Colorado lawmakers say they’ll take on ‘predatory’ towing companies

A pretty full parking lot at the University of Denver. Sept. 28, 2021.
Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite
A pretty full parking lot at the University of Denver, Sept. 28, 2021.

At some apartments and mobile home parks in Colorado, it’s not unusual to wake up and find your car has been towed over a minor infraction — and you could owe hundreds to get it back.

“Because they didn’t park squarely on their driveway, their vehicle is towed, and they can’t afford to release it, and their kids’ car seats are in it, and they don’t know which lot is in it,” said state Rep. Edie Hooton, a Boulder Democrat, listing the problems that can cascade from an incident like this.

This year, Hooton wants to crack down on companies that tow residents over small infractions in order to collect fees.

State law already requires residential communities to write out contracts that specify when and why a towing company can take cars. But Hooton suspects some community managers are skirting that requirement and giving towers carte blanche for predatory practices.

Hooton and state Rep. Naquetta Ricks, both Democrats, plan to introduce a “vehicle owner’s bill of rights” that would put more teeth into those existing state laws. They want to ensure that each tower is working under a specific contract and that residents have access to its terms.

“This is a serious problem in these communities,” Hooton said.

Sharing the documents would ensure that people know when they can be towed. She also wants to consider increasing the staff of the agency that regulates towing companies, and potentially increase fees on companies that break the law.

The forthcoming bill, which hasn’t yet been drafted, could require communities to file their towing contracts with state regulators.

“We want to make sure that every mobile home park and HOA  — that they all have contracts, and we want to make sure that there is an enforcement mechanism with those contracts,” Hooton said.

She also is concerned that people can be towed over violations such as expired license plates, which she described as a “law enforcement issue” outside the concern of private companies.

John Connolly, state president of the Towing and Recovery Professionals of Colorado, said that the industry would work with legislators on the new law.

"The Towing and Recovery Professionals of Colorado have always supported good legislation and will continue to do so. Our main mission is to help the state of Colorado and our communities in providing safe and efficient towing services. We look forward to helping Rep. Hooton and Rep. Ricks with their mission to close loop holes in current private property laws to help protect consumers and the integrity of the towing industry," he wrote in an email.

The Rocky Mountain Home Association, which represents mobile home community owners, didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.

Editor's note: This article was updated on Jan. 5, 2022 with comment from the Towing and Recovery Professionals of Colorado.