Do you have to pay private parking tickets?

Returning to your car to find a parking ticket attached to your windscreen can make your heart sink. However, with unscrupulous private parking companies issuing tickets beyond their authority we ask, do you have to pay up?

Updated on 18 May 2015.

Woman buying parking ticket

Most of us recognise that parking tickets, although financially unpleasant, are necessary to keep our roads clear from obstruction and the traffic flowing, but it is not just council traffic wardens that can give you a parking ticket.

Private companies can also hit you with parking tickets demanding payment, sometimes running into the hundreds of pounds, if you park on their property and break the advertised parking rules!

Here is how to handle a parking ticket from a private company.

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Who gave you the ticket?

Different rules apply to tickets issued by public officials (police officers or council workers) and private companies (multi-storey car parks, supermarkets, hospitals and retail parks etc.) so before you decide which course of action to take, you need to find out who issued your parking ticket it.

It should be clear if your ticket has been issued by the council or police and you will need to take a different approach if you want to contest it. Find out how to do this by reading our guide: How To Appeal Against a Parking Ticket.

If the ticket is from a private company the complaints process is less formal and the company issuing the ticket will have no legal right to demand payment from you.

However, that does not mean that you should not pay up; instead think of the ticket as an invoice for services you have used but not yet paid for.

Is the ticket justified?

Before you decide whether or not to pay the parking ticket you need to consider whether it is justified.

Did you park on the company's land and did you break the advertised parking conditions? For instance staying longer than you should have.

If you are at fault you need to decide if the amount you are being asked to pay is justified.

In most cases private companies can only invoice you for a loss of earnings, or where you have breached their civil contract. This means if you paid 2 for a 1 hour parking ticket and ended up staying for 3 hours you should expect to have to pay the extra 4 for the time you have spent, or the equivalent advertised rate.

However, some private companies will issue tickets demanding 100+, well over the amount of money you would have paid to park upfront. If this is the case you may feel justified in fighting the ticket and refusing to pay up.

What action can you take?

If you feel that the ticket is not justified or is unfair you have two options:

1. Complain to the company issuing the ticket & then appeal

2. Ignore it

If you opt to ignore your ticket many parking companies will give up, especially if the cost of pursuing you is going to outweigh the money you owe. However, ignoring your ticket could in some cases mean you find yourself in court.

Can they force you to pay?

No, private parking companies have no legal powers to force you to pay their parking tickets. The only way they can make you pay up is by taking court action, usually through the small claims court.

Even then you will have the right to defend yourself and give an explanation why you have refused to pay, meaning there is no guarantee their claim against you will be upheld.

Report the parking company

Although the private parking ticket business is unregulated and companies are not currently required to hold a licence to issue a ticket, many car park operators are members of the BPA (British Parking Association).

This means that they will have to have an in house disputes process if you want to reject your parking ticket.

Find out if this is the case and contact the ticket issuer within 28 days of receiving the penalty telling them why you are disputing the ticket and including any evidence you have to support your claim.

Can you appeal?

Yes, in most cases you can appeal against unfair parking tickets, read our guide: How to Appeal a Private Parking Ticket.

What if my vehicle is clamped or towed?

This is a very serious matter and in most cases clamping or towing on private land is highly illegal, take a look at our guide: What to do if Your Car is Clamped or Towed by a Private Company for help knowing what you should do if this has happend to you.

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