How to Fight an unfair tow?
March 7, 2011 10:48 AM   Subscribe

How do I fight a towing charge in Massachusetts?

I believe I was unfairly towed. I parked where I believed to be a public space, and my car was towed. After spending awhile hunting around the neighborhood for towing signs, I called three different signs (not near where I was towed), and luckily, found my car. I mentioned this to him (politely) and was subsequently sworn at and hung up on. When I attempted to find out (a) the location of my car, (b) the amount I would need to pay and (c) the procedure for getting it back, I was hung up on repeatedly. I needed to go online to find out where and how to get my car back. I additionally have problems with this behavior, but I also disagree with the tow itself.

I'm really not sure what to do, and a search of the internet isn't turning up much for me. Where can I find information about what to do with a tow I disagree with? Basically, I am wondering this: should I pick up my car and pay the fee today, or fight it? These do not seem like the type of people who will pay me just because I have a court judgment against them. I will continue to incur charges if I leave my car at the tow agency. Honestly, I'm fine with 140 bucks in charges. I just feel like I've been bullied and I don't want to take this sitting down.

I know you are not my lawyer. I am simply wondering if anyone can point me to resources I can use to figure out the relevant info on my own . I am also wondering what my other non-legal options. Is there any agency or place I can file a complaint with? Are they liscensed by a State Agency?
posted by HabeasCorpus to Travel & Transportation (5 answers total)
Parking enforcement is up to the individual city, I believe. Fighting a ticket in Boston is here, and they should be able to tell you how to handle the tow (if it was in fact in Boston).

You're probably going to have to pick up the car today or they're going to start charging a storage fee.
posted by backseatpilot at 10:59 AM on March 7, 2011

Best answer: "Private Tow Company Complaint Information
Telecommunications & Energy Department regulates all tow companies in the state of Massachusetts. (617)-305-3559
This state office will handle any disputes relative to a vehicle wrongfully towed in Massachusetts.
This state office can explain the trespass laws for vehicles and necessary signage required for tow companies.
A Boston Police Incident Report is not necessary. The Telecommunications & Energy Department must receive all documentation relative to complaints in writing."

Additionally (from the same link), if you're in Boston:

"If your vehicle is towed in the city of Boston, tow operators are required to call the Boston Police Tow Line at (617)-343 4629, and give all information relative to the vehicle and why it’s being towed. This must be done prior to the tow company removing the vehicle. The Boston Police Tow Line keeps a record of vehicles towed and assigns a tow sequence number. To forward a complaint, call 617-343-4629 and give the operator your vehicle registration number and request the tow sequence number, reason the vehicle was towed, time the vehicle was towed and from where the vehicle was towed. In your written complaint to the Telecommunications & Energy Department you may want to include all the above information as well as receipts and pictures. You can fax your letter to 617-723-7947 and make it to the attention of Telecommunications & Energy Department, C/O Timothy Davis or mail all pertinent information to: Telecommunications & Energy Department100 Cambridge Street, Room #1203 Boston, MA 02202"
posted by rtha at 11:04 AM on March 7, 2011

Best answer: 1. Go get your car, storage fees suck. Just suck it up and do this. Yes it sucks. Just do it. Get receipts.
2. Figure out if your car was towed because it was [allegedly] violating a city parking rule, or because someone called a towing company on you [i.e. you were blocking a driveway or some other business]. This will tell you how to work through the system. If the towing company has a contract with the City of ________ you can bet they'll pay if you have a court judgment against them.
3. There are two paths. a) an official appeal 2) Consider talking to your local representative in a general sense about the bad situation. The appeal will take a while and go through channels but your rep may be able to deal with the larger "customer service" issue you dealt with.

I totally understand it sucks when people are dicks to you, basically steal your car and then make it difficult to get back. Set that aside in the interests of solving the main problem [getting car back, getting $ back] and not getting an ulcer. It is not debatable that the treatment of you sucked. Make getting some sort of retribution or whatever the second part of your plan of attack and realize that being decent [and not hollering back] during part one will help make part two go much better.
posted by jessamyn at 11:06 AM on March 7, 2011 [3 favorites]

Pick up your car. If you were towed for being illegally parked there may also be a ticket on the car; if this is the case and the city in which you were towed allows appeals you may be able to contest the tow fee as well. It's almost certain they won't let you appeal storage fees, though.
posted by camyram at 5:12 PM on March 7, 2011

Response by poster: Thanks guys. I really appreciate the advice! Jessamyn, you were right: once I focused on getting rid of the GRAR I was able to handle things much better. I got my car back, by paying the silly bill.

And rtha pointed me in the right direction. Within the Telecom and Energy department there is a "DPU Transportation Oversight" unit that handles tow companies and their regulations. I was put in contact with someone there, and they helped me to lodge a written complaint about my treatment. They were super nice (I get the feeling they are used to dealing with crazy/sketchy tow companies). Even if my particular situation never gets worked out, it's nice to know that somewhere out there is actually a government official or two who are legitimately interested in my opinion and personal experiences, when formulating government policy about towing regulations. It was like a mini-lesson in civics! Metafilter win.
posted by HabeasCorpus at 7:38 PM on March 7, 2011

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