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Delegate Lopez’s Anti-Predatory Towing Act Signed Into Law


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

April 9, 2024

Contact: Bryan Estey

Phone: (571) 336-2147


Delegate Lopez’s Anti-Predatory Towing Act Signed Into Law

Delegate Alfonso Lopez’s HB 959 will empower localities to finally take on

predatory towing and allow victims to recover damages


ARLINGTON, VA - On April 5th, Governor Glenn Youngkin signed Delegate Alfonso Lopez’s Anti-Predatory Towing Act, HB 959. When it goes into effect on July 1st, the bill will finally empower localities in Northern Virginia (Planning District 8) and the Fredericksburg-Stafford area (Planning District 16) to take on predatory towing, allow victims to recover damages, and increase the amount of damages recoverable when the Attorney General takes towing operators who break the law to court.


HB 959, passed both houses of the General Assembly with near-unanimous bipartisan support. On April 4th, it passed the Senate by vote of 37 to 2. And, on April 5th, the final version passed the House of Delegates by a vote of 99 to 1.


The Problem: Predatory towing in Northern Virginia (especially inside the Beltway) has been a consistent problem for years. Stories are rampant, including the towing of marked charity vehicles that were in the process of delivering hot meals to seniors, cars with children and pets in them, cars with the required permits to park in the lot they were towed from, and police cars. This can all be attributed to over a decade of systematic efforts to undermine the towing section of the Code just in Northern Virginia. The following is the current state of the Code of Virginia before the passage of HB 959 and towing issues faced in Northern Virginia:


  • Only in Northern Virginia, if an individual is the victim of unlawful, predatory towing practices, the victim MAY NOT sue for damages. The only person that can sue and seek restitution, injunctive relief, and attorney’s fees is the Attorney General of Virginia.

  • Also, if an individual is towed in Northern Virginia, the Attorney General is only able to seek civil penalties of up to $150 per violation, which is often less than the cost of the tow ($180). Moreover, the victim of an unlawful tow cannot collect the recovered penalty. That goes to the Literary Fund of Virginia. This creates a complete disincentive to sue and prevented accountability for towing operators in Northern Virginia.

  • Even though other areas across the Commonwealth and across the country already do it, localities in Northern Virginia (Planning District 8) and the Fredericksburg-Stafford-area (Planning District 16) may not require towing operators, during normal business hours, to get a signature from the owner of a parking lot or business (or their agent) approving them to tow a specific vehicle. In Virginia Beach, for instance, not only do the towers comply with the so-called “Second Signature” local ordinance with no major issues, but it has become common practice to get the second signature, even outside normal business hours to ensure everything is done properly, efficiently and the affected businesses are informed and engaged.

  • Northern Virginia faces issues with the practice of spotting that enables “Smash and Grab” predatory towing practices. Bad actors pay individuals to monitor lots, often ones that have unclear signage or that are shared jointly among multiple businesses and immediately summon the trucks to tow vehicles that fail to park in the correct spot. This has occurred so quickly that, for example, food delivery drivers are towed in the short amount of time they are dropping off or picking up their deliveries.


To be clear, under the current Virginia Code, Northern Virginia is explicitly prevented from having towing ordinances that are NORMAL practice in other localities in the Commonwealth and across the country.


HB 959, does the following:


  1. Allows localities in Northern Virginia (Planning District 8) and the Fredericksburg-Stafford area (Planning District 16) to pass ordinances requiring that, during normal business hours, towing operators get an express authorization from the lot owner or their agent to remove a specific vehicle (known as "second signature") before they tow it. This is common practice in other areas of Virginia and across the nation.

  2. Allows localities in Northern Virginia (Planning District 8) and the Fredericksburg-Stafford area (Planning District 16) to pass ordinances regulating the monitoring practices used by towing operations, including but not limited to the use of “spotters” to enable “smash and grab” tows of vehicles parked for as little as 3-4 minutes.

  3. Increases the penalties on bad actors that may be recovered when the Attorney General takes towing operators in Northern Virginia (Planning District 8) to court for violating state law and/or local ordinances from $150 to 10-times the amount charged for the unlawful tow.

  4. Allows the victims of unlawful tows to receive the penalties recovered by the Attorney General.


"One issue seems to unite the residents of Northern Virginia across party lines more than any other: the intense level of frustration about predatory towing,” stated Delegate Lopez. “After years of work, we are thankful that this common sense measure has been signed that empowers localities to address the challenges they face with predatory towing. Measures like these have been used for decades in places like Virginia Beach and localities and states across our region and the nation to ensure well-functioning trespass towing systems. Systems where improperly parked vehicles are removed promptly and safely, but valid complaints and predatory practices are rare."


To see a presentation and discussion of Delegate Lopez’s HB 959 in House Transportation Subcommittee, visit: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1JtDAcOeXnx47whDYNa3Lk9MmISLr5CO5/view?usp=sharing. The bulk of his presentation is between minute marks 3:23 and 8:49


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