The issue is as the question states. I rent an apartment with far too few spots for the amount of people in my building. This is remedied by there being excess spots in front of other apartment buildings within the same property (same company, same apartments, different buildings). However, people are just too lazy to walk the extra 100 feet so rather than parking in one of the open spots elsewhere, they park in the fire lane in front of the building. The lanes are very narrow to drive in as it is so I’ve been trapped and unable to leave for work some days because those cars block me off. I call the management office, they don’t open until 8 but I have to leave for work at 6 to get there. So nothing gets done in time. By the time management returns my call at 9, the vehicles are gone. I take pictures and send emails. By the time management sees the email, the cars gone and they say they’ll “give them a warning” but nothing changes.

Can I have cars towed that are illegally parked in the fire lane overnight in front of my apartment? I’m tired of relying on management who does nothing and having to miss or be incredibly late to work.

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    If they park in the fire lane, you might call your local fire station for advice. And in a different legislation I was told you can't get them towed, but you can sue them for damages like loss of income. Plus they had the rule "if a fire engine needs to get through, then it will get through".
    – gnasher729
    Mar 9, 2023 at 14:06

2 Answers 2


Had a similar situation in a home I lived in. We lived on the street closest to a High School's footbal stadium and the inadequate parking would cause fans to park in a manner that took a street that could handle bi-direction traffic to an unsigned one-way road. The school did make frequent announcements that fans parked there could be towed (it helped that I was one of many alums that lived there). The police informed me that unless there was some signage, they actually couldn't do anything. So you have the benefit of signage that says people cannot park there.

I would recommend calling the fire marshal. In Washington State (I assume your not in DC) the Fire Marshal is a division of the Washington State Patrol, the state police organization. Giving them a call in the evening when the parking is observably bad, will likely get the ball rolling. I would not expect towing, but I would expect to see tickets under offending vehicles if they come out.

If they fail too, I would start taking pictures of offending vehicles and present it to the local branch of WSP. I would minimize the inconvenience to your commute and the safety hazard of blocking space allocated for use by Emergency Service Vehicles. Try to get a name of someone who you can personally work with to assist you in the manner and who you can contact to report further issues. If they won't provide, ask if there is a way you can submit complaints to them.

I would, after contacting the WSP, notify your building's staff in person and through e-mail, that you have made them aware of the situation and that they have taken no action on previous attempts and that you have gone to the WSP over this matter. This serves two purposes, first you are notifying the building managment of a potential violation of law (the fire code is a law and is there because it's easier to fight deadly fires by removing hazards that make fires deadly in the first place. If a fire truck is blocked from the fire lanes, the fire fighters are going to have to deal with that before they can get to doing their real job.). The other benefit is to create a paper trail, which you can present to the WSP to show the building is compliant in fire code violations despite being made aware of the problem. Your building is likely not doing anything because there's no documentation that they are aware of the problem, so they can claim they didn't know anything about this if it goes to court.

Finally, I would recommend you seek an attorney that specializes in teneat or real estate matters and ask for a consultation. You do not have to employ their services, but most law offices will have a "client intake" process where you can explain your case and they can offer you some advice or other avenues. Even if you don't intend to sue your landlord(s), and even if you are reporting a crime to police, having a lawyer when dealing with the police and landlords can only help as they will be able to better advise you so you can do this safely without exposing yourself to civil or criminal liability. You can bet they have lawyers that will be more than willing to screw you for their clients. Also, even if you have no intention to go to court over this, they do not need to know that.

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    Thank you! This is incredibly useful. I’m relatively new to WA so I’m still learning a lot about the different resources. I considered calling the non-emergency fire department number this morning but didn’t know how that might affect me. So I resorted to the usual of calling, leaving a voicemail, and sending an email with photos of the violators.
    – Katie
    Mar 9, 2023 at 16:01
  • @Katie They likely don't have enforcement power of any kind, but they can direct you to the Fire Marshal or similar organization who does.
    – hszmv
    Mar 9, 2023 at 16:39

Depending on local laws, the property managers may have the discretion to call for towing themselves, as it is private property, but they obviously don't want to cause friction with their tenants. You could call a towing company directly, but depending on local laws, they will probably defer to the police or sheriff to ticket first before they tow. You could call the fire department, and depending on the size of the city and fire department, they may take a look or tell you to call 911.

You don't mention if you live in a city (with a police department) or a county (with a sheriff's department), but the simplest thing to do is bypass the management and call 911 (or find the local police or sheriff non-emergency number). Tell the dispatcher there are multiple cars parked in a fire lane and are there every day. Try calling at 5am or so to give them time to respond. Or, call the night before so the incident gets logged for the next shift. You may or may not be required to give your name, but dispatchers may not prioritize reports by callers who wish to remain anonymous. Law enforcement should respond; it may depend on the size of your city, how busy they are and how they treat non-emergency calls. Law enforcement should ticket the cars and possibly call for a tow at the same time.

  • Thank you! The property managers are able to call. There are signs posted everywhere saying you can be towed 24/7 for parking in fire lanes with no prior notice. There’s also an addendum in the lease that states the same in much more legal terms. They have the power and right to tow these vehicles but choose not to. They are well aware that it’s an issue as every so often they send a reminder email saying “hey don’t do that”. I live in a relatively small city and more so on the outskirts directly between two small cities. Management is useless so I think I need to look into which city to call.
    – Katie
    Mar 9, 2023 at 16:07
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    I would recommend not calling 911 unless there is an actual emergency in progress. For matters like this, typically 311 in the U.S. is used to call to alert emergency services to non-emergency issues such as conditions that could potentially be dangerous if not delt with. 911 should be used for situations that are life threatening if not handled urgently.
    – hszmv
    Mar 9, 2023 at 18:26
  • @hszmv You're wrong. 311 is not a nationwide service; read en.wikipedia.org/wiki/3-1-1 911 dispatchers are fully trained to ask and determine if a call is non-emergency and switch to a non-emergency dispatcher, if needed, and handle multiple calls at once. 911 systems are the clearing house for all calls into each LE jurisdiction. Mar 9, 2023 at 20:05

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