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Do you have to pay unfair private parking fines?

Fiona Leake
Fiona Leake
  | Edited by Tom Church
Updated 4th June 2021

If you get a private parking ticket, don’t pay right away! Sometimes these private car park tickets are unfair and can be disputed. In this guide, we will explain whether private parking fines are enforceable and whether you have to pay private parking tickets.

What are private parking fines?

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Private parking fines are something you receive when parking on privately owned land without following the rules and charges that apply. Privately owned land could be anything from a supermarket car park to someone’s property. 

Privately owned land must have clear signs telling you that the land is private and what the rules and charges are if you wish to park there. This allows you to choose whether to abide by the rules and park there or leave.

Most private landowners use parking operators to issue tickets to people breaking the parking rules. If you break the parking rules, you’ll be issued a private parking ticket and will usually be charged a fine. 

You could be given a private parking fine in the following circumstances:

  • You didn’t pay to park there.
  • You stayed longer than you paid for.
  • You stayed longer for the maximum time allowed.
  • You parked where you weren’t allowed to.

However, in some circumstances, private parking fines aren’t justified and you can challenge them. We will explain in more detail throughout this guide!

Do you have to pay private parking tickets?

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If you believe that your private parking ticket is unfair, then you might not have to pay. However, you will need to take action and dispute the ticket, you can’t just ignore it and hope it disappears.

We will explain how to dispute private parking tickets later in this guide. 

If your private parking ticket was justified, you should pay the ticket upfront to avoid disputing something that was fair in the first place.

Are private parking fines enforceable?

Private parking companies can only force you to pay for the ticket by taking you to court. 

If your case was taken to court, you will have the opportunity to defend yourself and argue why you believe that the fine is unfair. So, the court could still rule in your favour. 

However, if your private parking fine dispute was taken to court, you should seek professional advice.

What happens if you ignore private parking tickets?

If you refuse to pay and just ignore your private parking fine then the company could take you to court. You will have the option to defend yourself in court. However, we don’t recommend ignoring private parking tickets. 

If you disagree with the ticket then you should dispute it rather than just ignoring it. This way, you have the option to stand your ground and resolve the issue without the hassle of going to court. 

If the private parking ticket is justified, it’s best for you to just pay it as it’s what you fairly owe. 

5 Things you need to know about private parking fines

Before disputing a potentially unfair private parking ticket, make sure that you know and understand the following...

1. Penalty Charge Notice vs. Parking Charge Notice

A ‘Penalty Charge Notice’ is an official parking ticket issued by the council. A ‘Parking Charge Notice’ is a private parking ticket issued by the owner of the land whether it’s a supermarket or hospital. 

Spot the difference below:

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As you can see, these tickets look almost identical! However, the official Penalty Charge Notice is a fine whilst the private Parking Charge Notice is just an invoice for you to pay. 

This is the main difference between private and council parking tickets.

2. Only dispute UNFAIR private parking fines

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Private landowners have the right to issue you a private parking ticket if you don’t pay or break the rules. If this is the case, then you should pay for the ticket and learn from it. 

You should only dispute UNFAIR private parking tickets. Sometimes these private tickets are unfair due to unclear signs, technology failures or simply an honest error by the ticket issuer. 

So, if your private parking ticket is unfair then you have the right to dispute. DON’T dispute fair parking tickets as it’s simply not worth the hassle.

3. Report unfair tickets to the landowner 

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If the ticket issuer has behaved particularly unfairly then you should report it to the landowner which could be the supermarket, retailer or hospital etc. 

The landowner might reverse the private parking ticket if they believe it was issued unfairly. Big companies with reputations to protect are more likely to fight your corner to retain customers. 

4. Gather all the evidence you can before disputing the parking ticket

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Before attempting to dispute a private parking ticket, you need to make sure you gather as much evidence as possible. Ideally, you should gather evidence at the scene for the best case. 

Here’s some evidence you should provide:

  • Photographs - take pictures of any unclear signs, bay markings, where your car was parked, your parking ticket and any other relevant information.
  • Correspondence - keep copies of any correspondence between you and the private parking ticket issuer.
  • Proof of circumstances - if you received a private parking ticket through no fault of your own, for example, you were broken down, make sure you keep receipts from the car repair company as proof.
  • Witness statements - if anyone else there saw what happened, ask for a signed witness statement to back up your dispute. 

The more evidence you provide, the stronger your argument will become.

5. Clamping or towing isn’t allowed on private property...usually

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Clamping or towing a car on private land has been banned in England and Wales under the Protection of Freedoms Act 2012. It’s been banned in Scotland since 1992.

However, in some cases, you can be legally towed or clamped by a private company. 

Private firms can be subcontracted to tow or clamp a car by the police, local authorities or government agencies such as the DVLA. This can happen even on private land.

Remember - NEVER try to remove a clamp yourself and this could count as criminal damage.

How do I know if my private parking ticket is unfair?

There are a few reasons why your private parking ticket might be unjustified. Here’s when you can challenge it:

  • The rules weren’t clear - if there aren’t any signs or they are misleading or unclear, then you could dispute your private parking ticket. This is because you weren’t fully informed of the rules. 
  • You didn’t break any rules - if you didn’t break the rules because you paid for your parking, parking correctly and left on time, then you should dispute it.
  • You weren’t who parked the car - if you’re the registered owner of the car, then you might be sent the private parking ticket. However, if you didn't park the car, then you aren’t responsible to pay for the ticket.
  • You have unique circumstances for breaking the rules - for example, your car broke down or you overstayed because you were taken ill. 
  • You took longer to buy a ticket or return to your car - if you take longer to buy a ticket or get back to your car because you’re older or disabled then receiving a ticket in these circumstances could be discriminatory. 
  • The charge is too high - parking fines should not usually exceed £100 unless justified. If you believe that you’ve been unfairly billed, you could dispute it. 

How to challenge private parking fines

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If you decide to dispute an unfair private parking ticket, you can follow the steps below:

Step 1: Make an informal challenge to the parking operator

The parking operator’s information should be provided on the private parking charge notice and so your first step should be to appeal the decision to them. You can request that they withdraw the ticket, stating your reasons and providing evidence.

At this point, you should also let the landowner whose car park you parked in know that you believe you were given a ticket unfairly. 

Citizens Advice has a template complaint letter here.

Step 2: Escalate your challenge to an independent appeals service

If your informal challenge is rejected by the parking operator then you can make a formal challenge to an independent appeals service. 

How you challenge depends on whether the parking company is a member of the British Parking Association (BPA) approved operators scheme.

If the parking company is a BPA member:

If the parking operator is a member of the British Parking Association then appeals can be made to Parking on Private Land Appeals (POPLA). Learn how to make an appeal on the POPLA website.

If the parking company ISN’T a BPA member:

If you have a dispute with a parking operator then you can appeal to the Independent Appeals Service (IAS) but only if the parking operator is willing to take part.

This service is entirely free but you must make your appeal within 21 days of the parking operator rejecting your informal appeal. 

Submit a formal appeal online using the IAS website. Make sure you provide evidence to support your dispute. 

Step 3: Wait for the final decision

The parking operator should not ask for you to pay the private parking ticket while the POPLA or IAS is considering your appeal. 

The final decision made by the POPLA or IAS is final and all parties must abide by the decision.

FAQs

What do you think of this?
CC120
CC1202 weeks ago

Pepipoo.com (fightback forums) helped me successfully appeal 4 PCN's.

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ladymc692
ladymc6922 days ago

my husband is always getting park tickets pay them as quickly as possible then they are Usually Reduced if you pay them within 14 days

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