Troubleshooters: Booted while moving

A Bowling Green towing company boots cars of family members moving their students out of off campus housing
Published: Sep. 12, 2023 at 6:49 PM EDT

BOWLING GREEN, Ky. (WAVE) - Helping someone move may be one of life’s rites of passage.

It’s not easy, and one challenge is trying to find a place to park during the process.

Tim Heil was helping his daughter move to a new apartment before her final semester at Western Kentucky University.

He contacted the WAVE Troubleshooter hotline because the day he was helping his daughter load their UHaul and his truck, the apartment complex’s towing company booted his pickup.

“I live here all by myself,” WKU Senior Natalie Heil said. “My whole family lives in Louisville, so to move in and move out, my family has to come here and help.”

Her family was clearing out her apartment at the Midtown complex earlier this summer. Most stuff was headed to storage before the fall semester. Some was coming back to Louisville in her dad’s red pickup.

“We had the UHaul parked in this center strip over here and my dad’s truck was in this empty space right there,” Heil pointed out to WAVE.

She said it would be obvious to anyone watching the complex’s parking lot to know she was moving out. Yet, when her dad was carrying the mini fridge downstairs, he noticed something was off.

“I have a refrigerator in my hand, and I see somebody laying underneath my vehicle, and I didn’t know what was going on,” Timothy Heil said.

His truck got booted. He got upset and called the police.

“I have three vehicles here, and I’m in the process of moving out,” Bowling Green police body camera footage showed Heil asking officers. “How am I supposed to move my stuff out?”

“I know so many people who’ve got towed or booted,” Natalie Heil said.

The representative for Scotty’s Towing and Recovery said pay up or get towed, and the police told Heil’s dad there was nothing they could do.

“Management contracts them to patrol their lot, and that’s what they were doing,” one Bowling Green police officer said.

Other students and a neighboring business all told WAVE Scotty’s is very aggressive, often parking their wrecker at a building overlooking the parking lot. One student said her mother got booted helping her move.

“I know it’s not their policy to park here,” Heil said. “I’m not parking here overnight. It’s obvious I’m moving.”

It’s legal in Kentucky for property owners to hire towing companies to patrol their lots. Scotty’s has all the proper paperwork with Bowling Green.

City records show Scotty’s towed 39 cars from the lot at 1313 Center Street during the first half of this year, including towing five cars on Feb. 4 alone. WAVE wanted to know how many times Scotty’s boots cars, but Bowling Green doesn’t track that information.

“No parking in landlord parking lots without appropriate parking pass, but that doesn’t say anything about move in or move out,” Heil said.

Heil’s landlord requires cars in their lot to display parking passes and no temporary passes are given, but Scotty’s enforcement seems erratic.

The body camera video showed Heil’s UHaul wasn’t booted even though it was in a handicapped space. When WAVE was gathering footage, Scotty’s didn’t boot a pickup and cattle trailer we saw taking several spots being loaded or scrappers dumpster diving, or even other parents loading their cars.

No one answered the door at Scotty’s headquarters or returned a message WAVE left. Midtown’s manager didn’t return our phone calls either.

Heil’s dad swiped his credit card to pay the $110 boot removal fee. She turned in her key and finished moving out a week later. She made sure any car she drove had a parking pass.

“Trying to move out of an apartment is a little excessive to try to tow my car,” Heil said.

When Bowling Green regulated booting operations three years ago, it was mostly concerned with ending companies booting a car’s passenger side tire. Cars were getting damaged when people tried to drive away not knowing their car had been booted.

The city attorney’s office told WAVE it has not reviewed Scotty’s practices.