To Tow… Or Not To Tow? Seven Tips To Keep That From Being The Question

I don’t know a property manager who doesn’t grapple with parking issues. At best, they’re a hassle. At worst, they threaten resident safety, satisfaction and retention. They can even send you to court.

Towing may alienate a resident… but failure to act on a parking problem could alienate many residents. The best solution is a proactive approach that maximizes compliance and minimizes your need to have to make the tough decision. Here are seven tips to help ease parking woes on your property.

  1. Understand the parking and towing laws and ordinances in your state and in your municipality. If you don’t already know the laws, an Internet search should yield results. Illegal towing can do more than damage resident relationships. It can be costly. Some states allow the court to award loss of use damages for the illegally towed vehicle. Residents have to prove their case. But win or lose, it’s going to cost you time and money.

  2.  Have proper legal signage. Posting parking permit and restriction signs on your property is one of the most important actions you can take to ensure and enforce compliance. With effective signage, residents, visitors, staff and vendors should never have any question about where to park.

  3.  Clearly mark the parking lots and curbs. Sometimes signs disappear, but parking lot stripes and curb paint is permanent. Mark restricted parking areas as clearly as possible; leave nothing to question.

    1. Where residents, visitors, staff and vendors may park
    2. Where residents, visitors, staff and vendors may NOT park
    3. Snow plow procedures
    4. Your step-by-step procedure for handling vehicles that violate the parking policy
    5. Actions to take if someone finds that their car has been towed and how much it will cost

  4.  Create, publish and distribute a clear, well-defined parking policy. Your policy should spell out—and itemize—exactly:

    If there are seasonal issues in your area, such as snow or flooding, send timely reminders that reiterate the parking policies and procedures.

  5. Review your parking and towing policies with your snow removal and towing vendors. Make sure they understand that only authorized personnel from your staff can request that a vehicle be towed.

  6.  Personally address parking issues with problem residents. Some parking infractions aren’t as defiant as they may seem to you or to other residents. When parking issues arise, one-on-one notices are far more effective than blanket reminders. It doesn’t have to be a nasty confrontation. Stay calm, refer to your parking policies and rules, and make sure the resident has a copy. Keep a record of your resident contact with the date, time and content.

  7.  Communicate regularly and always document. Managing your property is your job. But your residents have their own jobs, busy—often hectic—lives, and lots on their minds. Make sure your parking rules don’t slip their minds. Proper signage, marked parking spaces and curbs, a published policy, personal reminders and community-wide announcements all work together to minimize slippage.

 It’s important to document all your parking compliance efforts. Take photos of your signage, parking lot, curb markings and any instances of policy violations. Keep a record of all your communications to your residents, whether community-wide or one-on-one. Your documentation should show dates, times, and message content. It should also confirm that your residents received your communications. If a conflict or legal issue arises, all of these will work in your favor.

The name of the game here is to maximize parking compliance and minimize towing instances. It takes a proactive approach, vigilance and a commitment to regular communications with your residents.