Rental car companies in Phoenix owe the city nearly $100,000 in unpaid parking tickets, according to The Arizona Republic.
The information comes from the "boot-and-tow" list used by local police to impound vehicles registered to repeat offenders. Vehicles on this list can be impounded, locked in place with a boot or towed at any time.
The majority of the $2 million in unpaid fines on this list is owed by individual motorists and small businesses, but major rental agencies account for some of the largest individual debts. Some of the violations date back as far as 1999.
Rental agencies aren't claiming responsibility
The city requires that registered owners, including rental companies, pay fines. Towing fees are $30 per vehicle, and offenders have to pay the total fines plus court imposed fees, or request to see a judge.
The city sends notices to the address listed for each vehicle's registered owner, but sometimes the information is outdated. The city is prohibited by law from issuing warrants or taking any stricter legal action than sending the unpaid violations to collections teams. The only other action the city can generally take is to impound the vehicle - if they find it.
Rental car agencies say they intend to hold their clients accountable for unpaid violations, but the rental agreements require that a driver is charged for any tickets within 90 days. That means, after this time period, the agency is responsible. Some tickets issued to older vehicles might never be paid because those cars are no longer part of the fleet.
According to the city's records, Hertz owes Phoenix $3,297, and Enterprise owes the city more than $18,000.
Southwest-Tex Leasing Co. owes Phoenix more than $26,000 - the largest amount on the boot-and-tow list. The city has been unable to collect, as the company went bankrupt two years ago. Southwest operated under Advantage Rent A Car before Advantage was purchased by Hertz. Hertz has declined to take responsibility for the debts, according to the newspaper.
Travelers could suffer
The newspaper said collection agency delays and loopholes have prevented the city from collecting this potential revenue. But as the city aggressively tracks rental agencies with unpaid fines, tourists and business travelers could suffer.
Since early August, Phoenix police have impounded at least 12 vehicles using license plate scanners. Cars with three or more unpaid tickets are impounded, whether the driver is a renter, registered owner or someone borrowing a vehicle. Travelers who have rented cars with three or more unpaid violations from agencies risk having their vehicle towed.
"Hopefully, with this program, companies will grow tired of having their vehicles towed and step up to pay those tickets," said Loren Braud, staff attorney at Phoenix Municipal Court. "The thing with these rental car companies, you need to reach someone who cares about the fact that they have all these obligations and all these mounting letters from collection agencies."