Action Desk has received numerous enquires about parking fines from motorists parking on private land.
Readers are frequently caught out in car parks such as the Berkeley Precinct on Ecclesall Road and Hillsborough’s B&M Bargains.
Contrary to popular belief, you can be taken to court if you do not pay a fine but the process is time-consuming and costly for parking companies.
Parking tickets issued on private land are called Parking Charge Notices.
These are different to Penalty Charge Notices, which are issued by the council or police on public land such as a council-run car park.
If you park in a private car park you enter into a contract with the landowner to comply with their rules.
If you break the parking rules, you break your contract with the landowner. You might do this by not paying, staying longer than the time you have paid for or parking in the wrong place.
If you break the parking rules private landowners can issue a parking ticket and recover the losses they’ve suffered. Often a parking company will have a contract with the landowner to issue tickets on their behalf.
You could be parked in a shopping centre, retail park, hospital or other privately-owned car park, or on other private residential land such as a private road. A ticket may be left on your windscreen or sent through the post.
DO I HAVE TO PAY?
Parking Charge Notices are not the same as council-issued tickets. They are actually invoices. If you do not pay the ticket, it cannot affect your credit record and the issuers cannot send bailiffs to recover the money.
If a company wants to force you to pay, they will need to take you to court, which is costly and time-consuming. What they send you is an invoice for a breach of contract. The issue is therefore a contractual, civil matter rather than a criminal one. If you don’t think you broke the rules or the rules or signs weren’t clear, you can challenge a ticket.
CAN I BE CLAMPED?
No. It is illegal to clamp a vehicle on private land.
Since 2012, clamping on private land in England and Wales was banned under the Protection of Freedom Act.
HOW DO I CHALLENGE A TICKET?
If you are going to dispute a ticket, then you should collate as much evidence as possible to support your case. Take photos of where you received the ticket.
Check signs, ground markings and ticket meters.
If you can show that the signs were unclear or not visible from where you parked then you can prove that you were unaware of the terms.
If ground markings such as bays are unclear or confusing you may be able to prove that you were uncertain where you could and could not park.
Check the parking meter signs carefully. Were the parking times or the amount you had to pay clear?
If you are taken to court these may be good reasons to challenge the parking ticket or the amount of the charge. However take into consideration that if you lose the case, you will have to pay the charge and court costs and you could end up costing yourself more.