One of the most effective self-help enforcement measures that exists for both Condominium and Homeowner Associations is the power to tow improperly parked vehicles from association-owned or common element property.
However, like other enforcement tools, the towing process must be properly performed or the Association could face potential liability. Below is a breakdown of the basics for when and how an Association can legally tow vehicles:
1. Authority to
The power to tow vehicles under certain
circumstances is granted by Section 715.07, Florida Statutes (sometimes
referred to as the “Towing Statute”), which provides in part as follows:
The owner or lessee of real
property, or any person authorized by the owner or lessee, which person may be
the designated representative of the condominium association if the real
property is a condominium, may cause any vehicle or vessel parked on such
property without her or his permission to be removed by a person regularly
engaged in the business of towing vehicles or vessels, without liability for
the costs of removal, transportation, or storage or damages caused by such
removal, transportation, or storage.
2. What Is a
Vehicle Under the Towing Statute?:
As used in the Towing Statute, “the term ‘vehicle’ means any
mobile item which normally uses wheels, whether motorized or not.”
Accordingly, this law is not just limited to standard automobiles.
Association May Only Tow from Property the Association Owns and/or Controls:
It is vitally important to remember that the Towing Statute
only permits the owner or lessee of real property (or a person authorized by
the owner or lessee) to cause a vehicle parked without permission to be towed
from the property that they own or lease. This generally means that HOAs and
Condominium Associations generally may not tow vehicles from driveways, public
streets, or private lots that are not owned or controlled by the Association.
Condominium associations may only tow vehicles from common element property or
property that the Condominium Association owns in its corporate capacity. HOAs
may only tow vehicles from property that the HOA owns (including private
4. Vehicles Can
Only Be Towed When a Violation Actually Exists:
Although “parked without permission” is not clearly defined,
Section 715.07 clearly intends that the vehicle must be violating a valid,
reasonable and identifiable restriction, such as a location or time that
parking may be allowed.
Association Must Strictly Follow the Law to Be Protected from Liability for
In order to avail itself of the liability protections
afforded by the Towing Statute, a community association must strictly comply
with the technical requirements found in that law, which are broken down into
the following two categories:
Required Notice to the Owner of the
Prior to any towing, the Community Association must ensure
that the owner of the vehicle is aware of the possibility that his or her
vehicle will be towed, in a manner provided for under the Towing Statute. This
would generally include obtaining the permission of the owner to tow their
vehicle, providing personal notice to the owner of the vehicle, or posting
signs in the specific manner required by the Towing Statute.
Requirements Relating to the Actual
Assuming that the Community Association has met the notice
requirements, the Association must also ensure that numerous specific
requirements contained in the Towing Statute are followed by the towing
company. These requirements are too numerous to list in detail here, but they
include items such as the location of the site where the vehicle may be stored,
notifying the appropriate law enforcement agency of a towing within 30 minutes
after the towing occurs, prohibitions on rebates or kickbacks from the towing
company, among other requirements.
Section 715.07 also permits local governments to enact
additional regulations relating to towing inside their jurisdiction, including
the regulation of rates. Accordingly, it is important that a Community
Association also check with the local government to insure that it has also
complied with any additional requirements.
Penalties for Failing to Follow the Laws:
If a Community Association improperly causes a vehicle to be
towed, the Association can be held liable to the owner of the vehicle for damage
caused to the vehicle; the costs to remove, transport, and store the vehicle;
and attorney’s fees and court costs incurred by the vehicle’s owner.
Condominium and Homeowners Associations are generally
authorized to tow vehicles from the Association’s Property or the Common
Elements, but the Association should take care to strictly follow the
requirements of the Towing Statute in order to avoid any potential liability to