Is the Tow Illegal?

(WSVN) - You might have had to deal with this. You walk out to find your car or truck has been towed. It happens — but if you think it’s an illegal tow, what can you do? One South Florida solution is to call Help Me Howard with Patrick Fraser.

When Christopher’s wife was pregnant with their first child, he knew he had to make a change.

Christopher Leal, illegal tow?: “As soon as I found out I was having a boy, I decided to leave school and start a business of my own to provide for my child.”

Christopher started F&S Carpet Cleaning — father and his new son.

Christopher Leal: “Water restoration, upholstery cleaning, leather cleaning, tile and grout, as well as pressure cleaning.”

Christopher, of course, has a van for his equipment, and while they don’t allow commercial vehicles with the name on them at his complex, they let Christopher move in if he covered the writing with white magnets.

Christopher Leal: “Whenever I came home it was like clockwork. Always putting the magnetics on the truck.”

For seven months, everything was fine. And then it wasn’t.

Christopher Leal: “I go downstairs, I’m ready for the day, and my van wasn’t there! In the parking lot. I thought that it was stolen.”

A company that monitors Christopher’s complex for illegal vehicles had his van towed. Christopher called them.

Christopher Leal: “She said that there were no commercial vehicles allowed on the property. I explained I had my magnetics. She said, ‘Not from what I’m seeing,’ and that even if I had my magnetics on, because there’s no windows to my truck, it’s considered commercial.”

When Christopher got to the tow company, his magnets had disappeared. He had to pay $129 to get his vehicle back, and the monitoring company told him he could not park at his apartment complex anymore.

Christopher Leal: “I’m borrowing friends’ places because I’m having a difficult time finding parking where it’s 24-hour access.”

And if Christopher has to park far from his apartment, he knows in South Florida, it’s only a matter of time until someone steals all his equipment from his van.

Christopher Leal: “It’s very stressful.”

Well, Howard, Christopher thinks he was towed illegally. The people who towed him said, “No he wasn’t.” Who is right?

Howard Finkelstein, 7News legal expert: “It seems like it was an illegal tow, and here is why. The company that ordered the vehicle to be towed said it had no windows and had the company name on the van, which made it a commercial vehicle, but that is not true. No windows has nothing to do with anything. And since Christopher had approval from the association to park if he covered the lettering, they could not legally tow his van.”

We contacted the property management company for the Players Club in Coral Springs. They told us the monitoring company said the magnets were not on Christopher’s van when they towed it.

Christopher says they were, just like that had been every day for the past seven months.

The management company then reimbursed Christopher for the tow, and they paid to replace the magnets.

They also put him on a “Do Not Tow” list so the monitoring company cannot move his van again.

And how do you know if you were towed illegally?

Howard Finkelstein: “Each can be very difficult. You need to know the association rules, the laws in the parking lot of the place you put the cars. Were there no parking signs visible? There are state laws, and each county and city can have different laws, so you should be careful.”

Christopher can now sleep well knowing his van will be there in the morning — after his call to Help Me Howard.

Christopher Leal: “I am ecstatic about it because I got answers.”

Glad we could help. The most common dispute in towing cases: the no parking and tow away signs. If they don’t exist, or aren’t in the right location, the person who called for you to be towed has to reimburse you. The tow company has the record of who requested the tow, so ask them for that information when you get your vehicle back.

Someone carpeted you with problems? Ready to clean them out? Contact us. ‘Cause we are drawn like a magnet to help you.

Reporter: Patrick Fraser at
Miami-Dade: 305-953-WSVN
Broward: 954-761-WSVN

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