Under state law, there is no limit to the amount tow truck companies can charge someone whose car is towed from private property, such as a business or residence. That could change if lawmakers in Olympia approve a bill introduced by Rep. Gerry Pollett. But not soon enough to save me from the massive bill I incurred recently when my car was stolen.
Why is this important?
Many tow truck operators are decent folks trying to make a living. But some are unscrupulous and charge exorbitant rates, including one who recently gained notoriety by charging a man $800 when he improperly parked on Capitol Hill.
On Valentine's Day, someone stole my car. When I discovered it was missing, I quickly called the Seattle Police Department.
The thief apparently dumped the car soon after he or she stole it, because within a day, a private property owner in Queen Anne spotted it and had it towed. The towing company, TBT Towing, which the state fined in 2005 for illegally impounding cars, notified SPD, who confirmed that the car had been stolen.
SPD says they tried to call me, but I never received a call, and my records back this up. Perhaps it was a misdial. Though someone dropped the ball, everyone I dealt with at SPD was professional and friendly. Unfortunate mistakes happen.
Instead of a phone call, I received a letter in the mail -- a week after my car had been recovered. During that time, it racked up huge fees while sitting in TBT's SODO lot.
When I went to pick up my car the morning after I got the letter, my jaw dropped. TBT charged me $1,242.83 to get back a vehicle that someone stole from me and illegally parked.
I understand that TBT, as a private company, has to make a profit. They didn't know my car was stolen when they towed it. A reasonable rate, maybe $200, would be understandable.
But to charge a crime victim nearly $1,300 to get their stolen car back is in itself, in my opinion, a crime.
Imagine someone steals your car, and you rack up a $1,300 impound bill. If you can't pay it, the towing company, within weeks, has the right to auction off your car. As someone with a good job, I'm lucky, even though I still had to max out my credit card to get my car back. But there are thousands who would be out of luck.
If you want to do something, contact your state senator and ask he or she to support Rep. Pollett's bill.