tows occur when vehicles are either obstructing the driveway of a business or otherwise restricting the normal operation of the business (blocking the dumpster, taking up multiple parking spaces, a utility repair has to be made and the vehicle is in the way, etc.)
Are towing services required to photograph vehicle towed from commercial property?
No. They are not required to take photographs of vehicles towed from commercial property.
Are there any limitations on the hours they can tow from commercial properties?
The owner of commercial property can have trespass vehicles towed 7 days a week, 24 hours day, or for violations of parking rules or any other terms and conditions placed on the towing service by the property owner in the towing contract.
What are the requirements for a Trespass Tow?
(1) A Towing Contract that is signed by the property owner or representative and the towing service owner or their respective agent.
(2) A sign that has 2" high light reflective letters on contrasting background, must contain the words TOW-AWAY-ZONE in 4" high light reflective letters and the towing service’s name and telephone number.
(3) The signs have to be posted within 5 feet of the public right-of-way at each entrance. If the driveway is over 25 feet wide they must have 2 signs.
(4) The sign must be posted at a height of 3 feet (bottom) and 6 feet (top). An exception is for abandoned vehicles that have been there 72 hour or more.
Can a towing service unlock my car to tow it?
Yes, companies are allowed to unlock vehicles to make them safe to tow. (Release the parking brake, put the gearshift in neutral, and straighten the front wheels).
Can a tow truck operator or someone working for the tow company monitor a parking lot for parking violations?
Yes. Many commercial establishments will employ "spotters" to determine if individuals are parking illegally or not.