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What Happens if You Don’t Pay a Private Parking Ticket?

When you get a private parking ticket, it’s tempting to just ignore it. After all, it’s not like the ticket’s come from the police, or the government! What powers do they have? What could they possibly do to you if you don’t pay?

Let’s explore what could happen if you don’t pay a private parking ticket.

What Happens if You Don’t Pay a Private Parking Ticket?

Before you take any action (or inaction), it’s important to make sure you know what type of parking ticket you’re dealing with.

If it was issued by the police or council workers, it’s called a penalty charge notice. You really can’t ignore this. These guys have the law on their side. If you ignore the ticket for too long, you could get a court summons. And if you ignore that, you’ll get a visit from the bailiffs.

But if it was issued by a private company – whether that’s a college, a university, a car park, a hospital, or something else entirely – things aren’t so hard-line. They’re called parking charge notices. And the truth is that private companies don’t have a legal right to demand payment from you.

So I Can Just Ignore a Private Parking Ticket?

Most of the time, private companies charge for parking to ensure that those who need to use their facilities will always be able to find a space. Hospitals, for example, might charge for parking because otherwise their car parks would be used as handy free parking by city-centre commuters.

So private companies are often perfectly justified in charging for parking. If you get a private parking ticket, you might think of it as an invoice. The private company’s simply charging you for services you’ve received, but haven’t yet paid for.

But you may feel that the private company wasn’t at all justified in issuing your ticket. It’s all about the context.

Ask Yourself – Do I Deserve This Ticket?

Or look at it this way – did the ticket come as a complete surprise?

Because most private companies will clearly signpost their parking conditions. There should be signs outlining how long you can stay, and how much you should pay if you need to stay for any longer. These signs should clearly indicate how and where to pay. And there should be clear markings on the ground to show where you can and cannot leave your car.

So if you’re surprised to find a private parking ticket on your car, it might indicate that their signs weren’t clear enough. Either they weren’t prominently placed, or they offered unclear or misleading information. And in this case, you might be justified in appealing.

But if you saw the signs, you read them and you understood them, and you thought “I might be able to get away with this”? Well we’re sorry to say that you probably deserve that ticket, as you knowingly broke the rules.

Yet even with that being said, how much are they charging you? If it’s a ridiculous amount – say, more than £130 in London, or more than £70 outside of London – then yes, you should challenge the fine.

Can They Force Me to Pay a Private Parking Ticket?

Though private companies don’t have the law on their side to enforce their parking restrictions, they do have the same legal rights as we all have to pursue money we’re owed.

That means that, if you ignore your parking ticket, they can take you to court. It’ll probably be the small claims court, though. And even if it reaches this stage, you’ll still have the right to defend yourself. You never know, the court might even rule in your favour!

It costs private companies money to take people to court. And even then, they have no guarantee that they’ll recover their money. So if you choose to ignore a private parking tickets, some private companies might leave it at that. They might conclude that the cost of pursuing payment outweighs the money you owe.

But given that you might end up in court – which is a massive inconvenience for anyone – it’s probably not a good idea to simply outright ignore private parking tickets.

Can you Clamp a Car on Private Land?

Some private companies don’t mess about. If you park without paying, or if you go against their conditions, they’ll clamp your car, or have you towed. If this happens, you can call the police. In the vast majority of cases, clamping or towing on private land is illegal.

It’s only legal to clamp or tow a car if it’s committed an offence on a public road, or if the clamping or towing’s carried out by a certified bailiff, the police, the local authority, or a local government agency. Certain areas might have specific local by-laws to permit clamping or towing, but this is rare.

So if a private company’s clamped or towed your car, they’ve broken the law, and they could be fined up to £5,000.

How to Appeal a Private Parking Ticket

If you don’t want to ignore a private parking ticket, you can appeal it.

  1. Write to the company
  2. Make your case
  3. Take pictures of the unclear (or non-existent) signs and road markings
  4. Dispute the fine
  5. Claim that it’s excessive
  6. Perhaps include a cheque covering the price of parking, as a peace offering.

If the private company ignores or rejects your appeal, you can appeal to either the Parking on Private Land Appeals service (POPLA), or the Independent Appeals Service (IAS). These guys will only listen to your appeal once you’ve exhausted all other avenues, though. So make sure you reach out to the private company first.

Also, bear in mind that your POPLA and IAS appeal could be rejected. After this, you should have 28 days to pay your fine. Otherwise, once more, you could be looking at a court appearance.

And one last thing to remember – POPLA and IAS only handle complaints concerning members of the British Parking Association (BPA) and the International Parking Community (IPC). If your private parking ticket comes from, say, a hospital or a university, then you probably won’t be able to appeal. Instead, you could try writing to the landowner – the university, or the hospital – detailing your poor experience with their parking facilities. Or you could contact the Citizens Advice Bureau.

The Best Way to Handle Private Parking Tickets

Private parking tickets can be costly. But as we’ve shown, avoiding or appealing them can be immensely time-consuming. So the best way to handle private parking tickets is to avoid getting them in the first place. Mistakes will happen. But take care when you’re parking, and make sure you pay whatever’s due wherever it’s due, and you should avoid getting into this position in the first place.

The good news though? Whatever happens, even if you go to court, you’ll never get points on your licence for disputes involving private parking tickets. You’ll only get penalty points if you get a certain type of parking-related Fixed Penalty Charge (FPN).

What does this mean? It means that, no matter what happens with your private parking ticket, it will not affect the price of your car insurance