Monday, May 7, 2007
Help Me Howard: Leased Tow
When you walk to your car and find it's towed, it's irritating and infuriating. Now, imagine this: you get to the tow yard and are told, "You lease your car, and you can't have it back today." It is happening to people who drive lease vehicles, and there is a way to stop it. Here is Patrick Fraser with tonight's Help Me Howard.
WSVN -- If you live in South Florida, odds are at least three things have happened to you: you've got caught in a rough thunderstorm, gotten a bad sunburn and, at some point, your car has been towed.
Alexa Sanchez: "I was at a friend's apartment complex, and we had gone to dinner, and, when I came back, my car was gone."
Patrick Fraser: "It was the first time that had happened to Alexa, who, like many people, leases her car, so she called the towing company."
Alexa Sanchez: "They told me, 'Oh, you can't pick up your car., I'm like, 'Why?' And he says, 'You're not the owner.' Well, I don't own the car, I lease it, but it's my car."
Patrick Fraser: "Alexa told them the registration was in the glove box, but the tow company wouldn't let her into the car. She then offered to show them her lease."
Alexa Sanchez: "They're like, 'No, you need a letter from Nissan saying that they allow us to release the car to you.'"
Patrick Fraser: "The problem, according to the tow company, was the paperwork showed the owner as Nissan in care of Alexa Sanchez, and they wanted a release from Nissan to let Alexa pick up her own car."
Alexa Sanchez: "And it had to be original and notarized, and they're out of state."
Patrick Fraser: "Since this happened on a Saturday night, the letter could not be sent until Monday, and Alexa's car would have to sit in the tow yard until Tuesday, making Alexa a little suspicious."
Patrick Fraser: "What do you think they were trying to do?
Alexa Sanchez: "Get more money out of me, trying to leave the car there as long as possible so they can get more money."
Patrick Fraser: "And, by the time Alexa got paperwork to satisfy them, a tow that should have cost her $124 cost her $208."
Alexa Sanchez: "Violated, like a victim, and, you know, I wasn't breaking any laws."
Patrick Fraser: "So is it legal for a towing company to hold a lease car until they have original documents proving who owns the car? This is why we have this lawyer named Howard hanging around here."
Howard Finkelstein: "There is no clear answer to this question because the laws were written before car leases became popular, and they just don't address these types of issues. Many tow companies understand this issue and will release the car to the leasee. But a few, rigidly interpret the old laws, which forces the person who leased the car to pay higher fees to the towing company."
Patrick Fraser: "We then went with Alexa to talk to the tow company owner."
Guy behind the counter: "I don't even know what you're talking about."
Patrick Fraser: "Yeah, I know, that's why I need to talk to them."
Police Officer: "You got this letter today?"
Alexa Sanchez: "Yesterday."
Miami-Dade Police were also there when a fellow who said he was the owner showed up and says he just followed the law.
Guy behind the counter: "We released the car how we were supposed to. We require a letter."
Patrick Fraser: "No, sir, when she brought the letter in on Monday, you still wouldn't release it."
Guy behind the counter: "What are you talking about? Because it wasn't in the original form."
Police Officer: "Hang on for a second."
Patrick Fraser: "The tow company would not give Alexa any money back and Howard says, as a result of these old laws, if you lease a car, protect yourself."
Howard Finkelstein: "When you lease a car make sure the registration is only in your name and does include the leasing company. Also, keep a copy of the lease and registration somewhere besides the vehicle."
Patrick Fraser: "And the entire episode still irritates and infuriates Alexa."
Alexa Sanchez: "To have someone say I can't pick up my car. I mean I don't own it, I'm leasing it, but, I mean, I make the payments on it. It just doesn't make any sense."
Patrick Fraser: "Alexa did get one break. Nissan felt so bad about what happened, they paid the storage for two of the days the car sat in the towing lot. That was nice of them. To avoid this happening again, the legislature needs to amend the law to make it clear what documents are needed for people who lease a car to get that car from a tow lot.
Towed a problem around so long it feels like its attached? Want to store it somewhere? Contact us. At least when you park it in our lot, it's free.
FOR MORE INFORMATION: