Restricting parking areas and spaces on otherwise unrestricted lots.

RESTRICTING PARKING AREAS AND SPACES ON OTHERWISE UNRESTRICTED LOTS

This article reviews signage location requirements under the Texas Towing and Booting Act (the “Towing Act“) for restricting areas of parking on otherwise unrestricted lots. It does not review individually restricted parking space requirements. A discussion of individual parking space restrictions is available in another article.

Section 2308.304 of the Towing Act describes how to designate one or more spaces as restricted parking spaces on an otherwise unrestricted lot. However, it should be noted at the outset that this section of the Towing Act applies only to “otherwise unrestricted” lots rather than restricted spaces within a restricted parking lot. Thus, if a parking lot has restrictions on the entire lot (signs prohibiting towing are posted at all entrances, for example), Section 2308.304 is inapplicable.

Designating one or more restricted spaces on an unrestricted parking lot involves similar steps to placing restrictions on a parking lot generally. First, instead of installing a sign at each entrance (as is required for general restrictions), the parking facility owner can place a sign that prohibits unauthorized vehicles from parking in designated spaces. That sign, however, must comply with Sections 2308.301 and 2308.302 of the Towing Act. Accordingly, the signs will have to meet both the “general requirements for sign prohibiting unauthorized vehicles” as well as the “color, layout, and lettering height requirements” provisions of the Towing Act.

While sign content, structure, color, and lettering requirements are the same on restricted areas on unrestricted lots, the placement of those signs is quite different. Instead of placing the signs at each entrance to the parking facility, the parking facility owner is instead required to place these signs as follows:

  • Option 1. At the right or left side of each entrance to a designated area or group of parking spaces located on the restricted portion of the parking facility; or
  • Option 2. At the end of a restricted parking space so that the sign, the top of which must not be higher than seven feet above the ground, is in front of a vehicle that is parked in the pace and the rear of which is at the entrance of the space.

A parking facility owner that elects option 1 will end up with a restricted area on an otherwise unrestricted lot. That restricted area will only be identified by having signs that look identical to typical “towing enforced” signs, except that they are located within an unrestricted lot rather than at the entrance to the lot.

Option 2 is worded strangely to say the least. Based on the way that the TTBA is written, it appears as though the “sign at the space” option requires a full sized towing sign at the end of the space AND at the entrance to the space. Reading the TTBA as it is currently written, this would require full size 18” x 24” signs at the front and back of each restricted space. Such a setup would be not only a visual nightmare for the property owner, but also a logistics nightmare on the setup of such large signs at the entrance and end of each parking space. While this design is unlikely to be adopted by anyone except a person who wants as many signs as possible on their lot, it currently exists as an option.

Between the two options for restricted spaces on otherwise unrestricted parking lots, option 1., above, is clearly the simpler and less confusing choice. It creates a mini-restricted lot and follows many of the same techniques as restricting a parking lot in full. However, restricting portions of unrestricted lots can cause confusion to TDLR, which may mistakenly believe you have a generally restricted lot and are attempting to enforce individual parking space restrictions within that lot.

While restricted areas on unrestricted lots are uncommon in Texas when compared to individually restricted parking spaces in a generally restricted lot, they are useful in certain circumstances (retail, employee parking, etc.). As with all parking restrictions, it is vitally important that the parking facility meet the private property towing requirements that are contained in other areas of the Towing Act and that any restricted area is set up properly for private property towing.

There are few, if any, situations in which a vehicle owner is happy to have their vehicle towed without their consent. The amount of preparation and diligence property owners and towing companies invest into properly setting up a parking facility (whether generally restricted or partially restricted) will inversely correspond to the number of tow hearings and TDLR enforcement actions that result from towing activity on that lot. In other words, more preparation and care = less TDLR problems and tow hearings.