My landlord had my car towed... from my own lot.
September 26, 2008 11:38 AM   Subscribe

My landlord had my car towed... from my own lot. Can I sue?

My truck has been broken into twice in the last 2 weeks. The second time, the window got smashed out. My parking spot is in the far corner of the lot, out of sight of my apartment, so I moved it to a spot under my window for a couple of hours.

The spot I moved it to is one of unassigned and unoccupied spots. There's no no parking sign, and when I moved in, the manager told me they were used for temp parking for visitors and moving. Sometimes a visitor will leave their car in one of these spots for up to a week.

So I put my truck in one of these spots at 2:30PM. At 6PM I walk out the door and the truck is gone. I call the towing company, and sure enough, the apartment manager has had it hauled away.

I was at home the entire afternoon, and my phone was on. The manager has my car in his records, as I pay $60/mo for my assigned space. He must have known it was mine (you can't enter the lot without seeing it in its usual place and it's fairly distinctive), and he made no effort to contact me about it.

So the question is, if I can't get him to pay me back ($145), do I have a case in small claims? This guy is a hyper-officious automaton, so I'm fairly convinced he won't take an interest in paying me back without some sort of coercion. Am I hosed?

(This is in BC)
posted by klanawa to Law & Government (13 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I would check your lease terms if I were you. Almost every apartment lease I've ever signed says that unsightly vehicles - which includes things like flat tires, broken windows, rustbuckets in general - can be towed at the owner's expense, regardless of whose they are or where they're parked. If your lease includes something about this, and you signed it, you may be out of luck. (This has happened to me before, and I was out of luck, myself.)
posted by katillathehun at 11:54 AM on September 26, 2008

IANAL, of course, but this sounds completely sue-able. However, the first thing you should do is take a long, hard look at the contract you signed. What stipulations are set up for parking?

Also, did you confront him about this? What was his explanation? Bring a witness with you if you haven't already asked him -- he could blurt out something legally important.
posted by Damn That Television at 11:54 AM on September 26, 2008

Is this the owner of the complex or just the manager?

If it's the manager, find out who the owner is or the company who owns the complex, and contact them to try and put some coercion into this without getting too legally involved.

If that doesn't work, small claims is definitely an option. Pay the bill and get your truck out, keep the receipt, document everything you can remember, and don't ask for any more than what your owed. Asking for damages for stress or what-have-you will just make you seem petty in front of a judge.
posted by brandoniain at 11:55 AM on September 26, 2008

Did you make any effort (in writing) to complain about the situation with the car? Have you taken photos of the parking spots from several angles?
posted by Pollomacho at 11:56 AM on September 26, 2008

Step 1: Move out.
Step 2: Sue.

Because you don't sue your landlord while you are living at his pleasure.
posted by smackfu at 1:38 PM on September 26, 2008

Response by poster: katillathehun: Definitely fine-tooth comb time. The truck is as-new and the window that was smashed could easily have simply been open. Not an eyesore at all.

Damn That Television: I have not been able to talk to the manager yet. He shows up for maybe 1/2 hour each day and checks his phone messages. He'll discover a fairly angry one from last night, but nothing too rash.

brandoniain: He's just a manager (as far as I can tell), otherwise noted.

Pollomacho: I may do the former, depending on his explanation and will do the latter.

smackfu: #1 is definitely a go.

Thanks for the answers so far. I mean, it's not the money that really bothers me, it's the manager's abject failure to do the minimally decent thing and ask me about it. I lost a lot more money to the theft but this was just kicking a guy when he's down.
posted by klanawa at 2:02 PM on September 26, 2008

Landlord has truck towed from his own property. Unless the lease says he can't do such, I'm not sure if there's much of a case here to sue on. It really boils down to renter rights, which in turn, depends a lot on your jurisdiction and what not. As is, I don't think you could go into small claims and expect to be told anything but "sorry!" by the court.
posted by Atreides at 7:31 PM on September 26, 2008

Response by poster: I checked the lease. It basically says the vehicle must be operational insured and makes no mention of assigned spaces (only "residential parking areas") or specific rules regarding towing, etc.
posted by klanawa at 8:51 PM on September 26, 2008

Sounds kind of generic. Your best bet is to convince a lawyer familiar with local lease laws who could probably tell you in a minute or so the exact answer you'd need to know if you should bother with it.
posted by Atreides at 10:45 AM on September 27, 2008

Small claims court in BC is easy.
We paid for a couch place to reupholster and restuff an old couch but when we opened it up, they had obviously reused old stuffing. Tried to fix it with the store, but they were unhelpful, so we sued. They didnt show up to the small claim court so the judge awarded us the full amount, close to a thousand. So we got a free couch reupholstering.
No lawyers needed.
posted by Iax at 12:03 PM on September 27, 2008

Response by poster: For the record, it turns out that there's another option. In BC, the Residential Tenancy Branch handles disputes between tenants and landlords. I looks like they're on par with the court and superseded only by the provincial supreme.

My discussion with the automaton was fruitless, so the next step is a registered letter to his employer. Hopefully by the time they tell me to stuff it and I file a complaint, I'll be living in less of a dump with better management.
posted by klanawa at 6:20 PM on September 27, 2008

Where I live, building managers or lot owners have a contract with a particular towing company, who then has the freedom to tow from that lot whenever they see illegally parked vehicles. If this is the case here, it's possible that the tow company towed you without any interference from the building manager, and that he could possibly help sort out the situation. Just an idea.
posted by jrichards at 10:01 AM on September 29, 2008

Response by poster: the manager has confirmed that he called it in (on so many levels, dude).
posted by klanawa at 12:04 PM on October 6, 2008

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