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Towing Fine Worth Fighting? (Fairfax, obscured spot, condo lot.)
Hi all, I am not a resident of the NoVA area (currently live in Hampton Roads), but I was up in Maryland visiting a friend before Christmas. On my way home, I stopped by the Penderview Condos in Fairfax to say hi to a friend/old co-worker. This was just a few days after the snow/ice hit the area (I believe around the 16th or 17th?)
Anyway I pulled into the complex and my friend over the phone said there were visitor spots but that nobody ever gets towed so not to worry too much about it. But since I'm a good, law-abiding citizen, I made sure to find and park in a visitor spot. I found a row of spots that were mostly empty, but there was a thick layer of compacted snow and ice covering the ends of the parking spaces so that the letters or numbers were almost entirely illegible. It was at night, and I was (obviously) new to the area so I was having a hard time making out which spots were which. I cruised back and forth a few times, pausing to roll down my window once or twice and inspect the spots. When I was sure I had identified a row of visitor spaces, I pulled into one.
About an hour later, my car was gone. Apparently I had parked in one of only 2 or 3 spots on that row that were not visitor. The resident who owned the spot called it in. (Some jerko, because apparently nobody ever parks there anyway.) I bailed my car out for $150, and drove home. Then I started getting mad, because I was truly trying to obey their parking regulations, and if I had been able to see that that space was not visitor, I obviously would not have parked there. So 48 hours later I had my friend take a picture of the space, and I called the tow company. Obviously they didn't refund me because they were just doing their job, towing a car for a call-in.
Then I called the HOA and spoke with the manager and they refused to help me as well, since they were not the ones who called the tow in, and because they had "never refunded anyone before". They also claimed that it was my responsibility to find a visitor spot and that they were not liable for keeping the spaces clear (I believe she said they didn't have to do boo about it until they got more than 2" of snow.) She also said that she had received no other complaints about the snow...well lady, here's your first!
Edit: Found out today that a snow plow had come through and plowed down the center of the parking lots and piled snow up at the end of the spaces, so that's why there was so much compacted ice still left in the area. So they HAD deemed the conditions bad enough to plow and perform some winter weather maintenance on the lot.
So my question now is, is this worth fighting further? I feel like I should not be held liable if the spaces were not properly cleared and I was not able to differentiate between visitor/resident spaces. I am on a shoestring budget and $150 is my "groceries and gas" money for a month...it made a big dent in my wallet and I'm going to be doing some serious scraping this month and next to make up for it.
Attached is a picture of the spot I parked in: PLEASE NOTE: This picture was taken 48 HOURS AFTER the incident. The snow/ice has melted by at least 50% at this point.
I'm not sure who you'd fight. You already called the towing company (who rightfully aren't doing anything), and the condo company really isn't liable either--there were probably signs that said they tow in the parking lot.
For $150, I'd just chalk it up to a lesson learned, unfortunately. I had the same problem at my apartment complex. Several times we had cars towed because of not getting the right visitor stickers for rental cars or visiting family. Frustrating as heck, but nothing you can really do.
That was my dilemma as well...I think my biggest deal is that while there were signs posted about designated parking, the designations were so obscured by ice that I could not differentiate between them. Technically, if I can't tell the spaces apart, I'm thinking I should not be held liable. The HOA absolutely would not be liable if it were under normal conditions...then again, if the conditions were normal, I would have been able to tell which space was visitor. It wasn't a matter of me not having a sticker or not seeing a sign - I was full aware that there were designated visitor spots, but the markings were illegible.
Getting back $150 is worth a little fight to me...I like eating things other than Ramen, and not having to walk 11 miles to work because I can't afford gas...
Indeed I understand your point as well, but I think it's a bit of a stretch to ask that visitors carry a snowshovel with them in case they need to clear a spot. What if I was elderly and not yet handicapped enough to get a sticker, but too infirm to stand outside for 30 minutes chipping away at a block of ice? I had no means to clear the spot (it wasn't powdery snow, remember). It does not fall under my area of responsibility to ensure the safety and maintenance of their parking lot.
Is it also now the responsibility of store patrons to carry their own bag of salt and look where they are stepping when walking on an icy sidewalk in front of a retail center?
Edited my original post to include the fact that I just found out they had plowed the lots and pushed the snow onto the ends of the parking spaces, which is why there was so much still there. So apparently there had been enough snow to warrant them performing maintenance on the parking lot.
If you really feel like someone other than you should be liable, then ask your friend to reimburse you for not taking the time to come out and and show you the visitor spaces. The resident did what he/she was entitled to do by having your car cleared from the spot that he/she pays for. The tow company did their job, by responding to the call from the resident. You could have called your friend and asked him to come out and show you where the visitor spaces were.
I just dealt with a similar situation myself. I had my car towed from my designated parking space because there was sand over my number. The gist of the situation is that the towing company is completely authorized to tow from the spaces that they are designated to tow from. In your case you had the owner of that spot tow you away from their spot, thus giving the towing company the ability to tow with impunity from that spot regardless of the condition of said spot. This puts everything on the person who you visited. It was their responsibility to inform you whether the spot you parked in was a visitor spot or not. You may be able to argue that it is the HOA's fault for not ensuring that the visitor spots were clearly, but I doubt you will get much headway with this since it was an isolated incident. In my case, I was lucky enough to have 2 members of the HOA board get towed in the same fashion.
It took me about 4 months to get this all resolved. Even if you do get lucky enough to have this work out in your favor it will take a while to work out the details. Basically you have to wait for an HOA meeting, present your case, have the HOA deliberate the point and determine the proper course of action, then if the HOA needs to, contact the towing contractor, deal with them.
I feel bad for your situation, and wish you the best of luck in getting this resolved.
I don't think this will apply in your case, but is similar in nature. Handicap spots must be marked a certain way or it is not considered a true handicap parking spot. VA code lists it has to have "above grade signage" Legislative Information System because of the exact occurrence that befell you. Now I understand that there isn't any code that visitor parking spots would fall under, but it's the same general idea.
The only reason I know of this obscure code is because we had 10 handicap spots at my last job. No one parked there. Well there were a few motorcyclists including myself who requested some designated motorcycle parking spots. It wasn't approved. We requested spots because the parking lot was always packed and we'd never get spots. So we found that the handicap spots weren't "real" handicap spots because there were no vertical signage indicating what they were (they did have the painted logo on the ground though). We took that up to the building superintendent/security and they said we could park there without any repercussions. So us motorcyclists occupied 4 of the 10 handicap spots in front. The upside is we also freed up spots in the normal parking area for regular cars. No bikes were ever towed from those spots either.
Do understand that I'm not a lawyer and I don't play one on TV
I think this situation sounds like one that should fall on the person you visited and the HOA. If it is their policy to keep the ground clear so that residents can identify a parking spot, then they would be violating HOA agreement. The person you visited definitely could have helped find a space, but that is not germane because if that person couldn't remember which space is which, you would still have the same problem. In my opinion this sounds like it would be a fight between the person you visited and HOA. The tow company did nothing wrong. I certainly understand your frustration because these HOA only care about themselves and have little regard to their residents. Most responsible HOAs would have a posted sign in addition to marking the space. I think the only chance you got on this is getting your friend to explain the policies there, but otherwise I don't think you're going to get much out of this.
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