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Parking error leads to hefty bill for driver

Published August 28, 2012
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Eric Lai answers readers’ auto questions every week for Wheels.

Q: I live in Collingwood but briefly sublet a condo in Toronto to take a course. My car would be left parked in the building for the duration.

Unfortunately, I parked in the wrong place. There’s a #76 spot on each underground level. I mistakenly reasoned that mine would be #476 since it’s on level 4.

The owner called police despite the concierge offering him indoor parking until they figured out who was parked in his spot and I was ticketed three times before being towed.

Five days later, a towing company mailed my Collingwood address telling me to pick up the car.

Another eight days later, I opened that letter and another from Toronto Police saying the same thing. If a friend hadn’t forwarded my mail, I wouldn’t have known about this for months.

Impound fees were $393, plus three tickets on my car totaling $90, for which I will head to trial.

Should I take the tow company to small claims court? I feel they should have phoned me knowing that I live in Collingwood but my car was in Toronto. And, why did it take five days to notify me by mail?

A: Toronto litigation lawyer Greg Chang (www.bcbarristeres.com) replies:

If the reader provides her explanation in court for the tickets, the Justice might possibly reduce her overall fine.

As for the tow company, disputing the $393 charge may be difficult. Here, the reader is asking why they didn’t call her, and why they waited five days before sending a letter.

Would the tow truck company have the reader’s telephone number? Her address was likely obtained via MTO search, which, as far as I know, doesn’t include phone numbers.

The tow company isn’t necessarily obligated to search the phone book or Internet for the reader’s telephone number – which might be viewed as a violation of privacy – and their pro forma (“done as a formality”) warning letter seems reasonable.

The five-day delay between towing her vehicle and sending a letter to her Collingwood address doesn’t seem unreasonable. The vehicle plate search may have taken a day or two. Administratively, sending out the letter would take another business day. (The car was taken on a Wednesday and the warning letter sent the following Monday.)

Based on the facts she provided, the reader may wish to avoid the time and expense of a small claims action against the tow company, given that it’s not a clear case of negligence or breach on their part.

Eric Lai adds:

Sorry, but this reader seems to be the author of her own misfortune by not checking with the concierge if unsure about the proper parking location. The actions of all others involved appear lawful and reasonable.

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