Tow yards can assert a storage fee lien only where the towing is requested by the vehicle owner or police. No lien is allowed where the towing is requested by a private lot, store, or apartment complex. Nevertheless, tow yards often claim a lien anyway hoping that lienholder/lessors are fooled into paying their charges.
In the case of Santander v Runway Towing, a tow yard made a creative attempt to justify a storage fee lien on a private lot tow by arguing that the vehicle had been abandoned, which allowed the tow yard to sell it. The court shot this down pointing out that abandonment means the “virtual throwing away” of rights in the vehicle. Clearly the lienholder did not throw away its rights, as it sued to protect them. Furthermore, only municipalities (not private entities like the garage) may use the abandonment laws to sell a vehicle. (People v Lowin, 71 AD3D 1194) The tow yard’s entire claim was dismissed, and the tow yard ordered to pay damages to the lienholder.
Lienholder/lessors who are aware that tow yards are not entitled to liens for private lot tows can avoidbeing gouged for these improper fees.