City Officials Target Illegally Towed Cars

Councilwoman Sanchez on "rogue" towers: "We consider it auto theft." | Slobo | Slobo

Councilwoman Maria Quinones Sanchez has introduced legislation that could help prevent private companies from illegally towing cars.

It’s an issue she said is prevalent in her district, which includes parts of rapidly developing neighborhoods like Fishtown. She says her office hears often from people who have had their cars towed from legal parking spots.

According to CBS 3, the District Attorney’s office is reportedly investigating some private towing companies, but the office declined to comment to Philly Mag about the report.

Sanchez said private “rogue” companies work with residents and building owners who wish to declare their front yards and side lots “driveways” to keep them free of parked cars. Towers will post signs declaring “tow-away” zones in front of these properties, sometimes without guaranteeing that it is indeed an illegal parking spot.

Towing companies are permitted to tow cars if they have contracts with homeowners who request the tow. But because curbs in a driveway must drop lower than the surrounding curb in order for a spot to be considered a driveway, Sanchez said some towing companies perform “curb cuts” and remove sections of the curb without obtaining the proper zoning.

Sanchez introduced a pair of bills that would create a “curb cut registry” and further empower the city to penalize illegal tows, preventing expensive and inconvenient situations for residents.

Another common complaint from residents is that towing companies refuse to accept credit cards to cover those costly towing fees. Councilwoman Sanchez said it’s illegal for private towing companies to demand cash only.

Part of the problem, Sanchez told Philly Mag, is that there’s no official registry of illegal driveways or parking lots. It’s a conversation that she said needs to be had with Licenses and Inspections and the Philadelphia Parking Authority.

“The companies target certain lots and certain areas, and they’re out there watching,” Sanchez said. “We consider it auto theft.”

Sanchez said City Council is expected to discuss a registry-forming process at a June 7th hearing.

Follow @ClaireSasko on Twitter.