A. Redemption Requirements.
1. Vehicles or other items of personal property registered or titled with the department that are impounded by registered tow truck operators pursuant to RCW 46.55.080, 46.55.085, or 46.55.113 may be redeemed only under the following circumstances:
a. Only the legal owner, the registered owner, a person authorized in writing by the registered owner, or the vehicle’s insurer, a person who is determined and verified by the operator to have the permission of the registered owner of the vehicle or other item of personal property registered or titled with the department, or one who has purchased the vehicle or item of personal property registered or titled with the department from the registered owner who produces proof of ownership or written authorization and signs a receipt therefor, may redeem an impounded vehicle or items of personal property registered or titled with the department.
b. The vehicle or other item of personal property registered or titled with the department shall be released upon the presentation to any person having custody of the vehicle of commercially reasonable tender sufficient to cover the costs of towing, storage, or other services rendered during the course of towing, removing, impounding, or storing any such motor vehicle. Commercially reasonable tender shall include, without limitation, cash, major bank credit cards, or personal checks drawn on in-state banks if accompanied by two pieces of valid identification, one of which may be required by the operator to have a photograph. If the towing firm can determine through the customer’s bank or check verification service that the presented check would not be paid by the bank or guaranteed by the service, the towing firm may refuse to accept the check. Any person who stops payment on a personal check or credit card, or does not make restitution within 10 days from the date a check becomes insufficient due to lack of funds to a towing firm that has provided a service pursuant to this section or in any other manner defrauds the towing firm in connection with services rendered pursuant to this section shall be liable for damages in the amount of twice the towing and storage fees, plus costs and reasonable attorneys’ fees.
a. The registered tow truck operator shall give to each person who seeks to redeem an impounded vehicle, or item of personal property registered or titled with the department, written notice of the right of redemption and opportunity for a hearing, which notice shall be accompanied by a form to be used for requesting a hearing, the name of the person or agency authorizing the impound, and a copy of the towing and storage invoice. The registered tow truck operator shall maintain a record evidenced by the redeeming person’s signature that such notification was provided.
b. Any person seeking to redeem an impounded vehicle under this section has a right to a hearing before the Bothell hearing examiner to contest the validity of the impoundment or the amount of towing and storage charges. Any request for a hearing shall be made in writing on the form provided for that purpose and must be received by the community development department within 10 days of the date the opportunity was provided for in subsection (2)(a) of this section. If the hearing request is not received by the community development department within the 10-day period, the right to a hearing is waived and the registered owner is liable for any towing, storage, or other impoundment charges permitted under this chapter. Upon receipt of a timely hearing request, the hearing examiner shall proceed to hear and determine the validity of the impoundment.
a. The department of community development, within five days after request for a hearing, shall notify the registered tow truck operator, the person requesting the hearing if not the owner, the registered and legal owners of the motor vehicle, or other item of personal property registered or titled with the department, and the person or agency authorizing the impound in writing of the hearing date and time.
b. At the hearing, the person or persons requesting the hearing may produce any relevant evidence to show that the impoundment, towing, or storage fees charged were not proper. The hearing examiner may consider a written report made under oath by the officer who authorized the impoundment in lieu of the officer’s personal appearance at the hearing.
c. At the conclusion of the hearing, the hearing examiner shall determine whether the impoundment was proper, whether the towing or storage fees charges were in compliance with the posted rates, and who is responsible for payment of the fees. The hearing examiner may not adjust fees or charges that are in compliance with the posted or contracted rates.
d. If the impoundment is found proper, the impoundment, towing, and storage fees as permitted under this chapter together with hearing costs shall be assessed against the person or persons requesting the hearing, unless the operator did not have a signed and valid impoundment authorization from a private property owner or an authorized agent.
e. If the impoundment is determined to be in violation of this chapter, then the registered and legal owners of the vehicle or other item of personal property registered or titled with the department shall bear no impoundment, towing, or storage fees, and any security shall be returned or discharged as appropriate, and the person or agency who authorized the impoundment shall be liable for any towing, storage, or other impoundment fees permitted under this chapter. The hearing examiner shall enter judgment in favor of the registered tow truck operator against the person or agency authorizing the impound for the impoundment, towing and storage fees paid. In addition, the hearing examiner shall enter judgment in favor of the registered and legal owners of the vehicle, or other item of personal property registered or titled with the department, for reasonable damages for loss of the use of the vehicle during the time the same was impounded, for not less than $50.00 per day, against the person or agency authorizing the impound. If any judgment entered is not paid within 15 days of notice in writing of its entry, the hearing examiner shall award reasonable attorneys’ fees and costs against the defendant in any action to enforce the judgment. Notice of entry of judgment may be made by registered or certified mail, and proof of mailing may be made by affidavit of the party mailing the notice. Notice of the entry of the judgment shall read essentially as follows:
YOU ARE HEREBY NOTIFIED JUDGMENT was entered against you by the City of Bothell Hearing Examiner in the sum of $ ____ , in an action entitled _________ , Case No. ______.
YOU ARE FURTHER NOTIFIED that attorneys’ fees and costs will be awarded against you under BMC 8.22.030(A)(3)(e) if the judgment is not paid within fifteen days of the date of this notice.
DATED this ____ day of ____, 19 ___.
(Type name and address of party mailing notice)
f. A decision of the hearing examiner may be appealed to the district court having jurisdiction per RCW 46.55.240 within 10 days of the entry of the decision by the hearing examiner.
4. Any impounded abandoned vehicle or item of personal property registered or titled with the department that is not redeemed within 15 days of mailing of the notice of custody and sale as required by RCW 46.55.110(2) shall be sold at public auction in accordance with all the provisions and subject to all the conditions of RCW 46.55.130. A vehicle or item of personal property registered or titled with the department may be redeemed any time before the start of the auction upon payment of the applicable towing and storage fees.
B. Auction – When Permitted – Requirements.
1. If, after the expiration of 15 days from the date of mailing of notice of custody and sale required in BMC 8.22.020(G)(2) to the registered and legal owners, the vehicle or hulk remains unclaimed and has not been listed as a stolen vehicle, then the registered tow truck operator having custody of the vehicle shall conduct a sale of the vehicle at public auction after having first published a notice of the date, place, and time of the auction in a newspaper of general circulation in the county in which the vehicle is located not less than three days and no more than 10 days before the date of the auction. The advertisement shall contain a description of the vehicle including the make, model, year, and license number and notification that a three-hour public viewing period will be available before the auction. The auction shall be held during daylight hours of a normal business day.
2. The following procedures are required in any public auction of abandoned vehicles:
a. The auction shall be held in such a manner that all persons present are given an equal time and opportunity to bid;
b. All bidders must be present at the time of auction unless they have submitted to the registered tow truck operator, who may or may not choose to use the preauction bid method, a written bid on a specific vehicle. Written bids may be submitted up to five days before the auction and shall clearly state which vehicle is being bid upon, the amount of the bid, and who is submitting the bid;
c. The open bid process, including all written bids, shall be used so that everyone knows the dollar value that must be exceeded;
d. The highest two bids received shall be recorded in written form and shall include the name, address, and telephone number of each such bidder;
e. In case the high bidder defaults, the next bidder has the right to purchase the vehicle for the amount of the next bidder’s bid;
f. The successful bidder shall apply for title within 15 days;
g. The registered tow truck operator shall post a copy of the auction procedure at the bidding site. If the bidding site is different from the licensed office location the operator shall post a clearly visible sign at the office location that describes in detail where the auction will be held. At the bidding site a copy of the newspaper advertisement that lists the vehicles for sale shall be posted;
h. All surplus moneys derived from the auction after satisfaction of the registered tow truck operator’s lien shall be remitted within 30 days to the department for deposit in the state motor vehicle fund. A report identifying the vehicles resulting in any surplus shall accompany the remitted funds. If the director subsequently receives a valid claim from the registered vehicle owner of record as determined by the department within one year from the date of the auction, the surplus moneys shall be remitted to the registered owner;
i. If an operator receives no bid, or if the operator is the successful bidder at auction, the operator shall within 30 days sell the unclaimed abandoned vehicle to a licensed vehicle wrecker, hulk hauler, or scrap processor by use of the abandoned vehicle report affidavit of sale, or the operator shall apply for title to the vehicle.
3. In no case may an operator hold a vehicle for longer than 90 days without holding an auction on the vehicle, except for vehicles that are under a police or judicial hold.
a. In no case may the accumulation of storage charges exceed 15 days from the date of receipt of the information by the operator from the department as provided by BMC 8.22.020(E)(2).
b. The failure of the registered tow truck operator to comply with the time limits provided in this chapter limits the accumulation of storage charges to five days except where delay is unavoidable. Providing incorrect or incomplete identifying information to the department in the abandoned vehicle report shall be considered a failure to comply with these time limits if correct information is available.
C. Lien For Services.
1. A registered tow truck operator who has a valid and signed impoundment authorization has a lien upon the vehicle for services provided in the towing and storage of the vehicle, unless the impoundment is determined to have been invalid. However, the lien does not apply to personal property in or upon the vehicle that is not permanently attached to or is not an integral part of the vehicle except for items of personal property registered or titled with the department. The registered tow truck operator also has a deficiency claim against the last registered owner of the vehicle for services provided in the towing and storage of the vehicle not to exceed the sum of $500.00 less the amount bid at auction, and for vehicles of over 10,000 pounds gross vehicle weight, the operator has a deficiency claim of $1,000 less the amount bid at auction, unless the impound is determined to be invalid. The limitation on towing and storage deficiency claims does not apply to an impound directed by a law enforcement officer. In no case may the cost of the auction or a buyer’s fee be added to the amount charged for the vehicle at the auction, the vehicle’s lien, or the overdue charge. A registered owner who has completed and filed with the department the seller’s report as provided for by RCW 46.12.101 and has timely and properly filed the seller’s report, is relieved of liability under this section. The person named as a new owner of the vehicle on the timely and properly filed seller’s report shall assume liability under this section.
2. Any person who tows, removes, or otherwise disturbs any vehicle parked, stalled or otherwise left on privately owned or controlled property, and any person owning or controlling the private property, or either of them, are liable to the owner or operator of the vehicle, or each of them, for consequential and incidental damages arising from any interference with the ownership or use of the vehicle which does not comply with the requirements of this chapter. (Ord. 1687 § 1, 1997).