Most apartments complexes and multi-family properties distribute parking permits to their residents. It’s an easy way to identify which vehicles, theoretically, are owned by someone who lives on property and which vehicles belong to visitors. While the distribution of these permits is usually a good practice, towing for not having a permit isn’t always. Let me go into detail here:

First off, as should be very obvious, this writing is coming from a towing service. My towing service, as well as nearly every towing service in the state, is highly interested in properties that are willing to enforce permits. It increases the level of security on a property and also increases the number of towable vehicles that any towing service is likely to find on property. While people are generally respectful of fire lane and handicap laws, they are not nearly as respectful of rules concerning how many visitors or cars should be parked on a property.

If you are a manager, supervisor or owner of a property, please also understand that unless you actively enforce permits, they are not going to solve any parking issues. While you may distribute them to every resident, residents are quite savvy and easily figure out whether they live in a place that tows/boots for permits or not. If you don’t really care if a car has a permit or not, neither will the residents. That by itself, however, is not necessarily detrimental to a property.

While it may be in a towing company’s best interest to be allowed to tow for as many violations as possible (including permits), its not always to the benefit of the property. So when should a property consider enforcing permits? Here are the two reasons where it helps:

Reason Number One: You do not have open parking spaces available for your residents.

This is a big one. And its one that matters to residents. If you have residents that consistently come home after 7pm and can never seem to find parking close to their unit, its an issue. Basically, they renew their distaste for living on your property nearly every time they come home. If your property is to be their home, then frustrating a resident every time they come around is not a good move. And, if on top of that, they happen to know that their neighbor is parking six cars right in front of their unit, then the frustration becomes even greater. If good, paying residents are struggling to find space for their vehicle while visitors and residents with several cars are not, it can seem unfair and unjust to those who are following the rules.

If you walk your property anytime in the evening or, especially, after 10pm and notice that your parking lot is jammed with cars, then its probably time to start restricting the number of vehicles you allow in your lot. As I mentioned above, simply handing out permits and telling your residents they need to have one is not going to get the job done. After a few months of no negative consequence for not having a permit, the gig is up and you may as well not have even attempted to pass them out. A good way to tell if your residents are indeed respecting the permit rule is to just walk through your property at about 9pm on a Thursday night. If you see more than 10 to 15 cars without permits, you can rest assured that the permit is not making a difference and the overcrowding issues will continue to persist.

If you notice that your parking lot is very crowded and you’d like to enforce permits, definitely contact your towing service first. A lot should go into distributing parking permits with the idea of enforcing them and many issues can be prevented by coming up with an organized and systematic distribution plan. Before you give out the very first permit you’ll want to make sure you have addendums in place, that you know exactly how many spaces you have vs units vs leaseholders and what the rock-solid, no exception rules on distribution are going to be. Depending on many factors like reserved parking spaces, carports, garages, leaseholders and visitor spaces, the number of permits you should allow your property to give out changes. Make sure you are aware of all of those factors and have a plan in place with your towing provider before you send out any permit notices.

The Second Reason: There are Safety Concerns

The second reason that a property may enforce permits is because they have a lot of “traffic”. “Traffic” means you’ve got a lot of people on your property who are not leaseholders or people who may be causing disruptions (or both). In addition, a property that allows anyone and everyone to park anywhere and everywhere feels dramatically less safe, especially at night. This is an especially big concern for females who arrive after dark. And in the wintertime, “dark” comes at about 6pm.

If you’ve had issues where visitors or unauthorized occupants have caused problems, crashed your pool or if you have excessive litter and trash, much of this can be mitigated by enforcing permits. The simple act of not letting someone park on your property who does not have your express permission to be there cuts out a lot of the things you’d like to prevent anyway. This isn’t to say that residents can never have a guest over, but it does mean that at least 95% of the people parked on your property at any given time are individuals that you know and that are authorized to be there. Residents pay good money to live and park on a property. Visitors and unauthorized occupants do not.

The Blowback: Residents Getting Towed

Of course, the main reason that you would NOT want to tow for permits is that many residents fail to use their permit and end up being towed from their own apartment complex. There are many, many ways to prevent this. To keep this post short, I have condensed those thoughts into a newsletter article and will soon be publishing it here as a post. If you know that your property could benefit from restricting access, but you’re scared of towing a resident (as is to be expected), please read that post as well.