Sign Guidelines: Towing a Vehicle From Private Property

Has someone left an abandoned vehicle on your parking lot? What can you do if someone parks on your property and then dines at a restaurant across the street? Can you tow a vehicle from a handicap parking spot if they just run in for a few minutes? What happens if they show up while their vehicle is being towed?

The laws for towing vehicles from your private property are different than towing a vehicle from a public street. Stiff fines can be imposed if you illegally remove a motor vehicle without the owner’s consent. Much worse, you may have an ugly confrontation.

Sign laws vary slightly from state to state but are generally the same throughout the country. But it is always best to contact the local police authority for the exact rules as our research has found conflicts in the sign requirements from neighboring municipalities.

First, determine if you are subject to signage requirements. A residential homeowner of four units or less is not typically required to post towing notices to have a vehicle removed that is blocking their driveway. Could you imagine what it would look like if every suburban home had a no parking sign in their driveway?

If you are a property manager of an office building, shopping center, apartment complex or condominium community then you will need to conspicuously post parking signs that your area is subject to tow away.

The sign must be prominently placed at each vehicular entrance to the property which can easily be seen by the public. You want the motorist to be informed upfront, usually within 5 feet from the public right-of-way; don’t hide the signs in the back of the parking lot. If your parking lot does not have a curb cut entrance, then a sign must be posted every 25 feet apart along the frontage.

The size of the sign varies but typically it should be not less than 18 inch x 24 inch. The State of New Jersey has just passed a law that requires the sign to be 36 inch x 36 inch in some cases. You will want the sign to be installed at eye level of the motorist. The tow away sign should be installed so that the bottom edge of the sign is no lower than five feet and no higher than eight feet above ground level.

Some states have rules that the sign must be continuously maintained which means the lettering cannot have faded. You will want to use a weather resistant material like sign grade aluminum. It is a .080 inch thick alloy that is long lasting and rust free even in harsh weather extremes.

The sign lettering must be large enough to be readable. Some states go as far as specifying the height of the letters ranging from 1 inch to 4 inch. A 1 inch sign letter is readable from 50 feet away and a 4 inch letter is readable from 200 feet away. Most states specify that the sign lettering must be on a contrasting background.

Your sign should be reflective so it is visible at night or dimly lit environments.

Your Tow Away Sign must state who is entitled to park in the area, for example, Customer Parking Only, Employee Parking Only or Resident Parking Only. The parking sign must state that the area is subject to tow away, this can be done by using the international tow away symbol which is a graphic of a car on a tow truck’s hook. The sign must state that violators will be towed at vehicle owner’s expense and the towing and storage rates. The sign must provide the name and telephone number of the towing company where they can reclaim their vehicle. Reference the State’s Vehicle Code that authorizes you to tow away, for example, CVC 22658.

There are exceptions to tow away sign requirements. Unregistered or abandoned vehicles can be towed away without notice. Cars parked in a designated handicap parking spot can be towed away immediately. Cars parked in a fire lane, blocking the free flow of traffic, or blocking a driveway can be towed without the vehicle owner’s consent. And obviously, you can never tow away police, firefighting, rescue squad, ambulance, or other emergency vehicles.

For more information on tow away signs, visit No Parking Signs.

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