The short answer to this question is: YES!

No one wants his or her car to disappear without any warning and the law doesn’t allow for it either. The type of warning, however, can vary and may not be exactly what the vehicle owner thinks a “warning” should look like. According to Texas laws governing towing, there are four types of warnings that may be used prior to towing someone’s vehicle from private property.

It is considered that a property manager/owner has given notice if:

1) Proper signage or paint has been provided.

One of the most common complaints we get in our office is: “I can’t believe you towed my car from a fire lane. You didn’t even give me a warning”.

Well, that’s not true. There was a warning. It was painted right on the ground. That 120 continuous feet of bright red curb with “No Parking” stenciled on it – that’s the warning.

When it comes to violations such as handicap parking, parking permits, tow zones or assigned parking, the “warning” is in the signs on the property or painted on the ground. There is no legal need to go out and put a warning sticker or any other notice on the vehicle or to knock on someone’s door and let them know they have done wrong. In fact, by doing that, you may be setting yourself up for issues later (but we’ll dive into that in another post). By posting signs or painted notices, it is expected that individuals who enter your property watch for an adhere to those notices.

Some people who call in (to pick up their cars that have been towed) claim that’s not fair, but I disagree. Think about it this way: similar rules apply when you are driving on public roads. While some people may think stop signs are just suggestions, police officers (and other motorists) feel differently. All motorists are expected to obey the rules as they apply to that roadway. Anyone operating a motor vehicle on a property is expected to obey the rules, especially if those rules are posted for all to see.

Some signs are immediately noticeable in the area they affect such as a painted fire lane or a “No Parking” sign. Other signs regarding general rules are posted at the entry to the property. These signs typically detail rules about where visitors need to park or whether or not you can park on the property without a permit.

2) A conspicuous notice has been attached to the vehicle’s front windshield.

The phrase “conspicuous notice” sounds fancy, but its not. This means that they got a warning sticker. For violations such as a wrecked front end, a flat tire or an abandoned vehicle, there are no signs or paint on property to specifically warn people about parking those types of vehicles. Because there is no sign or paint to serve as the warning, a warning sticker (or notice) is placed on the vehicle detailing the violation and giving the person a timeframe in which to fix the problem. The minimum timeframe is 24 hours. Most properties we work with give 3 days’ notice.

One notable exception is if a vehicle is on blocks. Vehicles on blocks pose serious threats to public safety, especially the safety of children. Another serious threat would be a vehicle leaking large amounts of fluids. In both of those cases, an immediate tow is recommended to guard the safety of others on the property. It doesn’t take but a second for a child to knock a car on blocks on top of him or herself or for someone to flick a cigarette and ignite some fluids. Those kinds of tragedies are not worth the risk.

3) A notice was mailed to the vehicle owner by certified mail, return receipt requested according to vehicle registration.

If you have a vehicle on property that is in violation, you may check your property’s vehicle registration records to see if you can identify the vehicle’s owner. If not, you may ask a constable to look up the registration for you. (Side note: Towing companies do NOT have access to this type of information. It’s prohibited.) You can then mail a notice to the address listed on the vehicle registration. It may or may not match the apartment address, but if that’s the only address you’ve got, then it’s the one you’d have to use and the warning is considered valid. If someone has not updated their registration information, its on them that they did not receive the warning.

4) Management or a representative of management has verbally notified the owner/operator that the vehicle will be towed away if not removed.

Yes, this is permissible, but we do not recommend it. If this were something that actually went to court you may end up in a “my word against yours” kind of situation. Although you can verbally tell someone that they need to remove their car or have it towed, it’s always best to put a nice, big warning sticker on it or provide written warning. That way, if there ever is a dispute, you’ve got the written evidence to back yourself up.

By making sure you’ve done at least one of the above methods, you’re covering yourself in the case of a dispute. While individuals may still be very upset that their vehicle was towed, properties can only do so much to help people follow the rules. Now you know the requirements for notification and can hopefully make more focused and purposeful choices when warning and towing vehicles.