New Towing Laws Affect Oregon HOAs

Homeowner associations often inquire as to their authority to tow vehicles within their communities. The following outline describes general Oregon law regarding homeowners associations’ legal authority and required procedures for towing vehicles. Please note that this posting contains general information and is not legal advice for a specific towing event, which would be unique to the circumstances surrounding that event.

The information below includes amendments to Oregon state law that became effective January 1, 2008.

First, the board needs to determine if the streets within its community are public or private roads. This information should be contained within the Association’s Declaration and Plat.

A.  Vehicles on Public Property

  • Only a law enforcement officer or public official having jurisdiction over the property on which the vehicle is located has authority to remove and take custody of a vehicle located on a public right-of-way. A vehicle constituting a traffic hazard can be removed immediately. Otherwise, law enforcement must tag the vehicle and provide at least 24 hours’ notice before impounding it.
  • To have a vehicle removed from a public right-of-way, a homeowner association’s options are limited to notifying the appropriate public agency of the location of the vehicle it wants removed. The public official may then arrange for and authorize the vehicle’s removal after 24 hours. The association may not authorize removing a vehicle from public property.

B.  Vehicles on Private Property

  • A key issue is whether the vehicle is unlawfully parked at a “parking facility” or on “proscribed property.” A parking facility is any property used for motor vehicle parking. Proscribed property is any part of private property where a reasonable person would conclude that parking is normally not permitted at all or where a land use regulation prohibits parking, or property that is used primarily for parking at a dwelling unit (defined as a single-family residence or duplex). Oregon law prohibits leaving a vehicle on a parking facility if there is a no parking (or restricted parking) sign posted in plain view. In contrast, it is illegal to park on proscribed property without the permission of the owner whether or not a “no parking” sign is posted.
  • Property owners may have illegally parked vehicles towed after notifying the local law enforcement. From a practical standpoint, however, tow companies generally will not tow vehicles from locations without “no parking” signs.
  • Alternatively, property owners may tow abandoned vehicles from private property after: (1) posting a notice on the vehicle stating that it will be towed if not removed within 72 hours; (2) contacting the local law enforcement; and (3) completing a form setting forth the vehicle description, location from which the vehicle will be towed, and a statement that the above outlined requirements have been met. As of January 1, 2008, state law provides civil immunity for individuals or entities that tow the abandoned vehicle.
  • Additionally, a property owner in lawful possession of a vehicle with an appraised value under $500 may request the local authority to dispose of the vehicle. No certificate of title is required, but the local authority must verify the property owner’s lawful possession. The local authority must also issue certain notifications to the Department of Transportation and the person requesting the disposal. The advantage of this process is that it extinguishes all prior ownership and possessory rights. The property owner, however, may be charged a disposal fee.

C.  Summary

This posting does not provide an exhaustive list of Oregon law regarding towing vehicles and each association should review the local ordinances controlling for their jurisdiction. In general, state law requires that a homeowner association contact a public official, most likely local law enforcement, to have a vehicle removed from public property. An association may remove vehicles located on private property under its control immediately if the property is posted or if it qualifies as residential property. On unposted nonresidential property the vehicle may be towed after it has been abandoned for seventy-two (72) hours.

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