Illegally parked vehicles present some of the most annoying and common issues for a body corporate. How you handle this problem may also have ongoing ramifications. If your body corporate is looking to tackle the problem by towing vehicles away, then here are the risks and factors you should be aware of.
Illegally parked vehicles fall under a number of categories:
- Owners/residents using visitor or other resident’s space to house their own vehicle.
- Visitors to the site overstaying their welcome or blocking access.
- Non associated people using a complex’s car park such as in busy areas where parking is limited near shops.
Who owns the vehicle and which of these categories it falls under may impact the actions your body corporate can take, but make no mistake, regardless of the situation and any signage erected, towing a vehicle could leave a body corporate liable for removal costs and any damage caused.
In 2014 The Queensland Government released the Queensland Government Property Law Review Options Paper, which discussed this very issue.
In it they noted the current legislation means: “regardless of what is stated in the by‐laws with respect to towing or the type of notice that is displayed in the visitor’s parking area, there is no clear legislative authority for a body corporate to tow, or arrange for the towing of a vehicle”.
What’s more: “The body corporate is subject to legislation which makes it illegal to wilfully interfere with any mechanism, or other part of a vehicle.”
As there are no clear provisions under law for a body corporate to tow an illegally parked vehicle, if they do, the body corporate incurs a number of risks.
- Financial outlay for the towing costs which they will not be able to recover
- Liability for damage to the vehicle should something happen during the removal (body corporate insurance will not generally cover this).
What to do
The Queensland Government is assessing new options to handle the issue and provide bodies corporate with powers under special circumstances to remove vehicles and tackle repeat offenders.
In the interim, if illegal parking presents a problem for your body corporate the best option is to seek legal advice.
Your lawyer may be able to assist with strategies for dealing with residents that include issuing notices under the BCCM Act and then applying to an adjudicator to have a resident’s vehicle removed.
They may also be able to utilise common law situations which allow for removal of vehicles blocking access.
But as the current situation depends on who owns the vehicle, whether they are subject to your by-laws and how you go about enforcing them, legal advice is strongly recommended.
The final word
The law may be set to change in the coming years, but for now your body corporate should be mindful of the risks associated with towing, seek the best advice possible depending on the individual circumstances, and act in a manner that mitigates liability.