Should car theft victims have to pay for storage fees?

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- Jesse Pesina still can't believe his truck was stolen from his driveway on May 8. He described the moment he walked outside to find it missing.

"Man, my truck is gone," he said. "Call the cops."

Incredibly, a week later Houston police officers found it on the opposite side of town. And they told him where he could go pick it up. He was met at the lot with a hefty towing and storage fee.

"But when I got hit with that bill $359.11, I said, man, what is going on?" said Pesina. "Why so much? That's a lot of money to get my truck back."

It's perfectly legal. The state agency that regulates tow trucks and storage lots, the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation, told Eyewitness News that cities can enforce laws that provide for "reasonable" towing and storage charges for victims of auto accidents or thefts.

To make matters worse for Pesina, the interior was wrecked and the battery was stolen. He had to have it towed to his mechanic for another $80. He figures it will cost another thousand to repair it.

Pesina has insurance, but none that covers theft.

"There's got to be a recourse for this," he said. "You can't say just because your truck got stolen, I mean why should we have to pay all over again?"

City council member Michael Kubosh believes the rules target the poor who don't have the money to pay for insurance or the fees. He'd like to see the city change that.

"When somebody has had their vehicle stolen and then somebody else is benefiting from it, I think that's egregious. I think it's wrong," Kubosh said. "The tow fee should be waived, just like with Safe Clear program. And the storage fee -- it doesn't make any sense to put these people through this."

Eyewitness News contacted the storage lot on Tidwell where Pesina retrieved his car. The person who answered declined to do an interview but said, "As a human, it's not right. But that's how it is."
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