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Immediate Enforcement of New DC Regulations for Auto Repair Shops, Towing Lots

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Mayor Adrian M. Fenty today announced the District of Columbia would begin enforcing new regulations for auto repair shops and towing lots to eliminate dangerous and unsightly conditions in District neighborhoods.

 

Mayor Fenty, along with Attorney General Peter J. Nickles and Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs (DCRA) Director Linda K. Argo stressed that the District would immediately begin citing auto repair and towing lots that continue to perform services in public space and ignore city enforcement measures.

 

“The residents of the District of Columbia deserve high quality and professional auto repair services in their own neighborhoods,” Fenty said. “However, residents do not want businesses that expand their operations onto sidewalks and in alleys and turn city streets into veritable ‘chop shops.’”

 

Today’s announcement kicks off what will be a 30-day citywide sweep of more than 179 licensed auto repair shops and 22 tow lot operators across the city. In an initial sweep on May 1, DCRA placarded six auto repair shops for violations and DPW towed 45 vehicles from four lots.

 

“Many of these dealers, licensed or unlicensed, are making repairs outdoors, often in public space, and some are engaged in outdoor storage of vehicles, in varying states of disrepair, that do not belong to customers,” Fenty said. “Their actions pose an immediate and continuing threat to the public health, safety, and comfort, and threaten harm to the environment through discharges of hazardous fluids and other solid wastes.”

 

The new regulations were first published in the DC Register as a proposed rulemaking on March 6, 2009, and were republished in the DC Register as a final and effective rulemaking on April 24 (56 DCR 3096).

 

The latest enforcement campaign follows more than six months of actions that have lead the closure of dozens of illegal and dangerous used car dealers and auto repair shops. In May alone, the District cited 11 businesses and towed 96 vehicles away.

 

“I think these businesses are finally understanding that this is not the city merely saber rattling,” Nickles said. “We are coming day after day, month after month to ensure these businesses are following the law. This is what the residents of the District of Columbia want and what they will get.”

 

 

“We have spent the past month educating these business owners on what they need to do to come into compliance and met with dozens just this past week,” Argo said. “Now is the time for these businesses to decide whether they want to follow the law or close up shop.

“We are willing to work with those who are making a good faith effort to come into compliance, but time is running out for those who don’t.”

 

Overview of Auto Repair Regulations

 

• No repair services by a consumer goods repair dealer involving motor vehicles may be performed outside of a permanent garage or other permanent building, located on premises for which the dealer has a license to perform repair services on motor vehicles, except minor motor vehicle repair services limited to replacing batteries, changing tires, changing light bulbs or air filters, adding washer fluid or motor oil, and other comparably minor services, but excluding oil changes or any other services involving the removal of motor vehicle fluids.

• Parking is limited to the customers’ motor vehicles kept on the premises for the purpose of having repair services performed on the vehicles by the dealer; Motor vehicles used by customers, employees, visitors, and other persons, to travel to and from the premises; Operational motor vehicles that are owned by or leased to the dealer and that are kept and regularly used by the dealer for the purpose of transporting passengers, vehicles, supplies, or equipment.

• Dealer are required to maintain in a secure location on the dealer’s premises, for each motor vehicle kept on the premises that belongs to a customer, a record showing the customer’s name, address, and telephone number, the date the vehicle was received by the dealer, and the type or types of repair services that have been, are being, or are to be performed on the vehicle by the dealer, and shall make such record available for immediate inspection by the Director at any time during regular business hours.

 

Overview of Towing Regulations

• The storage lot shall be used exclusively for storing towed vehicles following public tows or tows for customers; Parking vehicles used by customers, employees, visitors, or other persons, to travel to and from the storage lot; and Parking tow trucks and any other vehicles regularly used by the towing business for the purpose of transporting passengers, vehicles, or equipment.

• The storage lot shall not be used to store a towed vehicle for more than 60 days, unless the vehicle is being stored as a result of a public tow.

• The storage lot shall be served by an office, located on the storage lot or on an adjoining lot that has heating, electricity, and a bathroom.

• The storage lot shall maintain a permanent sign, visible from the lot entrance, showing the name of the establishment and its hours of operation.

• Each automobile space in the storage lot shall have space boundaries that are clearly marked with painted lines.

• The areas of the storage lot used for storing, parking, or moving vehicles shall be paved and maintained.

• If the storage lot is used to store five or more towed vehicles and is not located in a C-M or M zoning district, then the areas of the storage lot used for storing vehicles, or the entire storage lot, shall be screened on all sides by a solid, permanent, opaque fence, or a solid brick or stone wall, at least 72 inches high and maintained, or evergreen hedges or evergreen growing trees that are thickly planted and maintained and that are at least 72 inches in height when planted.

• No vehicle parts or trash shall be stored outdoors on the storage lot, unless stored off the ground in secured containers.

 

Enforcement Timeline

 

DCRA began enforcing the new regulations for auto repair businesses in four stages:

 

• In stage one, which ended May 31, DCRA educated businesses and the public about the new regulations and encourage voluntary compliance.

 

• In stage two, which begins today and ends June 30, DCRA will enforce the new restrictions on off-premise repairs, as well as the restrictions on outdoor storage of motor vehicles.

 

• In stage three, which begins July 1, DCRA will enforce the new restrictions on outdoor repairs, but not against dealers who have applied to DCRA for permits to make improvements that would correct their violations, such as building permits needed to construct garages in which to repair motor vehicles.

 

• In stage four, which begins Sept. 1, DCRA will begin enforcing against all violations of the new regulations.

 

DCRA has also begun enforcing the regulations for towing service lots in four stages:

 

• In stage one, which ended May 31, DCRA educated operators and the public about the new regulations and encourage voluntary compliance.

 

• In stage two, which begins today and ends June 30, DCRA will enforce the new restrictions on the permissible purposes for which vehicles may be stored or parked on towing lots, the new 60-day restriction on storing vehicles that have been towed for customers, and the requirement that vehicle parts and trash be properly stored.

 

• In stage three, which begins July 1, DCRA will enforce the remainder of the new regulations, but not against operators who have applied to DCRA for permits to make improvements that would correct their violations, such as building permits needed to construct an office with heating, electricity, and a bathroom.

 

• In stage four, which begins Sept. 1, DCRA will begin enforcing against all violations of the new regulations.

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