Effective October 1, 2012, any Maryland community association that has three or more general common element or general common area parking spaces must comply with the new signage and towing authorization procedures outlined in Sections 21-10A-02 through 21-10A-05 of the Transportation Article of the Maryland Code. 

These laws require that:

A: Signs must, as of October 1, 2012, comport with the following:

1. Be at least 24 inches high and 30 inches wide;
2. Be clearly visible to a driver of a motor vehicle entering or being parked;
3. State the name of the towing company AND the location to which a vehicle will be towed;
4. Indicate that State law requires that the vehicle be available for reclamation 24 hours per day, 7 days per week;
5. State the maximum amount that the vehicle owner may be charged for the towing of the vehicle;
6. Provide the telephone number of a person who can be contacted to reclaim the vehicle;
7. There must be one (1) sign for every 7,500 square feet of parking space (approx. every 49 spaces assuming 8.5' by 18' standard parking space).

It is critical to ensure that the new signage requirements are in place before any vehicles may be towed after September 30, 2012.  If your community does not install the new signs, you must suspend towing (for non-safety related tows) until such signs are installed. 

B.  Before towing or removing a vehicle, the tow company must have the authorization of the parking lot owner (association), which shall include:

1. The name of the person authorizing the tow or removal (unclear if the "Board of Directors" or the "Management Company" is sufficient, or if a specific person, "Jane Doe, Manager" or "John Doe, Board President" is necessary, but we would suggest naming the board or management);

2. A statement that the vehicle is being towed or removed at the request of the parking lot owner (unclear if this "statement" can be a blanket/on-file statement granting rights to remove vehicles or if a statement is required per-tow); and

3. Photographic evidence of the violation or event that precipitated the towing of the vehicle.

C.  A vehicle may not be towed solely for a violation of failure to display a valid current registration until 72 hours after a notice of violation is placed on the vehicle.

Other provisions of the new statute apply more directly to the towing companies; however, since an aggrieved vehicle owner may also be able to hold the owner of the parking facility (the association) liable for any damages, all associations need to confirm that the towing contractor is aware of the new requirements.  We also recommend that the towing contract be reviewed and possibly revised to reflect that the contractor is aware of and will comply with the applicable towing laws, and that the contractor agrees to hold harmless, indemnify, and defend against claims associated with the failure to comply with such laws.

For our Montgomery County community association clients, we understand that efforts are underway to seek guidance from the County Attorney's Office as to how these new state laws will be enforced in the County as Chapter 30C of the Montgomery County Code arguably has more stringent towing regulations already in place.

We will send follow-up alerts as we receive more information; however, in the current state of uncertainty, we are recommending that all of our Maryland community association clients immediately comply with the new signage and authorization requirements set forth above prior to initiating any towing of vehicles from general common element or general common area parking spaces on or after October 1, 2012.

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