Towing companies have their customers in a bind. You want your car, you have to pay their rate; and in Seattle that could cost as much as $800.
Sky-high towing fees could be coming down to earth if Mayor Mike McGinn and Councilmember Nick Licata have their way.
The mayor and councilmember have proposed legislation that caps the maximum hourly rate a towing company can charge for impounding a car at $156.75. Towing a vehicle typically takes about an hour. One company, Citywide Towing, charges $798.26 for an hour of towing service, according to the city.
The legislation also attempts to curb other predatory towing practices, which include excessive fees and holding a car owner’s personal belongings until all tow fees have been paid.
Under proposed legislation, towing companies can only charge $15.50 for storing a car for up to 12 hours, and must allow people to retrieve their personal property from the vehicle without charging a fee.
The proposed legislation also requires towing companies to abide by the following regulations:
- Tow truck drivers must undergo a background check, possess a license to operate a tow truck and meet certain conduct standards.
- Towing companies must be available 24 hours a day to release an impounded vehicle.
- Towing companies must post signage about fees.
The city will create two full-time positions to manage the program: a license and standards inspector to investigate complaints and inspect towing facilities and an administrative specialist to issue licenses, collect license fees and monitor insurance required for tow trucks.
Licata and McGinn announced the proposed legislation at the end of July, but the full council will likely not vote on it until September, after the two-week council break, said Newell Aldrich, one of Licata’s legislative aids.
If passed, the city will hire the new staff in November, and the changes will take effect in January.