Top Notch Towing

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Highway robbery in Lake Stevens, WA
Posted by on
LAKE STEVENS, WASHINGTON -- I was visiting Lake Stevens for the 3rd time - competing in a local triathlon. I (along with 2 other vehicles) parked off the street in a neighborhood (same place I've parked for the previous 2 years). After the race, I was surprised to see all the vehicles had been towed and new signs posted on the fence of the residence (NO PARKING along with the towing company's contact info. Not only did he admit to posting the signs after we had parked there, but he charged us $540 to have it released back into our possession. That is OUTRAGEOUS! For just a half a day, this is what he charges. After arriving at his place of buisiness, I come to find two other athletes (one vehicle) waiting as well. These two young ladies confirmed that there was no sign when we had parked there. We then called the police, which was a local city policeman who apparently knew the owner of the tow company personally, and he explained that there was nothing the police could do - basically [snip] knows what he is doing and he can charge whatever he likes. I am an honest man, have been all my life. I am willing to accept my penalty whenever I do something wrong. However, this is absolutely highway robbery in small-town America, and I will be getting a lawyer to dispute. You cannot post a sign after-the-fact and then tow. On top of that, doesn't $540 sound a little over-priced. Beware!
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User Replies:
Anonymous on 08/15/2010:
That's definitely illegal! They can't do that! they can't post a sign AFTER you park there and then tow it! I'm not sure who you should contact in that situation, but I hope you got everyone elses phone number who was towed, so they can be your witness.
yoke on 08/15/2010:
Were you parked on the mans property? Why would you notice a sign on the fence if you were on a city street? If you were on a city street then what the tow truck driver did was illegal.
A lot of times people will park on what they think is the street, but if their tires are the grass then they are on private property and the homeowner does have a right to have the vehicle towed.
PepperElf on 08/15/2010:
"new signs posted on the fence of the residence (NO PARKING along with the towing company's contact info."

It doesn't matter.

(14) "Unauthorized vehicle" means a vehicle that is subject to impoundment after being left unattended in one of the following public or private locations for the indicated period of time:
(b) Private locations:
(I) On residential property - Immediately
(ii) On private, nonresidential property, properly posted under RCW 46.55.070- Immediately
(iii) On private, nonresidential property, not posted - 24 hours

If you were parked partly or entirely on someone's private residence then they can have you towed immediately with no requirement for signs.

I suspect the new signs were to let other people know to stay off... but they're not a legal requirement for a residence.
yoke on 08/15/2010:
Pepper, sounds like the OP was on private property otherwise there would have been a ticket from the police, they would have been the ones to call not the private citizen. When the police were called by the OP if the car had been illegally parked on the street the police would have told the OP.
Skye on 08/15/2010:
Maybe it was a new homeowner, who did not want everyone parking along his fence, on the side of the street, which may have been private property all these years, and he decided to enforce his rules about private property, now that he was the new property and homeowner. This is just a guess.
Helpful on 08/15/2010:
It sounds like the comments posted above are really spot on. I wish Disgruntled athlete would clarify whether he was parked on private property or not. That sounds like the very crux of the entire complaint.
synchropal on 08/15/2010:
Disgruntled athlete: I am one of the other 2 car owners. I too am amazed at the charge and the reason for the tow. I think we can help each other out as witnesses and exchange information. Please email me at ASAP
Helpful on 08/16/2010:
So are we to understand, synchropal, that it was private property?
jktshff1 on 08/16/2010:
"parked off the street in a neighborhood" simple, if it was indeed private property and not a public thoroughfare, you had no business assuming it was OK to park there. Asking permission from the property owner is just sensible.
yoke on 08/16/2010:
synchropal, what was the reason for the tow? If it was on a public street the homeowner could not have had the cars towed. If you were on private property then the owner could have it towed WITHOUT advance notice. The sign may have been put up after the fact because the homeowner had better things to do all day then call to have cars towed off their property.
synchropal on 08/18/2010:
The cars were parked on a public street adjacent to a private residential lot, but not on the private lot. There were no signs posted of "no parking" at the time the cars parked there, and it was fully a public road. The towing should never have been done as the cars were parked legally.
PepperElf on 08/18/2010:
in that case you should call the police to find out if the street in question is a public street

I say that because there are some streets that are accessible to the public but are in fact privately owned.

for example where I live - the apartment complex I live in has 2 roads on it. however both roads are actually privately owned, so anyone parking on the side of the road could get legally towed.
Venice09 on 08/18/2010:
What was the reason for the no parking sign? What exactly did it say?
yoke on 08/18/2010:
Since the police were called and told there is nothing the police could do it sounds like they were on private property. Not all streets are public.
Anonymous on 08/18/2010:
Amazing! Three different people - all of whom seemingly do not know each other, yet were involved in or otherwise have information about an obscure towing event in Lake Stevens, Wash. - found each other on this thread on this website. Did the Internet just get smaller or what?
jktshff1 on 08/18/2010:
Nikki, one thing you have wrong. If the single family residence is on a public street where parking is not prohibited, anyone can park if front of your house. Not saying "camp out", but park. I just went through that same thing. Had a family gathering at my single family residence, quite a few cars. Neighbor said visitors could not part in front of her house. I told her to call the cops. She did, they told her as long as they were within 6" of the curb and not blocking her driveway or mailbox, there were no laws being broken and nothing they could do.
yoke on 08/18/2010:
jkt, sounds as if maybe the cars were parked in front of the driveway or mailbox since the police agreed and said nothing was done illegally regarding the tow.
jktshff1 on 08/19/2010:
There is nothing in the post that say they were on a private road, just off the street and no mention of a gate or anything else being blocked. Until the op describes "parked off the street" anything anyone says here is just conjecture. Again, if it indeed was private property, no postings would have been necessary and the op should have asked permission.
Helpful on 08/19/2010:
I'm surprised we haven't heard anything back from the OP or Syncropal.

Actually, Nikki, I don't think the tow company can charge anything they want. Can anyone answer, isn't the charges regulated by the county one is in?
jktshff1 on 08/20/2010:
So you were there?
jktshff1 on 08/20/2010:
That information would have been helpful about 7 of your comments ago.
jktshff1 on 08/20/2010:
Difference is you did not explain that you had knowledge of the sitrep.I agreed it was legal a long time ago, IF it was private property. That was never spelled out in the original post. See we agree.
You just filled in the blanks.
Keith A. on 10/17/2010:
Private Property Impounds (PPIs) is a towing company's nightmare.

At least it is for us! I'm the operations manager for a towing company in Oregon and I can honestly tell you that PPI's are the last thing we want to do.

We'd rather be the "Everyday Heroes" out there helping you with roadside assistance.

But the truth be told, we got into PPI towing because the public demanded it. We went "kicking and screaming" but in the end, we had customers (business owners) who used us for their personal towing (vehicle break downs, etc.) and needed a reputable outfit to deal with illegally parked vehicles.

We got tired of constantly turning them to our competition with the resulting nightmare stories, so we started doing PPI's.

The situation described here got my attention right off the bat because we do towing for a major bike race every year that requires the closure of several city streets.

Over the years, we've gone full circle with the race officials...starting with just "relocating" cars in the race circuit to a side street and then charging the race promoters for the service. To impounding the vehicles and towing them all the way back to our yard and requiring the vehicle owner's to doing the relocates again. Which makes US happy because everybody wins.

The fear, as always, is that offenders will find out they can park in the race circuit, be towed, and not have to pay a dime. Costs the promoters more money and causes us a lot more stress and more trucks to clear the race way.

But each year, we end up moving between five and ten cars.

My point is that, when I read the headline to this complaint, my first thought was if we were to tow a car...on a public street...back to our yard and require payment. Which we have done in the past.

So what is the legal issue here? Well, for us, we require proper notification and in this case, the temporary signs are put up....hundreds and hundreds of them....24 hours in advance. Caution tape is run tree to tree indicating where the race is going to be. One hour before the towing begins, the police start driving up and down the streets to be closed blaring on their loud speakers, "MOVE YOUR CARS NOW OR THEY WILL BE TOWED". With our trucks following right behind. We all have our overheads going.

As I said, this goes on for about an hour. At the posted time, we begin relocating.

So, is it illegal? Was proper notice given? By whose order are we moving the vehicles? The police? The race promoter?

It's a sticky wicket to say the least. That is why we went to the "relocate" option only. We didn't like the liability of towing a car back to our yard and imposing outrageous fees.

And let me tell you, sometimes those cars we towed back to our yard were people involved with the race! Hence why I cringed with "disgruntled athlete's" complaint.

And what are outrageous fees? Make no mistake, the most expensive kind of towing is for PPI's.

Why? Simply put, the liability alone. The work involved. The fact that it is 100% non-consent tow.

Think about it for a minute. With PPI towing, we have no keys. No way to turn the wheels, put the car in neutral. Yes, a vehicle can still be towed but it does take quite a bit of work to do it safely and with no damage.

The stress factor is incredible. And since it was a non-consent tow, you can be sure the owner is going to come down to the shop and spew forth all kinds of profanity mixed with several accusations about damage, etc.

There have been numerous times that I have literally demonstrated HOW the car was actually towed and there is no possibility of damage. But you can still be sure they are going over it with a fine tooth comb just looking for any nick, dent or scratch.

So you throw in all those variables and now you know why towers charge so much for PPI's.

Point of reference for us? We charge $200 plus $5 per mile. Once back at the yard, we waive the first 24 hours of storage.

We also only accept cash for payment. Simple reason: Checks can have a stop payment issued (let alone bounce for NSF) and credit cards have the power of the issuer to "reverse charges" if you make a complaint. Then the burden of proof is on the business to get payment back from the credit card company. So we make it "easy" and demand cash for PPI's and all non-consent tows...such as police impounds too.

As to setting the rates? In Oregon, the rates are set by the individual tower. However, they do have to be posted. In other words, we can't charge person "A" one rate, and then person "B" another rate. We can discount, sure. Attitude is everything. But you have to charge your posted rates.

Are we the cheapest in town? Probably. For PPI's we are fair. I've heard of my competitors charging 3x that amount.

Another point of issue to be aware of is the "drop fee". In Oregon, the statute is that the tower must be IN TOW...not just hooked up or in the process of hooking up....but all ready to "Go down the road in tow" in order to charge a drop fee.

So if, I've got a car partially loaded and the owner shows up to move it...I have to put it down and let them drive it off. No charge.

The definition of "loaded" is one that is debatable among towers. For us, it is a complete hook-up with safety chains and tag lights. Less reputable outfits that don't use safety equipment would argue they are ready to go once the car is lifted.

A drop fee for us is $80. Again, in cash. Have we taken less? Of course. There is always the sob story that tugs at the driver's heart strings. But attitude is everything. Foul language and arrogant disposition will not get you far...especially if you are "caught guilty as sin" in front of a sign.

Sorry that I've strayed so far from the original complaint and the issue about whether or not it was private property or if the vehicle owners were properly notified.

But with that I will comment on just one more thing. The "Notification". We are very concerned about proper notification. And if in doubt, we don't tow. You have to be caught "dead to rights" for us to tow your car as a PPI. We take photographic proof of the infraction with several pics. Time and date stamped.

And you know what? Most people when shown the pic are immediately humbled. But there are still those that honestly think we PUT the car in front of the sign! I can't help but laugh over that one. I mean, they don't say we put the sign up AFTER the fact. They accuse us of moving their car to that location so we could tow it. HA,HA,HA!

But here is the real deal, I hate doing this type of towing. I hate have to post signs. I think it's "Sign Pollution". I just wish more people respected people's private property and didn't park there without permission. If more people took the time to ask first....we would all be so much happier!

synchropal on 11/03/2010:
I am sorry I have not been able to post to this wonderful site since my post in August, but this case went to court today and I didn’t want to put anything in writing until after the decision. I was one of the 4 cars towed on August 15th by Top Notch Towing. Today, the judge found that the person living in the house adjacent to where the 4 cars were parked improperly authorized the impound since they were parked on public property, not private residential property. The 7 foot strip of land adjacent to the paved street, as well as an additional 14 feet past the chain link fence next to where the cars were parked is all public land, deeded to the county years ago per a title search that was conducted. As many of you have pointed out here, it is not legal to park on private property and the property owner can authorize impound. However, the law for parking on public property allows parking there (as long as you aren’t a traffic hazard) for 24 hours, and this was public property. If there are “no parking” signs up, that could change the ability to park there. However, as 8 witnesses stated (5 of them in court via written statements), there were no signs posted at the time the cars parked there. They were put up hours later. NikkiAshley herself says that in one of her statements above. The cars were not blocking the main entrance to the house, which is a driveway behind where the cars were parked. One may have been in front of a gate leading into the property’s backyard, but the gate and the entire fence is on public property, so parking there is entirely legal, and the gate is not the main entrance/exit point to the property, the driveway down the road is. The road is not private, it is public. Unfortunately, since 2 parties took this to court, the person authorizing the impound has to reimburse for towing charges and associated expenses of nearly $1400. Had she known she was authorizing an impound from public property, she could have saved herself a phone call and $1400.

Many of the posts written above are by a member known as NikkiAshley. As evidenced by the many posts, she is intimately familiar with the tow situation that day. I believe there is a reason for this. I believe she is an employee of Top Notch Towing. The employee I met the day I was towed matches the profile picture of NikkiAshley, the name “Nikki” is on the passenger door of the tow truck, and the person signing my paperwork had the first name of Nicole. This explains how she knows many of the facts of the day as noted in her numerous posts. Unfortunately, in-between all of her grammatical errors, are many untruths. The road is public, not private. The police did not authorize the tow. The person authorizing the tow was not the property owner. And the cars were parked legally…so why did Top Notch tow 4 cars that day?

Was very interesting today when the judge asked the person who authorized the impound why she did so. She said 2 cars were blocking her gate. The judge asked why she had all 4 cars impounded if just 2 were blocking a gate. She said one hit her mailbox and one parked on a flower bed. All the while, right in front of the judge was a picture of a perfectly standing mailbox and no sign of a flower bed anywhere near the strip of land.

It is EXTREMELY unfortunate and frustrating that the person who authorized the impound has to pay the harmed parties, while Top Notch Towing gets off scott free. They collected $500 times 4 cars, or a total of $2000 towing these 4 cars, and the state made $172 in sales tax. Yet they have no responsibility to reimburse the harmed parties and get to keep all that revenue. The person authorizing the impound is responsible for reimbursing the harmed parties $1400 and Top Notch makes $2000. Why isn’t there a law in this state that requires tow truck companies to use common sense when towing from public property? Everybody, and I mean EVERYBODY, who I described the parking spots to and showed pictures to immediately determined that this is public property and would have parked there as well. Why didn’t Top Notch determine that and not tow the cars? They are licensed in the City of Lake Stevens…they should know which roads are public and which are private and not tow from public areas without police approval. There has to be some responsibility there, yet they did not take it and instead took our money, and sadly, get to keep our money. And yes, $500 to tow a car 2 miles on a Sunday afternoon is highway robbery, as Disgruntled Athlete so eloquently explained in his post on August 15.
Venice09 on 11/03/2010:
That's the best follow-up I've ever seen here. Thanks for posting it.
jktshff1 on 11/03/2010:
Thanks for the update.
Alain on 11/03/2010:
Excellent follow up and thank you!
Starlord on 11/03/2010:
Congratulations. It does my heart good to see someoneprevail when they know they are in the right. I agree, it should not be the burden of the property owner to reimburse you for the tow fees, when it should be Top Notch who has to absorb the loss, as they are a company and should know the laws and what is public and what is private. As far as Nikkiashley goes, I have two words for her , 'bus' and 'ted.'
Anonymous on 11/03/2010:
DA..glad you saw this thing through and came out victorious. Maybe Nikki and Top Notch and a few others will apologize for insisting you were in the wrong.
Did the judge say why the property owner had to reimburse for the towing fees? Did Top Notch at least get a fine?
synchropal on 11/03/2010:
just cause: Per Washington State law RCW 46.55.080, the impound authorization that the person signed that ordered the impound must state: "A person authorizing this impound, if the impound is found in violation of chapter 46.55 RCW, may be held liable for the costs incurred by the vehicle owner." That is why she had to reimburse for the towing fees. Top Notch did not get a fine, as per the law they really didn't do anything wrong. They charged their posted rates, towed our car, and released it when we paid them. And just to be clear, although dealing with them on the day of the tow was frustrating because we knew we were towed illegally through no fault of our own, they just followed the person who authorized the tow's orders. I'm sure Top Notch does many good things for Lake Stevens citizens and visitors too, in the form of jump starts, tire changes, etc. But on this particular day, using some common sense regarding the validity of the tow would have prevented bad feelings all around, not to mention countless hours of pursuing justice.
Sno on 08/01/2013:
I had a run-in road rage incident with a Top Notch Towing driver yesterday. I called the police but they didn't seem too concerned.
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Would Not Release Car
Posted by on
VAN NUYS, CALIFORNIA -- Our car was towed from a gas station (yep, my daughter should not have parked there). The staff would not release the car to me the next day even though I am the (1) wife of the owner and 2) had proof that I am a registered driver. My husband picked up the car the following day and disputed the bill. He was told that if he didn't like it, they could lock up and he would need to deal with someone else. (isn't this extortion?) I have filed a complaint with the BBB and will pursue this.

If your car is towed by them, have the police accompany you and better yet, your attorney. Trust me, you will need it. We paid $322 for 1 day of towing and service.

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User Replies:
Anonymous on 10/16/2007:
Your daughter should not have parked there.
They had every right to tow your car.
You need to pay whatever they charged for the tow and storage.
notmakingmehappy on 10/17/2007:
You are correct.... my daughter should not have parked there. Does that give a company the right to charge any unlimited fee. Trust me, we are pursuing this to the fullest. Thanks for your thoughts but believe it is not fair to charge more than a fair and posted price.
Anonymous on 10/17/2007:
If there is a posted price, take a picture of the sign.
That picture can make your case. If there is not a posted price, I would think that you are stuck paying what they ask.
Good luck.
notmakingmehappy on 10/17/2007:
do you work for Top Notch?
Anonymous on 10/17/2007:
The city of Los Angeles (Van Nuys) has laws about predatory towing violators. Not sure how yours will play out but they may have violated some laws, call and check it out, can't hurt at this point.
*Brenda* on 10/17/2007:
Wife of the owner is not the owner so they're right when they didn't release the car to you.

You mention the price was posted, what was it?
UseUrCommonSense on 04/29/2008:
People that complain about tow bills for unauthorized parking should consider how much of a pain in the --- it is to tow a vehicle WITHOUT keys. A regular tow is about $75-100. Private parties tow require dollies, towing, storage and administration fees. Not to mention towing companies have to stop what they are doing because your daughter needs a babysitter to inform her how to correctly park a car. Hey lets all park in your driveway and run into the store. It was only 5 minutes, its OK. Does that sound fair??
Kim19823 on 08/03/2009:
This is directed toward:UseUrCommonSense By the way this company is known, for illegally towing vehicles. their paperwork is modified. to meet the legal criteria. Legaly you are permitted for 1 hour to park illegally on private lot. this company receives calls and then immediately tows the vehicle. and modifies paperwork to meet the criteria of 1 hour. THIS COMPANY IS CROOKED! not to mention the entire company is on probation.
Ponie on 08/03/2009:
Can someone explain to me why, when a complainer doesn't get the answer they want, the responders are accused of being an employee of the subject establishment?

Kim, are you the one who parked the car at the gas station? Registering today to say 'the entire company is on probation.', is quite a strong statement to make. Just pay back your mother for the tow.
Ponie on 08/03/2009:
P. S. I just re-read all the posts. This thing is OLD!
goduke on 08/03/2009:
I don't know squat about this company or the rules in LA about towing, etc. If there is a lot of concern about this company, though, I'd be going to the city attorney or the California A/G's office.

Then again, maybe this is part of the Governator's plan to fund the state.
clutzycook on 08/17/2010:
It takes all kinds, doesn't it?
DebtorBasher on 08/17/2010:
Nikki, I find it funny whenever people try to use 'titles' to intimidate people when THEY are in the wrong...LOL. When I did collections, the worst ones were the Priests and Attorneys...I LOVED, LOVED, LOVED getting their accounts because when they'd tell me, 'I shouldn't be charged because I'm a Priest'...I always said, 'That's OK, I don't discriminate against Priests, I treat them the same as any other debtor of mine' about dead silence!
DebtorBasher on 08/18/2010: you work for 'Lizard Lick Towing'? LOL!
DebtorBasher on 08/18/2010:
You're not Sonia, are you ? LOL!
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