Arlington County Board Amends Trespass Towing Ordinance

Published on December 14, 2016

  • More protections for vehicle owners

  • More property signage requirements

  • Fee changes as required by State law

  • Public, towing operators, property owners weighed in on proposed changes

  • Adopted provision for real time authorization at commercial properties during business hours, delaying implementation until July 1, 2017"

The Arlington County Board today approved changes to the County's trespass towing ordinance that included more protections for vehicle owners, fee changes required by State law and other changes. The County's trespass towing ordinance regulates the removal of vehicles from private property without the vehicle owner's consent.

"These amendments provide important protections to vehicle owners whose vehicles are taken without their consent," said County Board Vice Chair Jay Fisette, liaison to the Trespass Towing Advisory Board.  "We believe these reasonable requirements support the rights of Arlington County property owners and their tenants to enforce restrictions on their property while providing common sense standards for how vehicles are removed."

The Board voted 5 to 0 to approve the amendments to the trespass towing ordinance. To read the staff report on this item, visit the County website.  Scroll down to Item No. 41 on the Agenda for the Tuesday, Dec. 13, 2016 Recessed County Board Meeting.

The Board's action was based on recommendations from the County Manager and the Trespass Towing Advisory Board (TTAB), and on public comments received during TTAB and County Board consideration.

The amendments include:

  • More protections for vehicle owners

  • Requiring towers to share more information with the County

  • Fee changes

  • Expansion of eligible locations for storage

  • Prohibition of towing public safety vehicles

  • Provision for real time authorization at commercial properties during business hours with delayed implementation


Protections for vehicle owners

The amendments give vehicle owners more protection by providing more objective criteria for documenting the vehicle's condition before it is towed. The new language would require tow truck drivers to photograph the vehicle at all four corners, providing vehicle owners with important safeguards should their vehicle be damaged, and providing towers with protection against false damage claims.

The amendments strengthen safety standards and requirements by requiring towing and recovery operators to properly secure all loads to meet all safety standards.

The changes also provide more information on the towing receipt — requiring that the receipt given to the vehicle owner include a disclosure that photos and/or video evidence taken before the tow are available upon request and the contact information for the County office that handles trespass towing complaints.

The amendments add a new requirement for signage/markings on the interior of parking lots or facilities to provide additional, clear information to vehicle owners about the parking restrictions on the property. This requirement builds upon the existing requirement for signs at all vehicle entrances.

The Board added an amendment to require real time authorization for all tows from commercial property conducted during business hours. Implementation of this amendment is delayed until July 1, 2017. The County Board further directed the County Manager to work with stakeholders to identify alternative strategies to mitigate aggressive towing practices and provide an interim report.

Fee changes

The amendments allow for up to two additional fees of $25 per instance for towing a vehicle in the evening (between 7 p.m. and 8 a.m.), or on a weekend or holiday. This change, which was required by State Code and became effective earlier this year, results in towing charges of $135, $160, or $185, depending upon when the vehicle is towed.

Storage facilities

The amendments extend the eligible area for the location of storage facilities from three miles to three and one-quarter miles. This could allow more eligible locations for storage facilities, giving property owners more contractors to choose from without burdening vehicle owners in retrieving their vehicles.

In adopting these amendments, the Board took into consideration the recommendations of the Advisory Board on Trespass Vehicle Towing, comprised of Arlington County Police officers, representatives from the towing companies, property owners and residents, as well as the views of other stakeholders and the public at large.

To learn more about trespass towing in Arlington, or to make a complaint if your car has been towed, visit the County website.