But you must do it within the law to avoid, in some cases, being hit with some stiff penalties.
Maryland, the District and Virginia have different approaches to the problem. Here’s a look at the nuances of each jurisdiction.
In October, Maryland changed its transportation code to clarify the law regarding people who park illegally in a community association parking lot.
Associations with more than three common area parking spaces must post signs alerting drivers that their cars can be towed. The signs must be at least 24 inches high and 30 inches wide and must be posted so that at least one sign is clearly readable from each parking area in the lot as well as at the entrance to the property.
The signs must summarize all parking restrictions, indicate that violating vehicles may be towed at the car owner’s expense, and list the phone number that is answered at all hours of the day and night by someone who can tell the driver where his car was taken and how to redeem it.
Homeowners at non-association residences can call the police and have the car ticketed. The owner can arrange for a private towing company to remove the car, but in all cases, the police must be notified of the following: the name of the towing service as well as the make, model, year (if known) and license plate number of the towed vehicle. Additionally, the police must be given the address from where the car was towed, the time of the towing and the storage site where the vehicle will be stored.
If the law is violated, the property owner can be sued by the owner of the vehicle for actual damages as well as triple the amount paid to the towing company. If the homeowner is charged with and convicted of violating the towing law, he is subject to a fine of not more than $500 or imprisonment of not more than two months — or both.
The District’s towing law applies to all private properties. The police must be called and — if applicable — issue a parking ticket. Once that is done, either the police or the private property owner can arrange for a private towing company.
However, before the vehicle is removed, the towing company must provide a lot of information to the District Department of Public Works (DPW), including the name of the tow truck operator; details about the vehicle to be towed; the name and address of the person requesting the tow; the reason for the tow and the parking ticket number; as well as the address where the vehicle can be reclaimed. DPW will then issue a towing control number for each individual tow.
Drivers who cannot find their vehicles can call the District’s Towing Control Dispatch Center (202-541-6083) to find out whether their car has been removed. If so, they can go to the District’s Web site to determine where the car is. There is a “Towed Vehicle Locator” form, which can be found by searching “DC towing locator” on the site.