Towing: They’ve Got Rules To Follow


 The Rockaway Times has received plenty of emails, comments and letters about the Stop and Shop shopping center towing situation.

To recap, in the past few months complaints about cars being aggressively towed out of the lot at 112-15 Beach Channel Drive have risen dramatically. So has community outrage, petitions, calls for store boycotts and action from local elected officials and yes, calls and emails to the Rockaway Times. 

A spokesman for Stop and Shop stated they would be reviewing their contract, with B&M Towing in Arverne, and would be looking to make changes.

In the midst of all this, many people are asking, “What exactly are the rules, regulations and laws which govern towing in New York City?”

To find out, RT hit the law books and also consulted a licensed longtime tow company owner operating within the New York metropolitan area. At his request we have left his name out of this article.

“You were probably under the impression that this is private property, so the city laws don’t apply.”  Not so, he explained.

“There are two things here. There is the law and there are regulations.” Tow truck company operators, which are licensed by the NYC Department of Consumer Affairs (DCA), are required to adhere to both. Not doing so or reported complaints could prompt investigation, fines and possible loss of their operating license.

Complaints can be made by contacting DCA at 212-639-9675 or calling 311.

RT’s source pointed out that no tow truck can simply hook up a car and take it away. Under DCA rules the legal requirements for “nonconsensual towing” are pretty specific. “No tow operator shall remove a vehicle from private property without first obtaining written authorization from the owner of such property or the owner’s agent.” Said agent must be “designated in the (original) contract between the owner of the property and the tow operator. And using spotter cars is totally illegal.”

No written authorization, no tow. “No store owner can authorize for a car to be towed away,” our source said. “Not unless he’s been designated, in writing, as an agent of the property owner. And not unless the driver has a written authorization for each car being towed.”

Each written authorization must include the location, make, model, color and license plate number of the car to be towed. Plus the name, title and signature of the person authorizing the tow.

By law, every driver must also carry a copy of the towing contract between his company and the property owner. “You have the right to see that contract. He has to show it to you. You should probably also take a picture of it. And the tow company also has to notify the police precinct with all the details.”

Also if the driver arrives before their car is taken away, they can get it  “off the hook” by paying one half of the towing fee. “Every company is required to accept cash or at least two major credit cards. And you’re entitled to a receipt.” 

Can you call the police to intervene if any of these stipulations aren’t followed? You sure can.Private property or not, he said, “That’s the law.”

And if you find your car already taken?  Go to the towing place of business and "Ask for a copy of the contract. Take a picture of the name of the property owner and any designated agents listed on the contract. And ask for a copy of the authorization to tow.  Car owners can put complaints into Consumer Affairs. Or precinct.”

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