Tampa official wants tougher ordinances after tow trucks target cars with expired tags

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TAMPA, FL (WFLA) – Tampa City Councilman Charlie Miranda wants beefed-up local ordinances, after an 8 On Your Side investigation found a tow truck company and apartment complexes targeting residents.

“There’s not enough signage to say that an expired tag would be hauled away, just vehicles that are unauthorized,” Miranda said. “What does that mean?”

Apartment complexes are increasingly allowing tow truck companies to patrol their lots, and one of the things they’re looking for: expired tags, even if it’s actually just the sticker that’s expired.

RELATED: Tow companies target cars with expired tag stickers

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. It didn’t matter to Professional Towing. It cost $170 cash to get the car back. No one at the apartment complex would talk to 8 On Your Side. No one at Professional Towing would talk either.

Brown said he was told the company towed eight other cars from the same complex, all for expired tags. At Professional Towing’s Nebraska Avenue lot, two sisters were trying to get their car back. It had also been towed from another apartment complex, also for expired tags. In that case, the owner had to fly in from Venezuela to pay $1,200 to help her sister get the car back.

There are a lot of angry people, but Kyle Cockream, of Hillsborough County’s Public Transportation Commission, says it is not illegal. Apartment companies can tow for anything they want to because it’s private property. And get this: they don’t have to post the rules.

But is it right?

“Probably a better idea and a better business practice and a more ethical practice is for these apartment complexes to let residents know what those rules are, what the parameters are,” Cockream said.

Miranda wants warnings signs.

“They’re arbitrarily just saying take the car out because it has an expired tag,” Miranda said. “They don’t have the proper equipment to check like the police department and the sheriff’s office has.”

Miranda said he plans to ask city staff to research what can be done next week.

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