Signing a lease offers no protection from being targeted by tow trucks

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THORNTON, Colo. -- A Rentcafe report shows renters are almost outnumbering home buyers in most major cities, including Denver. There are some pitfalls to be aware of before you sign a lease, especially when it comes to parking spaces.

Brian Hopkins couldn’t believe what he saw when he walked to the parking lot at his Thornton apartment.

"The first thing I thought: 'Maybe I didn’t park in the right spot.' I ran upstairs to my wife and said, ‘Hey, Hon, our car’s gone,'" he said.

His wife Mary says they were certain the car was stolen.

"We called the police, and the police (are) actually the ones who told us that our own apartment (complex) towed our vehicle," she said.

It turns out, even though the spaces at the Hopkins’ apartment complex aren’t reserved or numbered, the cars are monitored by the management. Like with most properties, vehicles without registered information are towed. The couple says they filled out the proper paperwork providing the make and model of the car, but didn’t have the license plate number at that time and planned on providing it later. The say they did sign a parking agreement but didn’t realize they needed to provide additional online information.

Renter’s rights attorney Jacob Eppler tells the FOX31 Problem Solvers with space at a premium in the metro area these days, many landlords maintain strict standards. He says renters must read the fine print in their contracts.

“If they have questions about parking, they should raise those immediately before they sign that lease," Eppler.

At the same time, property management companies and towing companies must also adhere to strict rules or face serious consequences.

"If they have a parking lot and everybody gets to park in it and then they arbitrarily choose to tow one car but not another car, essentially a landlord is exercising what’s called conversion, and that’s a civil word for theft," Eppler said.

Consumer experts say it’s a good idea to check with your landlord periodically to make sure your car is properly registered especially in buildings or complexes without assigned parking.

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