This Probably Never Happened to You, but … No. 204

Written by Apartment Management Magazine on . Posted in Blog

by C. Finley Beven, JD, CPM, CCAM

Unit #3 had been vacant for about 8 days. We were just finishing the “make over” process, ads were running, and we had begun accepting applications. While at the property, we happened to notice that someone was parking in the space intended for unit 3. It was highly probable that one of our tenants was using that space. As no current tenant was being inconvenienced at this time, we did not need to act in haste. We will resolve this, but we will do it thoughtfully.

We are in the customer-service business. Towing is one of the most AGGRESSIVE actions a property owner can take against a tenant. The tenant’s car may be his or her most valuable possession, and the means to their livelihood. Towing will necessarily cost the tenant personal time, aggravation, and financially. Remember that these are the people we also expect to pay us rent (in full, and on time) each month, so we want their “good will”. We want them to appreciate us. Towing could also result in damage to a car belonging to one of our tenants, potentially involving the owner in litigation. Towing should be considered as a “last resort”, to be used only when other reasonable steps have failed.

We do not tow unless adequate/appropriate signs have been posted. We do not tow unless the car is in clear violation of our parking rules. If we think that a car may have been abandoned by a prior tenant, we post the vehicle with our intentions, attempt to notify the prior tenant, wait for 15 days (or until there is a replacement tenant) then have the car towed. Whenever we “post” a notice on a car, we take a picture of the posted note on the car, we take a picture of the car, and of the license plate. As such, we have dated photo-proof of our posting.

Unless we are ABSOLUTELY SURE who the car belongs to, and that specific tenant has been notified, we would send a courtesy letter to all tenants advising them of our plans to tow the car unless it is moved. If the vehicle still has not been moved after 5 days, we would tow if, in our judgement, towing is necessary. We try to be thoughtful before acting, to consider unintended consequences, and to remember that we are in a customer-service business.

Any owner we work for can have more strict rules, but we would be sure that that a reminder of such parking rules is delivered to all tenants before towing is considered.


Dear Readers: This article is the 204th in a series based on the lessons we have learned the hard way. The contents of these articles are merely opinions of the writer. They are not intended as specific legal advice and should not be relied upon for that purpose. Our practice is in constant refinement as we adjust the way we operate to an ever- changing market.  I appreciate your questions, comments, suggestions, and solutions. Contact C. Finley Beven, JD, CPM, CCAM, 99 S. Lake Avenue, Pasadena. (626) 243-4145.