Bad Handwriting Causes $200-Plus Fine, Battle With Tow Company

Dear ABC News Fixer: My car was towed from a guest spot in the condo complex where I live even though I had a valid permit on the dash. The aggressive, unprofessional tow truck driver told me that the date on the permit was altered. It wasnt. I wrote it myself the previous day and it was good for 24 hours.

He towed my car while I watched, despite my entreaties that I needed to get my sick 2-year-old to the doctor right then.

Later, a Chicago Police officer met me at the tow yard of the company, Rendered Services. The officer said the police are frequently called to their lot for disputes, describing them as overly aggressive. I was urged to file complaints with my condo association, the Better Business Bureau and various government agencies, which I have done. Can you help?

Chicago man Matthew Lesh said the tow truck company thought the “19” he wrote was really a 10 that had been manipulated.- Matthew Lesh, Chicago, Ill.TUNE IN to “Good Morning America” Saturday for more on this story from The ABC News Fixer. And have you got a consumer problem? The ABC News Fixer may be able to help. CLICK HERE to submit your problem online. Letters are edited for length and clarity.

Dear Matthew: This is every car owners nightmare returning to your vehicle only to find its been ticketed or towed. In your case, the tow company that monitors your condo complexs private lot was grabbing your car as you ran over, sick child in your arms.

You ended up having to take a bus to the tow yard and shell out $218.50 to get your vehicle back.

The ABC News Fixer looked at that parking pass you had used; it was marked June 19 and good for June 19-20. The driver claimed your 19 was really an old 10 that had been altered, implying that you were reusing passes. Which didnt make any sense, because you have a garage (your garage door was broken, which is why you had used the pass for the lot) and you also have a big stack of unused passes, which, by the way, are given out free to all homeowners.

Before we called the tow company, we did a little digging and found youre not alone in your grief. The tow company which operates as Rendered Service North in your area and Rendered Services on the South Side of Chicago, but is licensed as one entity by the State of Illinois has racked up piles of consumer complaints. The Illinois Commerce Commission, which regulates private tow companies in your state, has amassed nearly 3,000 complaints about Rendered since 2005 and has issued 218 citations in the past two years. And Chicago Police raided the South Side location last November after allegations of illegal tows.

We contacted the company to plead your case, but they dug in, claiming your 9 was an altered zero.

Its true that your number 9 wont win a penmanship contest. But thats no reason to get towed. We kept at it and finally got the tow company to agree to examine some past handwriting samples. They did and the evidence was overwhelming: Your nine was fine. They agreed to refund your $218.

They still claim their driver did nothing wrong, and as for the complaints and citations, Manager Bill Nestos maintained theres no pattern of illegal towing and said many of the complaints and citations were unfounded.

But we found out one more thing: Under state law in Illinois, where you live, the towing company is supposed to release the vehicle if the owner arrives on the scene with the keys before the vehicle has been towed from the property. You said you had the keys right in your pocket that morning, so none of this should have happened — but you didnt know about that law until we told you, so you didnt bring it up.

As for everyone else, state and local laws vary when it comes to tows from private lots like shopping malls and housing complexes, so be sure to know your rights. Some jurisdictions cap rates for tows or require specific types of signs on the property.

One thing is clear: Dont park in one private lot and then walk across the street to shop somewhere else. The Fixer has heard from lots of folks who left for just a minute only to find their car had been spirited away.

– The ABC News Fixer