Parking enforcement company accused of leaving drivers in limbo after booting cars

CHARLOTTE — A company that puts boots on parked cars in Charlotte is accused of ignoring drivers’ calls, leaving vehicles immobile for hours.

There is a city ordinance that is intended to get the boots off as soon as possible for drivers, but there isn’t much enforcement, Channel 9 has learned.

The Towing and Booting Ordinance was updated in 2015, removing the cap on the cost to boot.

Previously, companies could only charge as much as $50, but now they set the rate.

The small protection that remained, a timely removal of a boot, can’t be enforced in most cases, leaving some drivers helpless at the hands of at least one predatory company.

Gabriel Horne was catsitting at his brother’s Charlotte apartment complex one weekend when his car was booted.

Horne said his parking permit had fallen off the top of the car’s dashboard.

The instructions that Boone-based LMS Parking left informed Horne to call to remove the device.

Horne, a nurse’s aide, said he called several times, and the voicemail said to text a phone number.

So he waited.

“I had to get my mom to drive an hour to take me to work,” Horne said.

LMS Parking got back to him eight hours later, according to Horne.

“They were like, ‘Hey, we’re here to undo your car,’” Horne said. “And, you know, I was pretty riled up. I was like, ‘Hey, I called you all this…' And then they hung up.”

The person on the other end of the call hung up on Horne.

“They’re like, ‘If you’re not there, call back when you get here.’ And that was it,” Horne said.

Channel 9′s Madison Carter called LMS Parking and had a similar experience.

“There are some residents having an issue with timely boot removal,” Carter said on the phone. “Are you able to help us understand what’s been happening there?”

The company put Carter on hold and hung up.

Carter called LMS Parking back, but the company didn’t have a comment.

The business, which has an F rating has more than three dozen complaints on the BBB website.

BBB President Tom Bartholomy said that may not be much of a deterrent.

“It actually does very little in a situation like this,” Bartholomy said. “Unfortunately, because people aren’t out shopping for a towing company.”

The city of Charlotte requires towing companies to have someone on call 24 hours a day.

The company must acknowledge requests within 15 minutes and make a car available, which means removing the boot within 45 minutes.

However, there have been several complaints that LMS Parking has not followed those rules.

“If you feel you’re a victim of this type of situation, you got to call the (Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department),” Bartholomy said. “They’re the ones that are tasked with enforcing this and working with those towing companies to make sure that they abide by the ordinance.”

But LMS Parking is not doing that.

CMPD said officers don’t enforce all sections of the city statute unless it’s criminal.

People can file a complaint in small claims court, but the city said it can’t enforce the ordinance on private property.

VIDEO: Action 9 VIDEO: Man Feels Gouged By Towing Company

Madison Carter

Madison Carter, wsoctv.com

Madison is an investigative reporter and anchor for Channel 9.