Bitterwallet's How To... deal with private parking fines (part 1)
Hopefully this article will inform you of rights that you never knew you had. Part 1 of the guide assumes that your car has not been clamped or towed. We will discuss cars that have been clamped or towed in part 2, along with any other tips/suggestions you can share with us below.
Here are a few pointers that will hopefully help you consider and evaluate your options when faced with a parking fine/ticket:
1. Know your rights. If you simply have a paper ticket and you're sure it isn't from the police or council but from a private company, you should know that private tickets do not come under criminal law but under contract law with the private landowner and the driver of the vehicle. Any info you give to them to confirm that you're the driver can be used against you in court, but unless your car was clamped or towed, it is unlikely that they will go to the trouble and expense of going to court.
2. Don't pay. Paying up is pretty much the same as admitting guilt, and your chances of getting the money back become very slight. Most private parking firms make their money from the people who pay up because they think it is a real parking ticket, or those they harass or scare into paying it. If you ignore them, you may get a couple of template follow up letters threatening legal action. Worst case scenario you'll get a couple of heavies sent your way (pretending to be baliffs when they are not), but you are under no legal obligation to follow up nor respond to these dirty scare tactics.
3. Forget appeals. According to Which?, the general consensus among legal experts and people is that you should not engage the private company at any time. The grounds for appeals, as summarized here on This Is Money, are often vague and non-applicable for many individuals. How likely is it that your car was stolen, or the Traffic Regulation Order was invalid? Of course, appealing is often one of the only routes if you had already paid, whether if your car was clamped or not. But the key is to avoid all that in the first place but not handing your wallet over.
4. Be willing to call their bluff. There are very few, if any cases of the companies taking court action when there has been no contact made with the private parking company. If you don't engage them at all, they are faced with the added task of hunting you down so they can pursue the matter. Once they've got you on the hook, they'll ratchet up the pressure to settle. If they threaten to take you to court, know that they are usually not successful, so calling their bluff (or just ignoring them) may be a worthwhile option.
5. Don't get scared. If you don't know whether a ticket you got is from the police or council or from a private parking company, know that police or council tickets will say so. Some sneaky private companies will design the sign to appear in the likeness of authority, but it doesn't matter how many police shields the parking company prints on the ticket, it's still not a police ticket unless it says so.
6. Driver vs owner. Know that if you receive a parking ticket on private land, the driver, not the owner, is liable. If you are the owner of a car in which someone else has received a private parking ticket, you are not liable, and you have absolutely zero obligation to tell the parking company who was driving.
7. ALWAYS read your ticket. That means both front and back, whether you plan to protest it or not and make note of any mistakes, such as make or colour of your car, and what the exact infraction is that you are accused of. If you don't check, your dodgy parking neighbour might have even decided to ditch their ticket on your windscreen, with high hopes that you would pay for them instead! So always check your ticket.
8. Gather more facts and info If you receive a parking ticket from the police or the council, check out the websites here and here. This tells you which signs should have been removed and no longer have authority. It's worth a look, just in case. Also, note that in Scotland, all clamping on private land is illegal.
In summary, if you've been the recipient of a private parking ticket:
-Do not pay them
-Do not contact them in any way
-Ignore letters from the parking company and debt collectors, even if they are threatening
-After sending four or five unanswered letters, the vast majority will give up.
In part 2, we will discuss how to fight private parking tickets if you feel you have been unfairly ticketed or are being asked to pay an unreasonable fine, or have been unjustly towed. If you received parking fines, and have a story/experience to share or lessons learned, please share them with us!