Signs, Signs, Everywhere a Sign
You head to work at your first day on the job. You got an office job downtown and you are thrilled. You park your car then head into the office.
When you leave around 5:00 p.m. your car is nowhere to be found. Someone nearby says they saw a car similar to yours being towed a few minutes before you came out. You do not see towing signs in or around the parking lot. Can a tow company just take your car like that?
Are Signs Required?
Depending on the circumstances, a sign is required before a company can tow an unauthorized vehicle. There are situations when a sign is not required, but these are not addressed in this blog.
A sign prohibiting unauthorized vehicles on a parking facility must be facing and conspicuously visible to the driver of a vehicle that enters the facility. It must be located either on the right or left side of each driveway or curb-cut through which a vehicle can enter the facility, or at intervals along the entrance so that no entrance is further than 25 feet from a sign. The entrance also includes alleyways. The sign must be permanently mounted, installed on the parking facility, and installed so that the bottom edge of the sign is between 5 and 8 feet above ground level.
How Should the Sign Look?
As if you could not tell from the requirements listed above, Texas law has specified exactly how the sign should look and what it should say.
The sign prohibiting an unauthorized vehicle must be at least 18 inches wide and 24 inches tall, made of weather-resistant material, and contain the international symbol for towing vehicles. It must contain a statement describing who may park in the parking facility, while prohibiting all others. For example, “Resident Parking Only” and “Vehicles without Required Permits/Visitor Pass Prohibited”.
It also must include one of the following variations: (1) “Unauthorized Vehicles Will Be Towed or Booted at Owner’s or Operator’s Expense”; (2) “Unauthorized Vehicles Will Be Towed at Owner’s or Operator’s Expense”; or (3) “Unauthorized Vehicles Will Be Booted at Owner’s or Operator’s Expense”. This statement must follow the wording contained in the statute exactly.
The sign must also contain a statement of the days and hours of towing and booting enforcement and the telephone number (including the area code) which enables the owner or operator to locate the towed vehicle or to arrange for removal of the boot. This telephone must be answered 24 hours a day.
Further, the owner of a vehicle must be able to locate his vehicle by calling the telephone number on the sign.
But wait, there’s more. There are coloring, layout, and lettering height requirements for this sign!
First, the international towing symbol should be bright red. The international towing symbol is a solid silhouette of a tow truck towing a vehicle on a generally rectangular white background. This symbol must be at least 4 inches tall and be placed on the uppermost portion of a sign or on a separate sign placed immediately above the sign.
Immediately below the international towing symbol, the sign must contain one of the following phrases: (1) “Towing and Booting Enforced;” (2) “Towing Enforced;” or (3) “Booting Enforced.” This phrase must be in white letters at least two inches in height on a bright red background.
Below these short phrases are the longer phrases listed above. Then the days and hours of towing and booting enforcement beneath that. These letters are required to be in bright red letters at least 1 inch in height on a white background.
The bottom-most portion of the sign must contain the phone number described above in lettering at least 1-inch tall consisting of white letters on a bright red background. This portion may, depending on the facility owner or any applicable municipal ordinance requirements, include the name and address of the storage facility to which an unauthorized vehicle will be removed.
What if the Sign Doesn’t Look Like That?
If the lot is required to have a towing or booting sign like the one described above, and the sign does not conform to those requirements, an unauthorized vehicle may not be towed.
Be careful, though! There are many additional complications that arise in determining whether a sign is legally required or not and whether a towing company has a right to remove your vehicle despite the absence of a sign. Speak with an attorney if your vehicle was towed and you think there are nonconforming signs, or you think your vehicle was towed illegally.
–Authored by Carrie A. Harris, Esq.,
Matthew Harris Law, PLLC – Civil Litigation Division
1001 Main Street, Suite 200, Lubbock, Texas, 79401-3309
Tel: (806) 702-4852 | Fax: (800) 985-9479