Tow truck Ocean City

Ocean City Council members will consider making changes to the towing ordinance that address predatory towing and administrative fees associated with the time frame of when companies request reimbursement for taking vehicles away.

Tow truck companies in Ocean City will soon have to abide by a few new rules after complaints of predatory towing made their way to city officials, along with one company not requesting reimbursement from the city for tows until after a year.

Ocean City Police Capt. Mike Colbert introduced two resolutions to the police commission on Monday.

The first resolution establishes an administrative fee that would be imposed if a towing company fails to ask for reimbursement from Ocean City more than 90 days after the tow occurred.

Colbert said the fee is being proposed after one towing company continued to tow vehicles for an entire year before asking for reimbursement, when normally, the reimbursement is asked within 30 days of a tow.

“These guys didn’t ask for money for an entire year,” Colbert said, though he did not mention the company’s name.

Councilman Matt James asked Colbert and City Solicitor Heather Stansbury why the city should impose the fee after 90 days when the tow companies are required to request reimbursement within 30 days.

Stansbury said the timeline could be shortened to 30 days, but the money could not be forfeited.

“I just don’t like how we always have to hold people’s hands,” James said.

The second proposed modification addresses predatory towing, or when tow truck operators go to private properties and take vehicles away without permission.

The intent of the resolution is to tighten the rules when towing vehicles off private lots.

Whenever vehicles are towed from private properties, a form must be filled out that lays out what the requirements are. Many truck drivers, according to Colbert, already have the forms pre-filled with a property manager or owner’s signature. That can lead to vehicles being towed at will.

If the proposed resolution is approved, property managers or owners will be required to take a picture of the vehicle that is illegally parked in their lot. The photo would then be sent to the towing company to say this is the car and it is not allowed to be on the premises.

The idea, as mentioned during the meeting, is to curb predatory towing, and with the widespread use of cell phone cameras, it is possible for the property management to send a picture to the towing company.

Stansbury also said the resolution is trying to prevent tow companies from doing something illegal.

Capt. Elton Harmon added that the photo requirement ensures that tow truck drivers driving around with pre-filled forms won’t be able to use them as justification.

After a brief discussion, the commission endorsed both resolutions, which will go before a full City Council at an upcoming meeting.

This story appears in the print version of Ocean City Today on June 17, 2022.

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