A bill to put stricter rules in place regarding the rights of property owners and towing companies to remove vehicles parked illegally faced tough opposition in the Transportation Committee on Friday afternoon.
Committee Chair Rep. Roland Lemar (D-New Haven) said that they had done a lot of work on the bill and worked to address concerns by the industries most directly targeted by the legislation while also addressing concerns from those who feel their vehicles have been unfairly targeted.
Following revisions, the bill has been limited to residential properties and lawmakers added clauses regarding signage, allowing non-consensual towing of vehicles that park in handicapped zones, fire lanes, or other demarcated areas that could cause a safety hazard.
“We really want to get after what we see as the bad actions,” said Rep. Lemar “The bad actions that even the industry itself recognize were inappropriate.”
The bill would require tow companies to list additional pricing to release towed vehicles, including pricing to release vehicles that were on the back of a tow truck but hadn’t been removed from the property. It would also require them to accept additional payment types other than cash, which would make paying fines easier and hopefully cheaper.
Additionally, it included provisions requiring owners of certain properties to give at least 24 hours written notice before a vehicle is towed to allow the offending party to move the vehicle. It was further clarified that tenants of rental units who found their assigned parking spot was taken by another car would not have to wait the 24-hour period.
The bill faced strong opposition from owners of rental properties as well as towing companies during its public testimony period.
“I think the challenge of sections two through to five is a balance between consumer protections and rights, personal property rights, and ultimately the third component of how the towing business works,” argued Ranking Member Sen. Tony Hwang (R-Fairfield). “They vary in such range.”
Sen. Hwang commended those who spoke at the public hearing on both sides of the issues, noting, in particular, those who offered a deeper understanding of the costs associated with running a towing company safely and efficiently. He said that his dissenting vote was a call for further conversation, debate, and edits to the bill to curb the impact on the towing industry while still weeding out bad actors.
Proponents of the bill see it as a consumer protection bill, keeping bad actors from unfairly targeting vehicles and protecting consumers from predatory fines and other expenses that can hurt lower-income residents.
The committee voted 15-9 to advance the bill to the floor of the General Assembly, but several committee members were not on hand to cast their votes. A final tally will be reported out later this evening.