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Vermont lawmakers consider guardrails around towing fees

A coin operated parking meter with cars parked along the side of the road on a busy downtown street.
Amy Kolb Noyes
Vermont Public
Currently, operators set their own rates for towing and storage fees, along with whether to allow access to impounded vehicles. There are no state laws requiring companies to disclose their rates.

State lawmakers are considering capping how much tow companies can charge to move vehicles that are parked illegally or abandoned.

Nationwide, 27 other states have a maximum fine for towing, but Vermont doesn’t.

Lawmakers also commissioned the state’s Attorney General’s office to research best practices for things like storage fees and transparency around rates.

“Frankly, a huge part of the initiative here was to determine, 'how do we strike a balance between what is reasonable and not reasonable in the scope of towing,'” attorney Christopher Curtis told lawmakers at a hearing earlier this month.

“You're not seeing BMWs and Teslas lose titles to the vehicle because somebody just left them at the lot.”
Christopher Curtis

Curtis estimated that hundreds of Vermonters lose their vehicles every year after getting towed because they can’t afford to pay the storage fees to retrieve them. Cars left in tow lots for three weeks are retitled.

“You're not seeing BMWs and Teslas lose titles to the vehicle because somebody just left them at the lot,” Curtis said.

Lawmakers also want to ensure towing companies are adequately paid for their work.

“We don’t want to shut them down. We want to make sure they’re able to make money,” said Rep. Michael Marcotte of Newport, a Republican who chairs the House Committee on Commerce and Economic Development.

The Attorney General’s report recommends a maximum of $125 per tow for passenger vehicles and $25 per day for storage fees, while lawmakers previously proposed a $90 cap on tow fees and $20 storage fees.

This story was produced in collaboration between Vermont Public and the Community News Service. The Community News Service is a student-powered partnership between the University of Vermont’s Reporting & Documentary Storytelling program and community newspapers across Vermont.

Sam Jefferson is a senior at the University of Vermont majoring in journalism and minoring in philosophy.
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