Montgomery County wants to opt out of a recent state trespass towing law officials say confuses its already stringent regulations against the practice.
But Eric Friedman, director of the county’s Office of Consumer Protection, told a County Council Committee today the state legislator who sponsored the law seems unwilling to allow the county to operate on its own. A towing company recently sued the county and the state for two provisions of the state law, which went into effect on Oct. 1.
“It’s very difficult to know which provisions are in,” Friedman said. “We have this somewhat overlapping, two-tiered system.”
Friedman said one particular problem that has popped up is an extra fee towing companies can now charge to deal with the state’s requirement to send a notice of a tow to a driver and a driver’s insurance company. Often, Friedman said, the towers will send the notice regardless of if the driver has already come to the tow lot to pick up the car.
The lawsuit against the state and county challenges the three-day rule and the state’s ban of “spotters” despite requiring towers to take photographs of people who “walk-off” from the private property their vehicles are in.
Friedman said towers often will tow a driver who briefly walks away from the business that owns the parking spot, whether it’s to send a letter, grab a slice of pizza or enter another store in the same shopping center.
Towing complaints remain the Office of Consumer Protection’s most common, with about 200 complaints a year, Friedman said. He estimated there are about 30,000 trespass tows every year in Montgomery County.
Friedman said State Del. Doyle Niemann (D-Prince George’s County) was not very open to granting Montgomery County a waiver from the law, but that Niemann plans to tighten the three-day notice provision.
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