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Private parking tickets

Do you have to pay private parking tickets?

published: 02 June 2021
Read time: 5 minutes

Getting back to your car to find a parking ticket on your windscreen can feel frustrating. Our guide covers when you can challenge a ticket, and how parking fines work

If you return to your car to find you’ve got a ticket slapped onto your windscreen, it can leave you feeling frustrated. But before you get too indignant, you need to work out whether you are justified in challenging an unfair ticket.

What are the types of parking ticket?

There are a few common types of parking tickets or traffic penalties:

Fixed Penalty Notice (FPN) - Issued by the police

Fixed penalty notices are issued for parking, dangerous driving or other minor offences. Points may be added to your licence, and you could incur a financial penalty. In England and Wales, you have 28 days to pay them. 

Penalty Charge Notice (PCN) or Excess Charge Notice (ECN) - Issued by local authority traffic wardens

Most parking tickets will either be a Penalty Charge Notice (PCN) or an Excess Charge Notice (ECN), both issued by local authorities. If your parking fine is one of these, it should be written clearly.

The main difference between the two is that unlike a PCN, an Excess Charge Notice is a criminal charge.

Parking Charge Notice/PCN - Invoices issued by private companies for parking on private land

If you overstay in a supermarket, hospital or other private car park, you could end up with one of these. If you don’t pay the amount owed, the parking company will write to you and may apply for a County Court judgment.

There are differences between parking on private or public land. Even supermarket carparks are private land, so it can be easy to get caught out and end up with a fine. Private companies can issue parking tickets if you’re not following the rules, known as Parking Charge Notices (PCN.) While they may sound similar, Parking Charge Notices are different to Penalty Charge Notices.

A Parking Charge Notice is issued by a private company and isn’t backed by law. PCNs are invoices that have been issued for what it sees as a breach of contract. If the car park operator wants you to pay the fine, they’ll need to take you to the civil court (which can be expensive and time-consuming.)

car parking fine

Is the ticket justified?

If you’ve been given a parking ticket, you’ll need to decide whether you believe it to be justified.  Ask yourself if you broke the advertised parking conditions, or parked on a company’s private land, or stayed for longer than you should have. 

If you’re at fault, you’ll need to consider whether the amount you’re being asked to pay is justified. Also remember that private companies can’t fine you – they’re just sending you notice of what they see as a breach of contract.

If you are convinced the ticket you’ve received from an official body is unfair, the key is to act fast so you can pull together evidence as soon as possible.

When can you challenge a parking ticket?

There are certain circumstances where you may be able to challenge a parking ticket – for example, technology faults and unclear signs or markings. That said, there are times when you’ll be bang to rights as far as a ticket is concerned, like when you’ve parked on a single red or a double yellow line. 

The same applies if you’ve left your car in an area reserved for permit holders, or if you’ve blocked an entrance, a bus stop, a parking bay or the path of flowing traffic. In each of these scenarios, even if you did try to appeal, your chances of success would be extremely low. 

But one scenario where you may be able to challenge a ticket is on the grounds of mitigating circumstances, such as being ill, or the ticket falling off. With cases such as these, you need to proceed very carefully, as you may still struggle to get your challenge upheld.

Know your rights if you're clamped or towed

Having your car clamped or towed away isn’t a nice thought and can leave you with worries of how much it’ll cost to get your car back, or if you can remove the clamp yourself.

Your car can be clamped if:

  • You’ve parked illegally: your car is parked on roads or public land, causing an obstruction (this includes if your car has broken down)

  • Your insurance is invalid: Make sure your car insurance hasn’t expired, or that you've set up your renewal or new policy correctly

  • You’re considered a danger to other road users: The DVSA can clamp overloaded or unroadworthy vehicles 

  • If you’re driving a commercial vehicle: You’ve been driving for too many hours or haven’t paid previous fines 

Your car can be towed if:

  • You’ve parked illegally: The police and local councils can tow cars which are causing an obstruction, including cars that have broken down

  • Your vehicle is untaxed: the DVLA (Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency) can tow any untaxed vehicle

  • Your insurance is invalid: Make sure your car insurance hasn’t hasn't expired, or that you've set up your renewal or new policy correctly

Do keep in mind that in England, Scotland or Wales, it’s illegal for your car to be clamped, towed, blocked-in or immobilised on private land by a private operator.

How do I challenge a parking ticket?

Before starting an appeal process for your parking ticket, you should check who your ticket is from. While some tickets are issued by official bodies such as local councils and the police, others are issued by private companies. 

If you’re convinced the ticket you’ve received from an official body is unfair, you’ll need to act fast so you can pull together evidence as soon as possible.

You should take photos of unclear signs, as well as pictures of the area surrounding your vehicle. If there are witnesses around, ask for their contact details so you can get in touch if you need to further down the line. Taking action right away is important if you want to keep costs down as, generally speaking, if you pay a fine within 14 days the cost will be halved. 

The length of the appeal process will depend on who issued the ticket, but there are generally three stages: an informal appeal, a formal appeal – and then an appeal to the Independent Tribunal. 

But do bear in mind that if you’re thinking of pursuing an appeal, even if you manage to get all the way to the final stage, the success rate may be as low as just 50%. Given these odds, you may want to think carefully before you challenge a parking ticket, as it can be a long process.

Do you have to pay for a private parking fine?

Whether you have to pay a private parking fine will depend on who it was issued by. If the fine was issued by the police or council workers, known as a Penalty Charge Notice (PCN), you can’t ignore it. This is because they’re backed by the law and if you ignore this for too long, you could get summoned to court. 

But if the private parking ticket was issued by a private company (like a college, university, cark park or hospital) they aren’t technically ‘fines.’ Instead, the company is giving you notice that they see your parking as a breach of contract. They’re known as Parking Charge Notices and aren’t an official fine – in fact, private companies don’t have a legal right to demand payment from you.

What if the company is not a BPA or IPC member?

If you’re looking to challenge a private parking ticket, it’s best to check if the ticket says the company is a member of a trade body. You can check the BPA or IPA’s websites to see if a parking company is a member of an accredited trade association (ATA.) 

The British Parking Association (BPA) or the International Parking Community (IPC) are the main UK trade bodies. If the parking firm that has issued your parking ticket isn’t a member of a trade body, you have a good reason to appeal the ticket. 

What are my options if my appeal is rejected?

If your formal appeal was rejected, you’ll be sent a ‘Notice of Rejection of Representations’ letter and a form called a ‘Notice of Appeal.’ This allows you to challenge the parking ticket to an independent tribunal. 

Going to an adjudicator may be worthwhile as it’ll be an adjudicator appointed by the government, not a council or authority. You’ll need to submit this form within 30 days of the date it was issued.

Do parking tickets affect my car insurance?

Parking tickets shouldn’t affect your car insurance premium, because parking tickets aren’t a reflection of whether you drive safely. Instead, car insurers look at driving-related factors like speeding tickets. 

If you tell your insurer about your parking tickets, they wouldn’t use this information to work out if you're more likely to get into a car accident or submit a car insurance claim.

Tips for avoiding parking tickets

There are ways you can reduce your chances of getting a parking ticket, including:

  • Avoid double yellow lines: Even if you’re only parked for two minutes to nip into a shop, don’t park on double yellow lines. The only exception is if you’re stopping to load or unload your vehicle

  • Avoid clearways: A clearway is marked with a red cross over a blue background and means no stopping at any time, even to pick up or drop off passengers

  • Make sure your ticket is displayed clearly: Make sure you display your parking ticket clearly so it can be read clearly by a parking warden. Always check it’s visible after you’ve shut your car door 

  • Be aware: Even if cars around you aren't displaying tickets, search for signs and make sure you're not disobeying local restrictions. If you use a Blue Badge, don't assume that disabled parking is always free

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