May 21, 2010 – This week’s tip offers advice for condominium and homeowners association boards considering hiring a towing company to police their parking lots and roadways to haul away parking scofflaws.

Your state and local government may have laws dictating how you treat towing in your community association. Be sure to investigate before you implement any policy.

When you do hire a towing company, you’ll need to communicate your towing policy to your owners and visitors.

“I’ve seen both—associations that have good policies, and associations that don’t.”says Duane McPherson, the San Rafael, Calif.-based division president at RealManage, an association management firm that oversees properties in Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Louisiana, Nevada, and Texas.

“You need to be absolutely certain whenever you’re towing a vehicle that you’re towing it legally. Nothing can be more problematic than the wrong car being towed or towing a car when it’s in fact in the owner’s space.”

Debra A. Warren, principal of Cinnabar Consulting in San Rafael, Calif., which provides training and employee development services to community association management firms and training and strategic planning sessions for association board members, agrees.

“Make sure there’s lot of written communication and posted signs so people understand the risk if they’re going to violate the policy,” says Warren.

It’s also smart to create checks and balances so that you don’t tow cars improperly. That task can be complicated because of association rules that require boards to provide owners due process before taking corrective action.

“In some associations, you have to go through due process before taking any action,” says Elizabeth White, a shareholder and head of the community associations practice at the law firm of LeClairRyan in Williamsburg, Va., “and the process for towing doesn’t always fit into neatly with giving owners 14 days’ notice under due process rules.”

Warren advises that you require your towing company get permission before towing any car.

“If your vehicle code doesn’t require a person of authority to sign for the tow,” says Warren, “there should be some double-check with the towing company so it doesn’t have the ability to drive through your grounds and tow without some second level of authorization.”

For more tips on complying with local laws and protecting your association through your towing contract, see our new article: HOAs and Parking: What Your Homeowner Association Board Should Know About Towing.

HOA Leader

Matt Humphrey is president of the Alameda, California-based, from which this article was adapted.

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