[HISTORY: Adopted by the Council of the City of Easton as indicated in article histories. Amendments noted where applicable.]
[Adopted 8-12-2020 by Ord. No. 5706]
The need of property owners to prevent unauthorized parking on private property must be balanced with appropriate protection to citizens from unjust or onerous towing practices. Therefore, it is in the public interest to create a uniform framework to establish and enforce towing procedures and standards for owners of private property as well as by tow truck owners and operators.
This article incorporates the definitions used within 73 P.S. § 1971.2, as may be amended, as well as the following words and phrases. When used within this article, these shall have the meaning set forth in this section unless context clearly indicates otherwise.
- DECOUPLING FEE
- A charge levied by a towing company for releasing a vehicle to its owner or operator when the vehicle has been, or is about to be, hooked or lifted by a tower, but prior to the vehicle actually having been moved or removed from the property.
- NONCONSENSUAL TOWING
- The removal of a vehicle from a parked location by any tow truck operator without the prior consent of the vehicle owner.
- PRIVATE PROPERTY OWNER
- The owner or lessee of private property or the authorized agent thereof. This definition shall not include a towing company acting as an agent of such owner or lessee.
- In addition to the definition within 73 P.S. § 1971.2, shall also include the moving, removing, or recovery of a vehicle from private or public property without the vehicle owner or operator's prior consent.
- Any vehicle in, upon, or by which a person or property is or may be transported upon a motorway regulated under the laws of this commonwealth.
- VEHICLE OWNER
- The person owning or in physical control of a vehicle that has been towed under the provisions of this article.
Any private property owner who employs, contracts with, or otherwise engages a tow truck operator for the removal of vehicles parked without authorization shall ensure that said operator complies with all requirements of this article. In the event that a tow truck operator is found to not be in compliance with this article, the private property owner shall be subject to the penalties provisions set forth in § 545-6.
Any property with restricted parking must be posted by the private property owner in compliance with 67 Pa. Code § 212.115, as may be amended (dealing with the posting of private lots). Additionally, the property shall be posted with the name and phone number of the tow truck operator utilized to remove unauthorized vehicles in a manner readily visible to an ordinarily observant driver.
In addition to any regulation or obligation imposed by state law, or other relevant governmental entity, all tow truck operators wishing to conduct business must comply with the following:
Operators must be registered to do business within the City, be current on all registration fees and/or taxes, and not have any outstanding fines for violations of any City ordinance.
Operators must maintain liability insurance coverage for personal injury and property damage in the amount of at least $1,000,000 for each accident or occurrence. Nothing in this section shall preclude a state agency, political subdivision, or any other entity from requiring higher coverage amounts. Upon request by the City or a property owner, operators must provide proof of appropriate levels of insurance.
Prior to towing any vehicle from private property, the operator must:
Be initially notified of the unlawfully parked vehicle by the private property owner; and
Report the pending tow to the City of Easton Police Department. This report must be made prior to commencing any work to actually tow the vehicle. This report will be made to the Department via the nonemergency phone number or by any other reasonable means established by the Easton Police Department.
Operators must release the vehicle to the owner promptly when either:
Requested by the owner if, prior to the actual removal of the vehicle from the private property, the owner requests the release of the vehicle. In such instances, the vehicle must be released immediately. Furthermore, in such instances, tow truck operators may not charge the owner a decoupling fee or any other fee.
After a vehicle has been removed from private property, release shall be conditioned on the payment for towing, storage and related services. All charges shall be itemized and in writing, with a paper copy provided to the vehicle owner or authorized person. Payment may be made with cash, a credit card from a common issuer, or a check from an insurance company or authorized tower or salvor acting on behalf of the insurance company.
Operators must charge a reasonable fee for towing services and storage of any nonconsensually towed vehicles consistent with 75 Pa.C.S.A. § 3353(c).
This article shall not apply to:
A vehicle parked in such a way as to block access to a driveway or garage entrance on a lot or parcel with a single-family unit or an owner-occupied multi-unit of not more than six units.
A residential community in which parking spaces are specifically assigned to community residents, provided that:
This section shall not apply to any private parking lot or parcel owned or assigned to a commercial or other nonresidential entity located in such residential communities.
This section does not relieve the owner of any private property from completing all state requirements for removal of vehicles from private property. This shall include, but is not limited to, the completion of Pennsylvania Department of Transportation form MV-952PP, identified as the "Abandoned Vehicle on Private Property Report by Property Owner."
Any violations of this article shall be punishable by the following civil penalties:
Any tow truck operator found in violation of the provisions of this article shall be subject to a fine, for each vehicle improperly towed, of $500 or the total fee charged to the vehicle owner, whichever is greater. Additionally, any tow truck operator found in violation of this article on three or more occasions will be prohibited from conducting further towing operations within the City.
Any private property owner found in violation of the provisions of this article shall be subject to a fine, for each vehicle removed, of $500 or the total fee charged to the vehicle owner by the tow truck operator, whichever is greater.
The provisions within this section are in no way intended to replace or supersede a vehicle owner's right to recovery from either a tow truck operator or property owner under common law or the laws of this commonwealth. This shall include but not be limited to a vehicle owner's right to recover under the Unfair Trade Practices and Consumer Protection Law. See 73 P.S. § 201-1 et seq., as set forth within 73 P.S. § 1971.4, and as both of these statutes may be amended.