LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — If your car is registered, but you haven’t put the new sticker on your license plate, will your car be towed?
It’s a question that is coming up again as Nevada lawmakers meet in Carson City this year. The answer depends on several things, but one thing is clear: tow truck drivers can’t just patrol apartment parking lots looking for out-of-date registrations.
That’s illegal under a 2021 law that might get a couple of tweaks this year.
Assembly Bill 303 (AB303) refines existing law that says vehicles cannot be towed solely for an expired registration. If the bill is illegally parked, that’s a completely different matter. If police call the tow truck, the vehicle can be towed just for the expired registration.
But Democratic Assemblyman C.H. Miller, who represents parts of Las Vegas and North Las Vegas, said tow companies were getting around the law by charging other fees, not the outlawed “storage” fee.
Miller took a trip to a tow lot with someone who was victimized, and he said the firsthand experience showed him what was really happening. While it was a peaceful exchange, Miller was threatened with trespass because he wasn’t the owner when he challenged an “impound” fee that was assessed when the tow wasn’t ordered by police.
Under AB303, tow companies wouldn’t be able to charge anything at all for the first 48 hours after the vehicle is towed. If a tow lot is closed, those hours would not count toward the 48-hour period.
A lobbyist for the Nevada State Tow Association said AB303 was far more than a refinement, expanding rules to all non-consent tows, not just apartment complexes. Several towing company executives and industry representatives said the bill went too far.
Tow companies are particularly opposed to AB303’s provisions to waive towing company fees when they would present a hardship. Those provisions would prevent fees from being assessed when the owner is unable to pay the normal rate charged “for reasons outside of his or her control if the owner provides evidence that he or she:”
- Is receiving benefits provided by a federal or state program of public assistance
- Has a household net income which is equal to or less than 200 percent of the federally designated level signifying poverty as provided in the most recent federal poverty guidelines published in the Federal Register by the United States Department of Health and Human Services
- Resides in public housing, as that term is defined in NRS 315.021
- Has expenses for the necessities of life that exceed his or her income
These conditions, described by towing company representatives as the “hardship tariff discount,” take a significant chunk of the profit out of towing.
Susan Zinser, owner of D & S Tow in Sparks, said the bill removes accountability.
“If you can’t afford to register your car, that is a hardship. If you park on a fire hydrant or in a hospital loading zone, that’s not. Towing should be a deterrent to stop that behavior,” Zinser said. She called towing “the teeth” of accountability.
Democratic Assemblyman Max Carter asked Miller to clarify that point, and Miller said the hardship rules do not apply when law enforcement orders the tow.
The Legal Aid of Southern Nevada supported the bill, saying it put some teeth in a law meant to protect consumers.
John Piro, Clark County Public Defender’s Office, strongly urged passage of AB303, saying tow fees were a hardship for a lot of people. He also told the story of losing a day’s pay when he was a college student because his car was towed, and then being forced to pay more to get his car back from the towing company.