Watching the tow truck drive away with your car or coming back to your parking spot only to find it missing is a terrible feeling, especially if you think your car was taken unjustly. In Florida, property owners and businesses are allowed to tow vehicles off their property when parked without permission. However, tow companies must report the tow and where the vehicle is stored to police within 30 minutes of completion. If you arrive before your car is towed away, the tow company must release the car to you upon payment of a reasonable service fee.
Authority to Tow a Vehicle
Florida law authorizes a party who owns or leases property, including condo associations, or their authorized representatives, to tow a vehicle off the premises if it's parked there without permission. However, there must be prominent notices on the premises indicating its tow away zones prior to any vehicle being towed away.
This requirement doesn't apply to single family residences. The law also applies to vessels, which Florida law defines as a "watercraft, barge, and airboat used or capable of being used as a means of transportation on water." Businesses may also authorize the towing of a vehicle if it's parked in a way that restricts the business's normal operation or obstructs access to a private driveway.
Police Notification and Storage
The person or company that tows a vehicle must notify the local police or sheriff's department of the tow within 30 minutes of completion and identify the storage facility where the car was taken. The facility must allow its owner or other authorized person to pick up the car between the hours of 8:00 a.m. and 6:00 p.m. on any day the towing company is open for business. When the business is closed, the site must post the phone number where the operator of the facility can be reached at any time of the day.
Caught in the Act of Towing
If you arrive back at your car while it is in the process of being hooked up and towed away for being parked unlawfully, Florida law requires the towing party to stop. He then must return the vehicle to you upon the payment of a reasonable service fee, which cannot be more than one-half of its current tow rates, and provide you with a receipt. If you are unable to pay the fee, the tow company can proceed to tow away your vehicle.
Car Repossessions Due to Loan Default
If you fail to make the payments required by your auto loan, you are in default and Florida law gives the lender the right to repossess the vehicle at any time and without notice. The party authorized to tow your vehicle can even come onto private property to do so, but cannot use, or threaten to use, physical force.
Once the lender has custody of the vehicle, it may keep the car or sell it by public or private sale to recoup the money owed, but must notify you of what option it chooses. If the sale doesn't cover all money due, the lender can pursue you for the balance owed. Additionally, it must provide you with written notice of all personal items retrieved from the vehicle and where they are being stored within five days of repossession. If the property is scheduled to be destroyed, the lender must notify you at least 45 days before and give you an opportunity to retrieve it.
Based on the West Coast, Mary Jane Freeman has been writing professionally since 1994, specializing in the topics of business and law. Freeman's work has appeared in a variety of publications, including LegalZoom, Essence, Reuters and Chicago Sun-Times. Freeman holds a Master of Science in public policy and management and Juris Doctor. Freeman is self-employed and works as a policy analyst and legal consultant.