New Towing Law Q&A


A new towing law went into effect on September 1, 2021. This law provides a self-storage facility the ability, in lieu of foreclosure, to tow certain vehicles away from the facility following a tenant’s abandonment of the property. The law is now in effect as of September 1, 2021. 

Under what circumstances would I want to tow away a vehicle, trailer, or boat on a trailer instead of seizing it and selling at lien auction?

The basics are that you must have a signed lease for the vehicle, trailer, semi-trailer, etc., but deciding to tow instead of pursuing a foreclosure is completely a business decision. Some members do not want to go through the hassle of determining ownership information, notifying the tenant as well as the registered owner (if different from the tenant according to the Department of Motor Vehicles), any lienholder, etc. and advertising the sale in a newspaper twice. You can certainly opt to first seize a vehicle, trailer, boat and/or outboard motor by overlocking a unit if the property is stored inside or wheel booting or chaining the property if stored outside and sending a notice of claim and then decide which route you’ll take—foreclosure or towing.

Can I have a vehicle towed for non-payment even if I don’t have anything in my rental agreement about that option?

No, you cannot. The new statutory language specifically states that the language about towing must be in the lease contract your tenant signs. It will be important for you to use the newest version of the TSSA lease (update your e-lease via a scheduled install or purchase new printed leases) to make sure the language is included. You may want to plan to notify existing customers about the new version of the contract, as they will need to accept the new terms and you should keep track of which version of the lease applies to each customer.

Can I have a vehicle storage facility come and tow away vehicles that have been abandoned at our facility for years?

No, not unless you have a signed lease with the required language or have the required towing signs posted for vehicles left at the facility without a signed contract for storage. The towing laws in Texas are quite specific. (See the article in the Goldbook© titled “The Texas Towing Statute” for more details.) The new towing law was designed to address vehicles that were abandoned (or rent unpaid), but only where there is a signed lease contract in place.

How do I have a boat or an outboard motor towed if it is sitting on the ground or on the floor of the unit? (Apparently the customer decided the trailer was more important than the boat and removed it, leaving the boat behind.)

This will be tricky. You would need to find a towing company that is willing to bring not only a tow truck, but also a flatbed trailer and a method of hoisting the boat or motor to transport it. If you can’t get a towing company to remove the boat or motor, your option will be foreclosure, selling the items “as is” once you follow the steps for special foreclosure. We suggest you sell the item with a stated rule that the buyer at auction will be responsible for removal of the boat or motor and make them aware that a trailer is not included.

Am I still obligated to determine the name of the registered owner/ lienholder before towing? If yes and there is a lienholder on the vehicle registration, do I have to notify the lienholder AND the tenant that I am going to have the vehicle towed?

The new towing bill does not impose requirements on you to notify the lienholder and/or registered owner. Per the new bill, your only notification obligation when exercising this remedy is to provide written notice of your claim to the tenant. The vehicle storage facility (under Section 2303.151(a) of the Texas Occupations Code) is required to send written notice to the registered owner and primary lienholder no later than five days after the date it receives the vehicle). When leasing space to a tenant intending to store a vehicle, it is recommended you use TSSA’s “Vehicle, Trailer or Boat Self-Storage Rental Agreement,” which asks that the tenant provide you with information regarding the vehicle’s registered owner, license plate number, serial number and insurance provider.

If I have a vehicle, trailer or boat on a trailer towed, will I receive any money to compensate me for unpaid rent?

No, your lien on the property will be released when the towing company takes possession of it. If you have the property towed, you will give up your lien and therefore your right to collect any unpaid sums. The tenant’s debt to you would no longer be secured by a lien.

Can I still try to collect past-due rent after I have had a vehicle, trailer, etc. towed?

Your lien will no longer exist, so the property will no longer be collateral for securing the debt. In other words, you wouldn’t be able to return the property even if the tenant paid you what he or she owed. The main purpose of the bill is to give self-storage facilities an additional way to regain storage space from a non-paying tenant. If you have a lease (such as the TSSA lease) that allows you to use a collection agency for the debt, you can turn the debt over to the collection agency.

What happens to a vehicle after it's been towed?

The Lessor’s lien on such towed property will be extinguished the moment the vehicle is towed away from a Facility. 8 However, the Lessor will not be liable for any damage that occurs to the vehicle while the vehicle is being towed or after the vehicle has been towed from the Facility.9 Further, once the vehicle has been towed to the vehicle storage facility, the vehicle storage facility (a) is required to accept the transferred vehicles, and (b) may dispose of the vehicle in the manner authorized by state law for other vehicles towed to such a vehicle storage facility.