Hempstead Town Enacts Tow Car Legislation to Enhance Safety, Protect Against Fraud and Reduce Traffic Congestion

Hempstead Town Supervisor Anthony J. Santino, Councilman Gary Hudes and the Town Board have approved legislation crafted to protect residents from fraudulent business practices, curtail dangerous traveling conditions and to prevent traffic congestion caused by tow car operators. The legislation includes a series of regulations and calls for a thorough vetting of applicants who seek to provide towing services in the Town of Hempstead.

The new policies combat unscrupulous practices, including an act known as “chasing,” whereby tow car operators seek out accident scenes, creating an environment of unfair competition and setting the stage for motorists to be overcharged and otherwise victimized by unscrupulous practices. The legislation also aims to protect residents from the non-consensual removal of privately owned vehicles from private and publicly owned parking lots, a practice that has also been known to lead to exorbitant fees to secure the release of confiscated vehicles. Under the new law, tow operators must wait 15 minutes before towing a car from a private parking lot, and release it for a nominal fee (at least a 40 percent discount of the regular rate) if the owner returns while the car is in the process of being hooked up.  

“There have been too many occasions where our residents have been impacted by the questionable acts of some unscrupulous tow car operators, creating an environment of fear and stress for those who have been victimized,” Santino said. “We are strengthening our laws to protect our residents and to also provide for fair competition among those in the towing industry.”

“We crafted this new legislation to protect our residents from being victimized by unscrupulous tow car operators,” Hudes said. “These laws aim to stop predatory tow operators from taking advantage of vehicle owners in distress, it will ensure that those who break the law are held accountable.”

The legislation also establishes an orderly system for the safe and expeditious removal of damaged or disabled motor vehicles from roadways; to supervise the control and operation of non-consensual towing businesses within the town;  to ensure that towing services for the removal of damaged and disabled vehicles from public highways are performed pursuant to a rotational list and vehicles are removed to locations where their vehicles are safely and securely stored; and to protect the public from fraud, overcharging and other abuses. What’s more, no repairs to a vehicle can be performed until an agreement is signed by the owner.

The legislation requires companies to maintain storage terminals that are secured and are open to vehicle owners from Monday to Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at a minimum and one day on the weekend. The companies are also required to release a vehicle within 60 minutes from the time the request is made by vehicle owners. Furthermore, companies must accept credit cards in addition to cash. If tow car operators are not compliant with the new policies, they are subject to newly increased fines and the potential for a suspension or revocation of license to operate a tow car in the Town of Hempstead.

“Our residents should not be intimidated or victimized by questionable acts of unscrupulous tow car operators,” Santino said. “These laws will provide better oversight of the towing industry and provide a set of regulations that honest towing companies must follow to ensure fair and safe business practices with consumers.”