Horror stories about car towings aren't difficult to come by — just about everyone has one — but a U.K. man didn't even have an actual car to bail out with cash three days after his BMW was towed.
Back in 2016, the owner of a 2004 BMW 323 in Flintshire, Wales, went into Wrexham Maelor Hospital for ankle surgery, having left his car in its normal spot near his apartment, according to ITV. He was discharged three days later, and to his surprise, the car was missing when he returned to his apartment, despite having been parked in his registered parking space. He contacted the police, and after a short period of time, he was even more surprised to learn that in the three days he had been away the car was declared "off the road" — an informal term for a legal status that can be assigned to cars that appear abandoned and unregistered — and had already been towed and crushed.
The Flintshire council, a municipal governing body, subsequently claimed that the DVLA (the DMV equivalent) database did not show a registered owner for the BMW, according to ITV. But a subsequent report conducted by an ombudsman later showed that a license plate registration search for the car had not even been made at the time it was towed. More importantly, the town council did not provide a statutory notice to the owner, advising him/her that the car would be towed and recycled in the future.
"I was utterly horrified and so confused because I couldn't understand why they took away a vehicle that was registered to me at my address," the owner told ITV.
The worst part of this story has to be that the owner was told that the car had already been destroyed while, in fact, it was in an impound lot the whole time and was only destroyed two weeks later.
"I was astounded by the sequence of events that led to the complainant having his car destroyed, and clearly, in this case, the council has failed him," said Nick Bennett, public services ombudsman for Wales told ITV.
"This is as classic a case of maladministration as I have witnessed in four years of office," Bennett added. "It adds insult to injury for Mr. G that the car contained tools he was using to restore his cherished BMW, and I am pleased the council will at least provide redress to cover the costs of this."
The owner paid £14,000 for the BMW back in 2004, which translates to about $18,300 today, and by 2016, it was worth around £2,750, or about $3,600. Moreover, the owner had put $3,200 worth of work into the car, restoring it himself, and had about $2,600 worth of tools in the trunk at the time that it was towed.
In the end, the owner received £2,500 in compensation for the car and its contents, which sounds like about half of the market value of the car and the tools inside.
The moral of the story here, if any, is that municipal schemes to proactively find and recycle cars that appear abandoned, when paired with profit motive for towing companies and vehicle recyclers, are a bad combination.
A number of European countries have legislation that permits municipalities to recycle abandoned cars after some investigation and notice to owners — if they can be found — for environmental reasons, but as this case demonstrates, the process can get carried away at times and recycle perfectly good cars, including a fairly recent BMW.
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