PA 15-42—SB 509

Transportation Committee

AN ACT REGULATING THE TOWING OF MOTOR VEHICLES, THE USE OF WHEEL-LOCKING DEVICES AND THE REPOSSESSION BY LENDING INSTITUTIONS OF MOTOR VEHICLES

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

1. establishes signage and notification requirements,

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

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

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

Finally, the act (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 entities to post signs containing this information where vehicles may be booted or towed.

EFFECTIVE DATE: October 1, 2015

BOOTING VEHICLES

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

Police Notification

Under the act, 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 a municipality.

The act requires entities that boot vehicles to notify local police, in writing or by fax or email, within two hours of booting a vehicle. 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 theft.

Entities that boot vehicles must also retain police notification records at the location where cars are booted for at least six months and make the records available for inspection by a Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) inspector or local police.

Vehicle Redemption and Fees

The act sets the maximum fee for removing a boot at $50, 10% of which must be remitted to 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 act requires personnel to be available on the property to remove the boot for at least eight hours after booting a vehicle, and a sign must indicate when the boot can later be removed. If a vehicle is subsequently towed after being booted, the act specifies that all provisions in existing law related to towing unauthorized vehicles apply.

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

If a private property owner or lessee improperly causes a vehicle to be booted, the act deems the property owner liable to the vehicle owner for boot removal fees.

Unclaimed Vehicles

If a booted vehicle is not claimed in 48 hours, the act 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 act allows the DMV commissioner to adopt regulations specifying the circumstances in which a vehicle's title may be transferred to an entity that booted the vehicle and the procedures through which the entity may obtain title.

Penalties

Anyone that violates the act's booting provisions commits an infraction (which is payable by mail without a court appearance) and is subject to a $50 fine for a first offense. For subsequent offenses, violators face a $50 to $100 fine, up to 30 days in prison, or both.

REPOSSESSING VEHICLES BY TOWING

Prior law neither permitted nor prohibited towing vehicles to repossess them. The act 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. The act appears to allow lending institutions to boot vehicles to repossess them. (PA 15-5, June Special Session, 234 prohibits them from doing so. ) The act also applies provisions related to towing unauthorized vehicles from private property to vehicles repossessed by towing. Among other things, it:

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

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

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

4. prohibits the wrecker or exempt entity from charging a storage fee for the repossessed vehicle before notifying the police in accordance with the act;

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 of 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 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 act, 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.

Prior law required the local police department to be notified immediately if a vehicle was repossessed without the buyer's knowledge. The act 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 act 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 information on (1) where towed or booted vehicles may be stored, (2) how vehicles may be redeemed, and (3) fees that may be charged. (PA 15-5, June Special Session, 233 creates several exceptions to this rule, such as allowing private commercial property owners or lessees to tow vehicles parked in an area reserved for emergency vehicles without posting signs. )

Under prior law, a vehicle could be towed from a state parking lot if it violated the Department of Administrative Services' state parking lot policies and procedures. The act allows the vehicle to be towed in such situations only if there are signs posted that give adequate notice of such towing and include the information required for signs on private commercial property.

The act also gives municipalities the authority to require that conspicuous signs, with the information described above, be placed in any area where a vehicle may be towed or booted.

OLR Tracking: HP: CR: PF: cmg