Dr. HOA,
We recently rented a condominium and had both of our vehicles towed our first weekend living in the community.
While moving in, our garage was full of boxes, so we parked one of our cars in front of our garage for the night and the other in a visitor parking spot near our unit. When we woke up the next morning, both cars had been towed.
We believe we were towed illegally, and I am requesting a refund from the association for the towing and storage charges, which totaled nearly $700. Can the association tow without even issuing a warning? Is it legal for the association’s parking rules to differ from city parking rules?
There are no parking rules posted anywhere in the community. How can we be responsible for knowing the rules when nothing is posted? Are no parking signs and parking rule signs required to be posted if they are going to tow?
—Julie D.

Hello Julie,
I receive several emails and telephone calls every month from concerned homeowners and guests regarding the legality of associations towing vehicles.
While I am not an attorney and the association’s authority to tow vehicles is community-specific and outlined in governing documents (covenants, conditions and restrictions, rules & regulations and policies), most associations do have the legal right to adopt and enforce parking policies, which includes the right to tow.
Without having the ability to review your association’s specific rules, or knowing how your association was developed, I will address your concerns in general terms.
Because the association’s streets are most likely private, they are not subject to city or county requirements regarding signage, whether it be fire-lane signs or parking rule signs. Based on the authority granted to the association in the CC&Rs, the association most likely has the right to adopt and implement parking rules and policies as they see necessary, which may be more restrictive than municipal parking requirements.
Parking in front of your garage in a condominium community is typically not permitted, due to the fact that the streets adjacent to the garages are usually designated as fire lanes, and parked vehicles are subject to immediate tow. Often times, all of the streets within a condominium community are designated as fire lanes, established in the association’s governing documents.
Residents are also often prohibited from parking in visitor or guest parking. Depending on the association’s parking policy, communities may adopt a zero-tolerance policy in which residents parked in visitor parking are subject to immediate tow or a more lenient policy whereby a ticket-and-warning protocol has been implemented.
How policies are drafted and adopted usually depends on the severity of the community’s parking constraints.
Although associations are not legally required to abide by most municipal signage requirements, pursuant to the California Vehicle Code, associations are required to have tow signs installed in clear sight at each of the community’s entrances.
Specifically, Vehicle Code Section 22658 states that the association has the authority to remove vehicles that are parked in violation of the association’s governing documents so long as the specific tow-sign requirements are met, which include 1-inch lettering on the sign, as well as the name and contact information for the tow company.
As a resident of the association, whether you are a renter or an owner, you have the obligation to review, understand and abide by the association’s rules and regulations. Provided that the association was adhering to its parking policies and the California Vehicle Code, it is unlikely that the association will agree to reimburse the towing expenses incurred. After all, it has an obligation to enforce the community rules.
Ultimately, your landlord is responsible for ensuring that you understand resident obligations. Since you were not provided a set of your community’s documents outlining the association’s rules and regulations, I encourage you to request a set from your landlord.
At the same time, you may want to make a formal request for reimbursement directly from your landlord for breaching his or her obligation to ensure you were adequately informed prior to moving into your home.