Police and D.A. want to stop unauthorized towing of vehicles
SAN ANTONIO - A local man is towed for parking in front of his own business. He asked the News 4 Trouble Shooters to investigate how that's possible. Jaie Avila uncovered a towing company practice that police want to crack down on.
Alex Sanchez and his wife Sylvia own a hair salon in the Stone Oak area. Last week they left one of their cars parked directly in front of the salon overnight. The next morning they discovered it had been towed, and not very gently judging from the scrapes on the asphalt.
"I was pretty ticked, I was pretty upset. I didn't think it was possible to tell you the truth, especially in front of your business establishment," Sanchez said.
He had to pay $219 to get his car back from Bexar Towing, which has signs at the entrance to the shopping center that say "no afterhours parking".
Sanchez wanted to know if that applied to people who work there. He says in recent months his daughter and an employee at the business next door also had their cars towed.
So he called the management company running the shopping center.
"They said they did not authorize anyone to tow our vehicles from here," Sanchez said.
In fact, the management company told the News 4 Trouble Shooters it doesn't have a contract with anyone to tow cars from the shopping center. State law says towing companies must have a contract with a property owner to legally tow vehicles from that lot.
"Not just because they feel like coming in and trespassing on private property and picking up any vehicle they feel like on our property," said Sanchez.
We contacted Bexar Towing, which declined an on-camera interview. A spokesperson told us in a phone interview the company used to have a contract with the previous owner of the shopping center.
"The ownership changed and nobody notified us. We were acting in good faith. We have already authorized a refund and have suspended towing from that location," said ElizabethGreydanus.
But now SAPD and state regulators are investigating.
The Bexar County District Attorney's Office says it met recently with SAPD to discuss this problem of cars being towed without authorization. It says in the future, cases like this will be reviewed to determine if towing companies should be charged with auto theft.
So if your car is towed, call the property owner and confirm they have a contract with the towing company to remove cars. Even if there are signs, they might be old. The towing bill should also list who authorized the tow.
If you want to dispute a tow from private property, information on the back of your receipt should have instructions how to take the case to Justice of the Peace Court.
SAPD also has a Wrecker Unit at (210) 207-2348.
On Friday evening, Bexar Towing issued a statement:
"Our company contracts with private property owners and managers to help manage parking concerns on their properties. Many property owners utilize towing companies to ensure that unauthorized or illegally parked vehicles do not remain on their property. We document our authority to tow vehicles, at the request of the property owner/management with a written contract, and changes to contracts are also documented in writing.
"In this case, we towed a vehicle that belonged to a tenant of the property that we were contracted to tow from. It was parked after business hours, and the authorization that we have on file is to tow vehicles that are parked on the property after business hours. We were unaware that this vehicle was authorized to be on the property. Once we confirmed that the vehicle belonged to a tenant, we offered to issue a refund to the vehicle owner.
"We appreciate that the San Antonio Police Department is taking steps to ensure that towing companies are complying with State and Local laws. We will continue to work with them to make sure that the needs of property owners continue to be met, and to ensure that we are operating within the parameters of the law."