A number of Bexar County tow truck operators and a vehicle storage facility have been issued administrative penalties by the state in the last year and such businesses are a frequent source of complaints to the KSAT 12 Defenders.
The Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation regulates these businesses and does periodic inspections.
In the past year a vehicle storage facility in Bexar County was fined $450 for failing to provide information to a vehicle owner.
A tow truck operator was fined $3,000 for failing to have the appropriate license.
TDLR Executive Director Bill Kuntz said these businesses must obey a host of rules.
"There are maximum fees for towing,” Kuntz said. “There's a cap on that. Most of our licensees are businessmen that do things correctly.”
Beyond fees, Kuntze says drivers whose cars are towed should check where they were parked and make sure there are "no parking" signs with information about towing.
“The sign also has to tell how they can reach the people that took their car to the storage facility,” Kuntz said. “If those signs are not there, then that tow is not proper and they are not liable for the towing fees.”
Kuntz said at the vehicle storage facility there must be a sign clearly displaying costs and that the facility must accept cash, credit or debit.
He said the facility also must be open so that drivers can retrieve their vehicles.
“So if they say no, we're closed until tomorrow, come back, or we're closed for Sunday you have to come back on Monday, that's not proper,” Kuntz said. “You (need to) have the ability to go to the vehicle and get your valuable out of that vehicle.”
Kuntz said the facility must be securely fenced and by law vehicles open or damaged must be protected.
The state inspects these facilities every two years.
TDLR Inspector Marco Diaz demonstrated some of the items he looks for when inspecting a vehicle storage facility.
"I'm going to be looking to make sure all the vehicles are locked," Diaz said.
He said he also looks at fences.
“They have to have a 6-foot fence and they cannot have any holes or anything,” Diaz said. “We find that a lot.”
He also checks the facility’s signs and their paperwork.
Kuntz said if drivers feel rules have been violated and their vehicle has been towed inappropriately, they should pay the required fee and then file a case in court.
"You can go to the justice of the peace and have that issue heard and then you could get your money back that way," Kuntz said.
He suggested that drivers then file a complaint with the TDLR.
Complaints about towing are lodged frequently with the KSAT 12 Defenders.
A few years ago at one location where cars were frequently towed, a sign was even posted warning drivers not to park there because they would be towed by “some imbecilic, low life, dirt bag tow truck drivers.”
Steve Medellin complained about being towed from a Stone Oak parking lot.
"I came back and my car was gone. In less than ten minutes."
And Dora Vasquez was towed just as quickly from the Greyhound bus station downtown.