Victim of illegal tow in Denver fights for refund from towing company

2:36 PM, Jan 18, 2014   |    comments
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DENVER - The victim of an illegal tow has a warning for others: Don't assume a towing company has the automatic right to tow your car.

Tim Sylvester fought an illegal tow, and won.

He sent a newstip to 9Wants to Know and we found other drivers may be victims, and not even know it.

Sylvester got a refund for a $273 bill, because the towing company broke the law.

At 2:30 a.m. on New Year's Day, Denver-based Maxx Auto Recovery took Tim Sylvester's car from the Berkshires Apartments on the 6500 block of East Bayaud Avenue in Denver.

Sylvester suspected something was wrong, because Denver police never wrote a ticket.

His brother-in-law, who borrowed the car, was parked illegally in front of a fire hydrant.

"I'm in law enforcement. I have a background in it. So I'm somewhat familiar with towing procedures," Sylvester said.

Sylvester learned that Berkshires Apartments has a contract with Maxx Auto Recovery, allowing the company to tow cars from their private lot.

His car was on a public street, where only police can order a tow.

"This tow is not correct. It's not proper," Sylvester said.

Sylvester knew Maxx overstepped its authority as a private company towing from a public street without police intervention.

"And the Berkshires [management] was very nice, very cooperative and put pressure on the towing company to in fact give us a refund on the full tow bill. That was $273, which I thought was just crazy," Sylvester said.

Maxx manager Juliana Hand tells 9Wants to Know, the maps provided by the apartment complex were not properly labeled, showing the public street as private.

Hand says because the car was parked in front of a hydrant, it was a safety hazard, they were just trying to keep the community safe.

The maps have since been corrected and the tow bill refunded.

Hand says this is only time something like this has happened.

"It's wrong because of the potential for other victims," Sylvester said.

Sylvester filed a complaint with the Colorado Public Utilities Commission, the agency that regulates towing companies.

He hopes others will learn the rules, so they don't fall victim to an illegal tow.

"I just think the tow company is going to laugh all the way to the bank," Sylvester said.

If you're parked on private property, like a parking lot, a tow company has the right to take your car.

But if you're parked on a public street, even illegally parked, the police have to come and issue a citation first, and then they can order a tow.
If a towing company takes matters into their own hands, you're the victim of an illegal tow and you can fight for a refund and file a complaint with the state.

From the PUC Website:

The Public Utilities Commission (PUC) is open Monday through Friday, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
• For assistance with telephone, energy and water matters, or transportation issues please call the PUC Consumer Line at 303-894-2070 or 1-800-456-0858, if calling outside the Denver metro area, but within Colorado.

• Send Comments or Complaints by email to dora_puc_complaints@state.co.us


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