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In-Depth: Could proposed Ohio towing legislation hurt low income families?

In-Depth: Could Ohio towing bill hurt low income families?
Posted at 8:13 AM, Apr 28, 2021
and last updated 2021-04-28 08:13:04-04

CLEVELAND — Some Northeast Ohio residents and state lawmakers from Cleveland are concerned proposed state legislation giving towing companies the right to take the title on a vehicle impounded by police in 60 days could hurt low-income families.

Ohio House Bill 345, sponsor State Rep. Don Jones, District 95 (R-Freeport), said the measure is designed to help with the growing problem of abandoned vehicles statewide. Jones said vehicles are stacking up across the state, creating a problem for towing companies that are doing the best they can to manage their properties.

“We want to give those towing companies a way to get rid of those vehicles that have been sitting there in their lots, some of them seven, eight or nine years," Jones said.

“These are cars that were ordered into tow by law enforcement, so the owners are notified about where their car is.”

“In Cleveland, there is a tow company that has 900 cars sitting in their lot that they can’t get rid of," Freeport said. “All we did was establish a process for those tow company owners to obtain a title.”

But State Rep. Juanita O. Brent, District 12 (D-Cleveland), and State Rep. Stephanie Howse/District 11 (D-Cleveland) believe 60 days is not enough time for some low-income families to come up with hundreds of dollars in fines to save their vehicles from being claimed by the towing companies.

“It’s not giving people an equitable process of receiving their car," Brent said. “If people do not have their car, then they don’t have a way to get around, they can’t get to school, to get to work, get to the doctor.”

“This is really problematic; in the City of Cleveland the average income is $23,000. So if someone is looking at a towing bill that is $200, that’s life-changing amounts of money. This bill is pro-business, but it’s not pro-consumer," Brent said.

Brent is hoping the bill will be amended to include a payment plan for low-income families and the creation of a website that will help those who had their cars towed more quickly locate their vehicles.

Ebony Davis, who had three of her vehicles towed from her Cleveland home on April 20, without explanation, agrees the legislation has to be amended to give people more time to pay the fines and recover their transportation.

“I’m still not getting any answers on why my cars are being towed," Davis said. "And every day I called the police. Those cars were investments for me and my family, and they may not be the best for nobody else, but they have sentimental value and I want them back.”

“I go to work, I normally work two jobs, my son goes to school, I go grocery shopping in these vehicles," she said. “I think it should be at least 6 months to be honest to pay the fines, especially in these times we’re living in now where things are rough for everybody.”

Jones said he understands the issues, but said creating a website would cost money and have to be managed by the state. Jones said asking towing companies to take on a payment plan would be difficult for companies that are already under the stress of managing a growing number of abandoned vehicles.

House Bill 345 is now on its way to the Ohio Senate for consideration this summer.