The Town of Chapel Hill has taken action to address concerns from residents and visitors about potential predatory towing practices in Chapel Hill. The tow ordinance regulates any non-consensual tow from commercial non-residential property.
A few of the key changes that were enacted by the Town Council are that tow lots may not be located farther than 15 miles outside of town, and tow zones must be marked with required signage. Also, at the time of payment or vehicle release, towing companies must show the person making payment a copy of the “Town of Chapel Hill Towing Information Handout.”
If you feel that a tow operator is in violation of the Chapel Hill Tow Ordinance, please contact the Chapel Hill Police Department at 919-968-2760 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Frequently Asked Questions
CHAPEL HILL POLICE NOTIFIED?
When towing a vehicle, the tow truck operator who is removing the vehicle must report by telephone to the Chapel Hill Police Department a license tag number, description of the vehicle, the location that the vehicle is being towed from and its present location. This report must be made before the tow truck towing the vehicle leaves the private property from which the vehicle is towed.
WAS THE TOW ZONE ADEQUATELY MARKED?
Private properties that allow towing must display prominent signs that clearly state the tow-away zone. The business property owner is responsible for setting specific tow policies. If the property owner adopts a “walk-off tow” policy, a the signs must include a statement that notifies patrons. Examples may be: “If you walk off this property, you are subject to being towed. This includes patrons who are frequenting business on this property.” There are additional signage rules to those stated here.
WHAT IS A WALK-OFF TOW POLICY?
This is a policy whereby a property owner permits a customer's vehicle to be towed when he/she walks off the property after transacting business there, but leaves the vehicle on the property.
WHAT IF I RETURNED TO THE PARKING LOT BEFORE MY VEHICLE IS TOWED?
If the owner, operator, or someone else returns to the vehicle when it is about to be towed, the tow operator must release the vehicle if the person can pay all tow fees on the spot.
WHERE IS MY VEHICLE?
The tow storage lot must be located no farther away than 15 miles of Town limits. The lot must be clearly signed. It should be secured and lighted so that vehicles are safe from break-ins while in storage.
CAN I PAY BY CREDIT CARD?
Yes. The ordinance requires that a tow operator accept cash, debit and two nationally recognized credit cards. The tow operator may charge an additional fee for credit card payment.
CONTACTING THE TOW TRUCK OPERATOR
It is important that you are able to reach the tow operator who has your vehicle. The telephone number provided to you by the tow operator must be functioning. Calls to the telephone number must be answered by a person or a call back must be initiated, by a person, within fifteen (15) minutes of a message being left on voice mail or answering machine type device. A person with the authority and ability to release the vehicle must respond to the location of the vehicle within thirty (30) minutes of a call being answered or voice message, when applicable, being returned.