Hillsborough County Board of County Commissioners has standards of service and consumer protection requirements regarding towing and wrecker companies in Hillsborough County.
Can’t find your vehicle?
- First things first: look for a towing sign and call the number on the sign to see if your car was towed from private property.
- If you can’t find a towing sign, contact the local law enforcement non-emergency line. They can also help determine whether your vehicle has been towed.
- Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office Non-Emergency: (813) 247-8200
- City of Tampa Police Non-Emergency: (813) 231-6130
- City of Temple Terrace Police Non-Emergency: (813) 989-7110
- City of Plant City Police Non-Emergency: (813) 757-9200
Know your rights
Before the tow, companies MUST:
- Maintain business certificates, licenses, and permits, as per County ordinance
- Have specific authorization from the property owner to tow your car via a signed authorization (this is known as a trespass tow)
- Maintain signs with specific language, and in specific locations, as per County ordinance
- Allow a vehicle owner to immediately remove personal property from their vehicle, at the scene of the tow or at the storage facility, during normal business hours regardless of whether payment has been made; additional fees may apply during non-business hours only
During a tow in process, companies MUST:
- Never tow a vehicle while a person or animal is occupying the vehicle
- Release a vehicle to the owner or legally authorized person in control of the vehicle upon request, even if the vehicle is connected to a tow truck, and upon payment of a drop fee. The maximum allowable drop fee is half of the towing rate, which for most vehicles is $125, so the drop fee would be $62.50.
- Store any vehicle that is trespass towed within a ten-mile radius from the point of removal
After the tow, companies MUST:
- Notify law enforcement within 30 minutes of arrival to their storage facility
- Monitor and answer telephones 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, including holidays; they must return a vehicle or vessel owner’s call within one hour
- Provide consumers with information on every document needed to retrieve the vehicle
- Provide the exact tow charges at the time of the call plus any additional charges that may accrue
- Provide the location to pay the fees to pick up the vehicle
- Charge only certain amounts, as per BOCC Resolution; all charges must be posted at the pay location
- At your request, provide a written bill. They must provide a legible, written receipt with charges when payment is complete, whether requested or not
- Allow several methods of payment – cash, money order, cashier’s check, or debit (not credit)
- Allow the vehicle to be retrieved within one hour of the request
- Allow a vehicle owner the right to inspect the vehicle before accepting its return. No release or waiver of any kind releasing liability may be required of a vehicle owner in order to receive a vehicle.
- Send a notice via certified mail to the registered owner, the insurance company insuring the vehicle, and anyone claiming a lien against the vehicle’s title within seven (7) business days after the date of storage
Additional consumer protections
If a company has towed your vehicle without your permission and is holding it for moving/storage fees, you may take additional action in court. You can find information about how to have a vehicle released when a lien is in place on the Hillsborough County Clerk of Court’s website.
Not the registered vehicle owner?
If your vehicle is in someone else's name, such as a parent, getting your name added to the vehicle registration and title will make it easier to recover the vehicle. If the vehicle is not registered in your name, you will need to provide an original, notarized affidavit signed by the registered vehicle owner that explains you are an authorized representative acting on their behalf in all matters concerning the vehicle. Make sure to include a description of the vehicle in the affidavit (i.e. make, model, year, color and VIN). Keep the original affidavit and a copy of the vehicle registration to help you retrieve your vehicle.
Complaints can be filed electronically using the link below or in person at one of our locations. For best results, provide evidence and specific details about what occurred, how much was paid to the company, what you feel should have happened, evidence to support your claim, and your goal in resolving the issue.
Consumer protection compliance
Under the County’s ordinance, Consumer Protection Services performs the following functions:
- Receives and reviews all complaints of ordinance violations
- Evaluates and investigates complaints received and takes action(s) deemed appropriate as provided for by the ordinance
- The department may request additional information from the complainant for purposes of processing the complaint and/or investigate potential violations regardless of the absence of a written or verbal complaint
- Makes periodic physical inspections of tow trucks to ascertain compliance with the provisions of the ordinance
- Inspects the records of certificate holders and/or owners of tow trucks at their respective place of business during regular business hours
- Enforces provisions of the ordinance
- Provides written notice, with proof of delivery, of the suspension or revocation of certificates, permits, and public vehicle driver’s licenses, specifying the grounds for the suspension or revocation
- Issues citations for violations of the ordinance
Vehicle license requirements
There are a number of specific requirements for licenses and the Hillsborough County Tax Collector is responsible for receiving, reviewing, and approving applications for business certificates, public vehicle driver’s licenses (PVDL), and vehicle permits. Questions or concerns about the licensing process can be addressed with the Tax Collector by calling (813) 635-5200.
The majority of complaints received about towing companies involve vehicles that were towed from private property without the vehicle owner’s consent (also known as a trespass tow).
- The Florida Legislature repealed the state law regulating towing and wrecker companies in Hillsborough County. The Public Transportation Commission (PTC), which previously regulated these companies, is now closed.
For more information about companies offering towing and wrecking services, contact Consumer Protection Services at (813) 635-8316.