Anna Berlin was going to radiation treatments five days a week and chemotherapy once a week when her car at Spring Creek Apartments was towed — twice.
A resident at Spring Creek since 2017, Berlin’s family said her parking permit was in the car both times she was towed. The first time, Berlin’s permit had fallen half under the seat, while the second time it was on her dashboard with the sun visor up.
“They obviously did not make a diligent search of the inside of her car before they towed her because that stupid permit was apparent from the street,” said Berlin’s brother, Micheal Ball. “You could see it from the street for sure.”
Berlin, 72, has stage four cancer and her car was her only option to get to these daily treatments, her daughter Elizabeth Okawachi explained.
“I was really shocked and appalled,” Okawachi said. “When your mom’s sick, when she’s going through all that, the last thing she needed was for her car to get towed.”
Spring Creek Apartments is a complex operated by the Longmont Housing Authority that serves the elderly with incomes below 30% and 40% the area median income. Its parking, along with the parking at eight other LHA properties serving low and moderate income families, is enforced by Boulder Valley Towing.
Boulder Valley Towing is a sister company of Wyatt’s Towing, which provides towing services across the Front Range and has come under scrutiny over the years for repeated complaints like those outlined by Berlin’s family.
The Denver Post reported in November that a quarter of all towing complaints in Colorado are against Wyatt’s Towing and its sister companies, which include Boulder Valley Towing, Lone Star Towing and Klaus’ Towing. Last month, the Post also reported that Colorado’s attorney general appeared to be investigating the company.
“We are not aware of any investigations into our business by any government agencies, to include the Attorney General's office, nor have we been contacted by any government agencies about possible investigations,” Wyatts Towing CEO Trevor Forbes said in an emailed statement. “We welcome any questions from any municipal, county or state agency and would be fully cooperative with any inquiries that might arise at any time.”
The Denver Post found that between May 1, 2020 and May 1, 2022, Colorado’s Public Utilities Commission opened 365 cases against Wyatt’s and its sister companies, including 25 against Boulder Valley Towing.
The Better Business Bureau issued a consumer alert in 2020 for Wyatt’s Towing and its sister companies, warning of the pattern of complaints against the company, which remains on the website today. The company has an F rating and is not BBB accredited.
“Regarding service issues, consumers allege that the business practices predatory towing practices and tows cars without notice,” the alert reads on the BBB website. “Consumers allege that their cars were towed even though they had a parking permit visible.”
Longmont has contracted with Boulder Valley Towing to enforce parking regulations at the housing authority properties since February. Regional Property Manager Lisa Gallinar said that the LHA looked into multiple towing companies, seeking 24 hour monitoring on community parking lots, access to a web portal to monitor tows and the ability to list no tow days.
“Boulder Valley had the portal and capabilities to accommodate all of these, but (the) closest tow yard was in Boulder, which was closer than the Denver areas others stated,” Gallinar said.
Gallinar said the LHA was not aware of the low BBB rating and consumer alerts for the pattern of complaints filed against the business. She did not comment on the use of the company for towing enforcement despite its reputation.
“We checked references with other communities and apartment associations who utilize the same services we were looking for,” she said, adding that LHA reviews and investigates complaints from residents as they are received.
It cost Berlin over $300 to get her car back both times, but on a strictly fixed income she would not have been able to pay without family help.
“It’s outrageous. My mom is low income,” Okawachi said. “These people in this apartment are low income. They do not have $300. That’s why they’re in low income housing. They have medical problems, mobility problems and everything, so it just makes it that much more unethical.”
Okawachi said her family is considering filing a grievance against Boulder Valley Towing as their next step.