8 On Your Side advice for fighting unjust tow bills

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HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) – Our 8 On Your Side investigation into towing companies targeting apartment residents hit a nerve.RELATED: Tow companies target cars with expired tag stickers

Local lawmakers want beefed up ordinanceS so apartment complexes are required to post towing. Meanwhile, the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office is calling on people to fight back if they feel they were wrongly towed.

Here’s how:

A Florida statute regarding mechanic liens can be used to get your car back without paying anything to the tow truck company. Sheriff’s Office Spokesman Larry McKinnon recommends getting a copy of what you owe.

Take that bill to your county circuit clerk of court office and pay that amount in a bond. Your money will then be held in escrow. Take your receipt to the tow company; it’s your ticket to get your car back. The tow company will then have to show up for a hearing to plead its case. In many cases, drivers get all – or at least some – of their money back.

“These type of wrecker companies that are making this kind of money, certainly don’t want you to know about it,” McKinnon said.

If the tow is shady, McKinnon said, most companies won’t bother showing up to court to plead their cases.RELATED: Tampa official wants tougher ordinances after tow trucks target cars with expired tags

“Sometimes, they do get to keep the money. Sometimes the person who owns the car gets the money and sometimes it’s split down the middle,” McKinnon said.

Meanwhile, Tampa City Councilman Charlie Miranda wants a city ordinance to require apartment complexes to post the rules. He’s calling on county officials to follow his lead.

The city council took its first step toward the ordinance last week. A vote is expected next month.

This all started with an 8 On Your Side investigation.

Apartment complexes are increasingly allowing tow truck companies to patrol their lots. The towing companies are often looking for expired tags, even if it’s actually just the sticker that’s expired. That’s what happened to Russell Brown. He was visiting a friend at Foxcroft Apartments in Tampa. He was there just a couple of hours. He had no idea that there was a tow truck driver outside, on patrol.

“I was shocked,” Brown said. “I was like, ‘I know there is no assigned parking here. I know I didn’t park in a handicapped spot.’ I was like, ‘What did I do wrong?'”

It was the sticker on his tag. Brown’s registration was paid, but he forgot to change that pesky yellow tag on his license plate.THE STORIES OTHERS ARE CLICKING ON: 

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