Oxford looking to get tough on towing

Published 2:47 pm Thursday, April 4, 2024

The Oxford Board of Aldermen is considering an ordinance amendment that will provide strict oversight of the towing of vehicles from both public and private property.

On Tuesday, Mayor Robyn Tannehill read several emails she’s received from visitors to Oxford and parents of University of Mississippi students who voiced concerns over how some tow companies are doing business.

Tannehill said she receives complaints about towing “quite often.”

Email newsletter signup

In one email, a student left their vehicle parked in the parking lot at the complex where he lived while on winter break. When he returned, his car was gone and he later discovered it had been towed because it allegedly had a flat tire. The towing company charged him almost $2,000 and demanded cash. The apartment complex said they allow the towing company to tow at their discretion.

In another email, a mother of two Ole Miss students came to town to take her sons to dinner. They parked behind the restaurant in a spot that was not marked reserved. However, there was a small sign mounted across the parking lot in a dimly lit area that they did not notice. The woman was charged $250 including an overnight charge even though the vehicle never got off the towing truck. The towing company also demanded cash.

In all of the complaints read by the mayor, it was noted that the tow companies only accept cash and are generally charging around $300 just for the expense of putting the vehicle onto the tow truck.

The proposed ordinance would not allow any vehicle to be towed from a public street without authorization from a law enforcement officer, the owner of the vehicle or authorized driver of the vehicle.

Before a vehicle could be towed from private property, the ordinance would require the towing company to obtain a request from the property owner or an authorized employee. In addition to the tow company maintaining a record of who authorized each tow, the property owner must maintain records of every vehicle towed from their property. The tow service’s records and the property owner’s records must be made available for inspection by the Oxford Police Department upon request.

The ordinance also makes it illegal for a towing company to pay a property owner in return for permission to tow a vehicle.

All towing vehicles will be required to have a license and insurance coverage – comprehensive liability with limits not less than $750,000; $25,000 on-hook coverage per vehicle and Garage Keepers liability insurance of $25,000 per location.

The ordinance also requires property owners to post clear and visible signage that is not less than 24×24 inches in size.

The ordinance also sets the maximum rate for towing from private property at $200 for a light-duty vehicle and $30 for each day the vehicle remains in storage. The towing companies cannot charge a storage fee for a vehicle unless they have had it in storage for at least 24 hours. The towing company must keep any towed vehicles in their impound lot for 10 days. It can moved to a facility outside of the city limits, but within Lafayette County, after 10 days; however, the company cannot charge any relocation fees.

Any towing service must report that they towed a vehicle to the Oxford Police Department within one hour of towing the vehicle.

Tuesday was the first reading of the proposed ordinance. A public hearing will be held at 5 p.m. on April 16 at City Hall.

Read the entire proposed ordinance on the city’s website by clicking here.