Pretend you busted your checking account and fell behind a few days on your rent. Would you feel safer if your landlord let a towing company take your car away?
That's the gist of an organization called the Texas Association of Safer Apartment Communities, a safety association landlords can join. A key safety feature of the group: Providing monthly parking stickers, withholding those stickers from tenants whose rent is late, and making sure that cars with out-of-date stickers get towed."Parking enforcement is an important part of our program," a TASAC flier explains.
Why would a safety association have such a tow-centric safety policy? Here's one possible answer: TASAC is run by a successful housing and tow-company lawyer whose brother happens to own an area tow truck company.
From the TASAC flier, you'd think that Black Bull Towing is just an independent "parking management company" that TASAC happens to work with. The flier also touts free eviction help from the Huhem Law Firm, "the top rated apartment law firm in Texas," another supposedly separate business.
But all three are closely related. Both the Huhem Law Firm and TASAC are run by Victor Huhem, who is the brother of Black Bull's owner, Aaron Huhem. TASAC and Black Bull share an address.
Trolling apartment complexes is big business for towing companies, but towers are legally barred from offering anything of benefit to parking facility owners -- even parking passes.
"If a towing company is providing anything to the parking facility, it's a violation of the law," says Pat Johnson, a former tow truck driver who runs the watchdog website Texas Towing Compliance and the accompanying Texas Towing Scams blog.
But since it's TASAC that's providing the benefits -- not Black Bull -- the Huhems seem to have found a way to skirt the law and cash in at apartment parking lots. Black Bull brags about being the area's biggest towing company servicing apartment complexes.
Victor Huhem, the attorney who owns TASAC and who provides the free eviction help touted in the TASAC flier, denies that he profits off of Black Bull Towing.
"My only involvement with Black Bull is to give legal counsel and representation and, of course, my dealings with it as a TASAC vendor," he told me via email.
His brother, Aaron, runs Black Bull Towing from Israel and couldn't comment, but Victor vouched on his behalf: "I guarantee you he is honest and wouldn't do anything that was inappropriate. That's why I chose his company as our TASAC vendor for parking enforcement."
The Huhem Law Firm, by the way, is award-winning: According to its web site, it "was named the top apartment law firm in 2010 by the TASAC (Texas Association of Safe Apartment Communities)."
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Read more in our recent cover story, "The Kings of the Apartment-Lot Tow."
Here's the TASAC flier: