Towing Vehicles of Delinquent Unit Owners: Is This Permissible?
As New Jersey condominium law attorneys, we have seen our fair share of delinquent and irreverent tenants and unit owners blissfully enjoying the common areas of the property while falling months’ behind on dues and association fees. In this situation, what is a unit owner to do? While on the one hand, it is hardly fair for certain habitual-defaulters to enjoy the same amenities as their dues-paying neighbors.
However, New Jersey laws and the governing documents of the association must also be considered when contemplating the best way to handle this awkward and problematic scenario. The following discusses one plausible solution when faced with delinquent unit owners: towing their vehicle off the property.
When Towing May be Appropriate
In many scenarios, towing a unit owner’s vehicle off-property (just once) may be what it takes to send the message that association dues and fees must be paid on time, and in full. But, as you are likely aware, moving someone’s vehicle from point A to point B technically involves trespassing – and could possibly expose the condominium manager to civil or criminal liability if the situation is not handled appropriately.
The first step is to carefully review the property’s governing documents for mention of the right to tow vehicles. While the language of your covenants and restrictions may not expressly mention towing vehicles, it may make reference to a suspension of the use of common areas by anyone with an account in default. In other words, if your property is within its rights to suspend use of the pool or clubhouse by delinquent residents, you may also be able to suspend use of the common parking areas as well.
In most instances, New Jersey condominium law – and your governing documents – requires notification to the delinquent residents prior to suspension of privileges, and perhaps a short window of time within which the resident can bring his or her account current prior to adverse action.
Once you are ready to tow the vehicle, make certain to use a reputable towing company to complete the job quickly and carefully. Damage done to the resident’s vehicle may result in liability for the association for the repair cost – which could render the entire exercise meaningless.
New Jersey’s Predatory Towing Law
Under New Jersey law, it is considered a violation of the Predatory Prevention Act of 2007 for a unit owner to arbitrarily tow a resident’s vehicle without prior notice that the tow could occur upon the occurrence of certain conditions (e.g., delinquency). Moreover, the Act mentions the following additional requirements:
- The tow company must maintain a contract with the owner or manager or the private property for the provision of tow services
- The tow company must hold private liability insurance
- The private property must maintain signage of at least 36” by 36” stating (i) the purpose and times wherein parking is authorized; (ii) unauthorized parking will result in towing at the owner’s expense; (iii) the name, address and telephone number of the towing company under contract with the property; (iv) charges for towing and storage of towed vehicles, and; (v) the location of the storage facility
- Towing fees must be reasonable and not excessive, which is defined as no greater than 25 percent of the fair market value for tow services in the area at the time
Contact Griffin Alexander PC Today
If you are a condominium or community association manager or owner, we look forward to working with you on solutions to handle your default and delinquent residents. For more information on New Jersey and New York condominium law, please contact Griffin Alexander at our New Jersey office by calling (973) 366-1188 or at our New York office by calling (212) 374-9790.