OLR Bill Analysis

SB 509 (File 431, as amended by Senate "A")*

AN ACT CONCERNING THE TOWING OF REPOSSESSED CARS, AND NOTICES REQUIRED FOR TOW ZONES.

SUMMARY:

This bill regulates the use of a “wheel locking device to render immovable” (i.e., “booting”) on an unauthorized vehicle on private property. Among other things, it:

1. specifies signage and notification requirements,

2. limits boot removal fees to $50 or less and requires 10 percent of the fee to be remitted to local police, and

3. requires entities that boot vehicles to be available during specified times to remove the boot.

The bill also expressly permits lending institutions to repossess vehicles by contracting with a licensed wrecker or an entity that is exempt from licensure. In doing so, it applies a number of provisions governing the towing of unauthorized vehicles to vehicles repossessed by towing.

Finally, the bill (1) requires the placement of signs on private property where vehicles may be booted or towed and state property where vehicles may be towed and (2) specifies the information the signs must contain. It also allows municipalities to require the posting of signs containing this information where vehicles may be booted or towed.

*Senate Amendment “A” regulates booting cars on private property, specifies circumstances when signs are necessary to tow vehicles and the information they must contain, and adds entities exempt from wrecker licensing requirements to those expressly permitted to tow repossessed vehicles.

EFFECTIVE DATE: October 1, 2015

BOOTING VEHICLES

The bill permits owners or lessees of private property or their agents to boot unauthorized vehicles on their property, provided that signs containing the information required by the bill are posted on the property before vehicles are booted (see below). Vehicles may be booted only if they are in a secure location that is reasonably accessible for redemption. Under the bill, entities are prohibited from paying private property owners or lessees for the privilege of booting vehicles on their property.

Police Notification

Under the bill, any entity that is hired by a property owner to boot unauthorized vehicles must notify the local police chief, in a manner directed by the police chief, at least five days before booting any vehicles in that municipality. (Presumably, they must only do this the first time they are hired.)

The bill requires entities that boot vehicles to notify local police within two hours of booting a vehicle in writing or by email. Within 48 hours of receiving notification, the local police must enter the vehicle identification number in specified databases to check if the vehicle has been reported stolen. If it has, the police must immediately notify the department that reported the vehicle stolen.

Entities that boot vehicles must also retain police notification records on the property where cars are booted for at least six months and make the records available for inspection by a DMV inspector or local police.

Vehicle Redemption and Fees

The bill sets the fee for removing a boot at $50 or less, 10 percent of which must be remitted to the local police. The person paying the fee can choose to pay by cash, check, or credit or debit card. No entity may charge a boot removal fee before notifying the local police department.

The bill requires personnel to be available on the property to remove the boot for at least eight hours after booting a vehicle. If a vehicle is subsequently towed after being booted, the bill specifies that all provisions in existing law related to towing unauthorized vehicles apply.

Under the bill, vehicle owners have the right to inspect their vehicles before the boot is removed. Vehicle owners cannot be required to provide a release that releases the firm that boots their vehicle from liability for damages as a condition for releasing the vehicle. Entities that boot vehicles must provide vehicle owners with a receipt that includes the name of the entity that booted the vehicle and an itemization of any fees.

Unclaimed Vehicles

If a booted vehicle is not claimed in 48 hours, the bill requires the entity to mail a notice of the booting via certified mail to the vehicle's owner and lienholders. If the vehicle is not claimed within the time specified by law (15 or 45 days, depending on the vehicle's value), the entity may dispose of the vehicle in accordance with the law (CGS 14-150).

Transferring Titles

The bill also allows the DMV commissioner to adopt regulations specifying the circumstances under which a vehicle's title may be transferred to an entity that booted the vehicle and the procedures through which the entity may obtain the vehicle's title.

Penalties

Anyone that violates the bill's booting provisions commits an infraction and is subject to a $50 fine for a first offense. For second and subsequent offenses, violators face a $50 to $100 fine, 30 days in jail, or both.

REPOSSESSING VEHICLES BY TOWING

Current law neither permits nor prohibits towing vehicles in order to repossess them, although it does contemplate it by exempting entities that tow vehicles for the purpose of repossession from wrecker licensing requirements (CGS 14-66).

The bill expressly permits a lending institution to repossess a vehicle by contracting with a licensed wrecker or an entity that is exempt from licensure to tow it. It also applies provisions related to towing unauthorized vehicles from private property to those repossessed by towing. Specifically, it:

1. requires wreckers or exempt entities to notify the local police of the tow within two hours and retain record of the notification;

2. prohibits a wrecker or exempt entity from paying a lending institution for the privilege of towing the vehicle;

3. requires wreckers to keep copies of written contracts with lending institutions and provide them to DMV inspectors upon request;

4. prohibits the wrecker or exempt entity from charging a storage fee for the repossessed vehicle until it has notified the police in accordance with the bill;

5. gives lending institutions the right to inspect vehicles before accepting their return;

6. specifies that a lending institution may not be required to release a wrecker or exempt entity from damages as a condition for releasing the vehicle;

7. requires, if the vehicle is not claimed in 48 hours, wreckers or exempt entities that repossess vehicles to mail tow notices to vehicle owners and all lienholders; and

8. allows wreckers or exempt entities to dispose of vehicles that were repossessed and not claimed within 15 or 45 days, (depending on the value of the vehicle) in accordance with CGS 14-150.

Under the bill, lending institutions that repossess vehicles by towing must comply with existing law governing vehicle repossession (CGS 36a-785). Among other things, the law requires lending institutions to provide the buyer with adequate notice of their intent to repossess the vehicle.

Under current law, the local police department must be notified immediately if a vehicle is repossessed, by towing or otherwise, without the buyer's knowledge. The bill instead specifies that the local police department must be notified within two hours of the repossession.

SIGNS REQUIRED WHERE VEHICLES MAY BE BOOTED OR TOWED

The bill requires that owners or lessees of private commercial property, in order to tow or boot vehicles, post conspicuous signs on the property stating that unauthorized vehicles may be booted or towed along with (1) where towed or booted vehicles may be stored, (2) how such vehicles can be redeemed, and (3) any costs or fees that may be charged.

Under current law, a vehicle may be towed from a state parking lot if it violates the Department of Administrative Services' state parking lot policies and procedures. The bill allows the vehicle to be towed in such situations only if there is signage posted that gives adequate notice of such towing and includes the information required for signs on private commercial property.

The bill also gives municipalities the authority to require that conspicuous signage, with the information required of signs on private commercial property, be placed in any area where a vehicle could be towed or booted. (It is unclear who municipalities would require to post such signs.)

COMMITTEE ACTION

Transportation Committee

Joint Favorable

Yea

28

Nay

3

(03/18/2015)