(a) As used in this Code section, the term:
(1) “Department” means the Department of Public Safety.
(2) “Private property” means any parcel or space of private real property.
(a.1) Any person or his or her authorized agent entitled to the possession of any private property shall have the right to remove or cause to be removed from the property any vehicle or trespassing personal property thereon which is not authorized to be at the place where it is found and to store or cause to be stored such vehicle or trespassing personal property, provided that there shall have been conspicuously posted on the private property notice that any vehicle or trespassing personal property which is not authorized to be at the place where it is found may be removed at the expense of the owner of the vehicle or trespassing personal property. Such notice shall also include information as to the location where the vehicle or personal property can be recovered, the cost of said recovery, and information as to the form of payment; provided, however, that the owner of residential private property containing not more than four residential units shall not be required to comply with the posting requirements of this subsection. Only towing and storage firms issued permits or licenses by the local governing authority of the jurisdiction in which they operate or by the department, and having a secure impoundment facility, shall be permitted to remove trespassing property and trespassing personal property at the request of the owner or authorized agent of the private property.
(b)(1) The department shall have the authorization to regulate and control the towing of trespassing vehicles on private property if such towing is performed without the prior consent or authorization of the owner or operator of the vehicle, including the authority to set just and reasonable rates, fares, and charges for services related to the removal, storage, and required notification to owners of such towed vehicles. No storage fees shall be charged for the first 24 hour period which begins at the time the vehicle is removed from the property, and no such fees shall be allowed for the removal and storage of vehicles removed by towing and storage firms found to be in violation of this Code section. The department is authorized to impose a civil penalty for any violation of this Code section in an amount not to exceed $2,500.00.
(2) In accordance with subsection (d) of this Code section, the governing authority of a municipality may require towing and storage operators to charge lower maximum rates on traffic moving between points within such municipality than those provided by the department’s maximum rate tariff and may require higher public liability insurance limits and cargo insurance limits than those required by the department. The governing authority of a municipality shall not provide for higher maximum costs of removal, relocation, or storage than is provided for by the department.
(c) In all municipalities, except a consolidated city-county government, having a population of 100,000 or more according to the United States decennial census of 1970 or any future such census a person entitled to the possession of an off-street parking area or vacant lot within an area zoned commercial by the municipality shall have the right to remove any vehicle or trespassing personal property parked thereon after the regular activity on such property is concluded for the day only if access to such property from the public way is blocked by a sturdy chain, cable, or rope stretched at least 18 inches above grade across all driveways or other ways providing access to the off-street parking area or vacant lot and there is conspicuously posted in the area a notice, the location of which must be approved by the municipality's police department, that any vehicle or trespassing personal property parked thereon which is not authorized to be in such area may be removed at the expense of the owner along with information as to where the vehicle or trespassing personal property may be recovered, the cost of said recovery, and information regarding the form of payment.
(d)(1) In addition to the regulatory jurisdiction of the department, the governing authority of each municipality having towing and storage firms operating within its territorial boundaries may require and issue a license or permit to engage in private trespass towing within its corporate municipal limits pursuant to this Code section to any firm meeting the qualifications imposed by said governing authority. The fee for the license or permit shall be set by such governing authority. The maximum reasonable costs of removal, relocation, and storage pursuant to the provisions of this Code section shall be compensatory, as such term is used in the public utility rate-making procedures, and shall be established annually by the governing authority of each municipality having towing and storage firms operating within its territorial boundaries; provided, however, that no storage fees shall be charged for the first 24 hour period which begins at the time the vehicle is removed from the property, and no such fees shall be allowed for the removal and storage of vehicles removed by towing and storage firms found to be in violation of this Code section.
(2) Towing and storage firms operating within a municipality's corporate limits shall obtain a nonconsensual towing permit from the department and shall file its registered agent's name and address with the department. The department may assess and collect an application fee in an amount to be determined by the commissioner and such amount shall not exceed the total direct and indirect costs of administering the program or activity with which the fee is associated. Pursuant to Code Section 45-12-92.1 , the fees collected shall be retained by the department and expended solely for the purpose of implementing this Code section.
(e) Any person who suffers injury or damages as a result of a violation of this Code section may bring an action in any court of competent jurisdiction for actual damages, which shall be presumed to be not less than $100.00, together with court costs. A court shall award three times actual damages for an intentional violation of this Code section.
(f) It shall be unlawful and punishable by a fine of $1,000.00 for any towing and storage firm, permitted or unpermitted, licensed or unlicensed, to enter into any agreement with any person in possession of private property to provide automatic or systematic surveillance of such property for purposes of removal and relocation of any such vehicle or trespassing personal property except upon call by such person in possession of such private property to such towing and storage firm for each individual case of trespass; provided, further, that it shall be unlawful and punishable by a fine of $1,000.00 for any towing and storage firm to pay to any private property owner or one in possession of private property any fee or emolument, directly or indirectly, for the right to remove a vehicle or trespassing personal property from said private property.
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