She assumed someone stole it. It wasn’t until she spoke with a rental agent that she found out a company called Wyatt’s Towing had taken it overnight. The whole situation confused Bryant. She had a parking permit posted. It was not parked in an escape route. She wasn’t blocking anyone else’s car.
The tow put a damper on his plans to move, and the cost to retrieve him cost $470, plus tax.
“I’m lucky financially that it didn’t put me on edge in any way,” Bryant said. “I was just bored and angry and wanted my car and my money back.”
Protections for everyday drivers
Thousands of people have their cars towed in Colorado every year.
But Bryant’s episode was unique. She was one of the first Coloradans to have her car towed after a new law was implemented to protect drivers from predatory towing on private property. The “Towing Bill of Rights” legislation was passed in the last legislative session and came into effect on August 10.
The law makes a number of changes to state rules that deter businesses from removing cars from residential areas like apartment complexes, mobile home parks and neighborhoods. For example, tours must give 24 hours notice before picking up vehicles in most cases.
“There are good players in the towing industry, and there are others who are just predators,” said Rep. Naquetta Ricks, Democrat and co-sponsor. “They’ll just drive around apartment complexes looking for an excuse to take your car. That’s what we’re looking for.
Other new rules include the following:
- Companies can no longer tow solely for expired registrations and plates, except by order of law enforcement.
- Companies must release a vehicle, free of charge and upon request, if the vehicle is still on private property when an owner discontinues a tow.
- Tow companies must release towed motor vehicles once they have received 15% of the overall charge, up to $60.
- Companies must release the contents of towed vehicles from private property upon request, even if you cannot pay to retrieve your car.
The law also gives more teeth to state regulators overseeing the towing industry, including an additional $100,000 for the Colorado Public Utilities Commission. This money will be used to hire an additional full-time investigator to investigate consumer complaints. The PUC estimates to obtain more than 400 complaints of this type each yearwhose number increases every year.
Bryant, who works as an analyst at a fintech company, found out about the law after researching it online and made it his personal mission to get her car back and get her $470 back. She suspected that Wyatt had violated at least one of the new state rules.
She wanted to share her experience to help other residents understand their rights, she said.
“It can happen to anyone,” Bryant said. “And I realize that if I hadn’t been in the financial situation that I am currently in, my story could have been much worse.”
Search and rescue
After realizing her car had been towed, Bryant was taken by her mother to the local Wyatts Towing car pound.
There she spoke with a receptionist who told her her car had been towed due to an expired parking permit, Bryant said. This reasoning didn’t make sense to Bryant, because she had just bought a permit from her property manager and had it hung on her rear view mirror.
“So I paid with a credit card and got a receipt from Wyatt with the false statement that I didn’t have a license,” she said. “They let me into the tow yard and before I touched my car I pulled out my phone.”
She recorded video of herself zooming in on the front windshield of her Kia, noting the yellow parking permit hanging prominently. In the video, moving boxes and an overturned houseplant are still visible on the passenger seat.
After taking the video, Bryant paid the $470 towing fee, collected his keys, and drove home. There she began to gather the facts of her case as a personal investigator. That night, she wrote up an email of the incident with her name, address and a timeline of her towing incident and submitted it through a portal on the Public Utilities Commission website. website.
She also sent a copy of her complaint to an email address where the PUC also accepts complaints against towing companies. She attached copies of her receipts from Wyatt’s and a link to her cellphone video of her valid license in the complaint. She also copied her apartment complex and local state lawmakers.
Then she waited.
Bryant’s complaint kicked off a day of email correspondence between state investigators and Wyatt.
A PUC staff member contacted the towing company. In their request, they asked for an explanation as to why Bryant’s car was towed.
That same day, a rental agent at Bryant’s apartment complex also contacted Wyatt via email, asking for more information.
After looking into the matter, the company realized that one of its drivers had mistaken his parking permit for a fake and towed it to the spot. Wyatt immediately refunded his credit card charges, said Trevor Forbes, CEO of Wyatt.
“We are truly sorry for the inconvenience Ms. Bryant experienced and have made operational changes to prevent this specific error from occurring in the future,” he said.
Bryant believes Wyatt violated the Towing Bill of Rights’ new 24-hour notice rule. But the company disagrees, Forbes said, because the law allows for certain exceptions, including when cars are parked in handicapped spaces, fire lanes or in a location that requires a permit for residents.
Public parking spaces, such as street meters, are also not protected by the new rules, he said.
“These circumstances are very significant,” Forbes said. “People think in Colorado now you get free parking anywhere for 24 hours and it doesn’t matter. And that’s not true.
PUC representatives declined to discuss the details of Bryant’s complaint and the legality of the tow, saying it was still being reviewed by investigators. The agency referred CPR News to a page on his website about the new rules regarding towing on private property.
Two days after Bryant filed her complaint, a PUC staff member called her to let her know that they had spoken with a representative from Wyatt’s Towing. She told Bryant that the company had admitted making a mistake and would refund Bryant’s money in full.
“I didn’t expect to have a cure, especially so fast,” Bryant said. “So that was great.”
His advice to anyone who has been towed is to keep a record of your communication with your towing company on paper and file a complaint as soon as you get your vehicle back.
“Do it while it’s still fresh in your mind,” Bryant said. “Get it in the eyes of the people who can do something with it.”
Another new process
It’s unclear how many cases like Bryant’s the PUC has investigated since the new towing law took effect in August. The commission tracks consumer complaints, but the latest available data is from July this year.
“The regulations are so new that there hasn’t been much time to see a trend,” said Gail Connors, media relations manager for PUC.
The committee updated his website to better educate consumers about the new law, including advice on how to file a complaint. A list of exceptions to the new 24 hour notice rule is also posted there.
If you still believe your car was towed illegally, Connors suggests filing a complaint with “very specific” details about your situation and why you believe it was towed illegally.
Other details to share include the following, according to Connors:
- What led to the towing?
- Have you already collected your vehicle?
- Did you park in a parking lot that required a permit?
The new law was designed to protect low-income Coloradans who have historically been most at risk of predatory towing. That’s who will likely benefit the most from the changes, said co-sponsor Ricks.
“For some people living on the fringes, $400 or $500 is the difference between daycare, rent, or food,” she said. “So we really want to make sure that we all live in this place so that we can co-exist with the tow truck companies and the drivers can feel safe when they park their cars and they’re not breaking the law. “