A plan to cap fees for involuntary tows from private property in Seattle was unveiled today by Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn and Councilman Nick Licata, according the mayor’s office.
The legislation, which will be presented to the Seattle City Council on Tuesday, would cap standard impounds at $156.75 per hour and limit storage rates to $15.50 for up to 12 hours, said a release from the mayor’s office. Sales tax and an impound fee, which hasn’t been specified, would also be applied.
“It’s perfectly reasonable to charge people who park on private property when they aren’t authorized to do so,” Licata said in a statement. “However, they shouldn’t have to pay whatever the towing company decides, no matter how high the rate.”
The legislation would also create a regulatory framework for tow companies that would require background checks for truck operators, personnel who are available to the public 24 hours a day to release impounded vehicles, posting of appropriate signage regarding fees and redemption, and complaint investigation procedures.
“This proposal protects Seattle visitors and residents from predatory towing-fee policies,” said McGinn in a statement. “After performing extensive outreach to all stakeholders, we believe it is fair to all parties, including towing operators.”
The practices McGinn and Licata hope to eliminate include the charging of unwarranted or excessive fees, especially from private parking lots that may not display warnings to vehicle owners, and the holding of vehicle owners’ personal belongings until all tow fees are paid.
The plan would create two new full-time jobs that would focus on making sure towing-company licenses are up-to-date and enforce compliance of the new policies. A city document detailing the plan says it would cost the city $188,000 in 2013, the first year, but would likely pay for itself in the form of license and fee revenues associated with the plan.
Other cities that have passed similar legislation include Minneapolis, Portland and Indianapolis, according to a news release from McGinn’s office.