Parking fines on private land – to pay or not to pay?

Written by
Rebecca Goodman
Insurance expert
26 October 2021
5 min read
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We’ve all been there, parking in a supermarket while we dash in to get some groceries only to come back to a parking ticket slapped on the windscreen. 

But if the ticket has been unfairly given there are ways to appeal against it, and to avoid paying. 

It could have been anything from the sign explaining the rules of parking not being clear, the ticket you’ve paid for not being read properly, or just an overly enthusiastic enforcement officer. 

The first thing to do is work out if the ticket is genuine and who issued it. If it’s been given on private land - which can include supermarkets, hospitals, or private streets - a privately-owned company will have done the deed. The wording is important here as it will be called a ‘Parking Charge Notice’ (PCN). 

While if it’s issued by a local council, it’s usually called a ‘Penalty Charge Notice’. It’s a tiny thing but it means the difference in who you contact to challenge a ticket (and how likely you are to succeed). 

A parking ticket issued on private land isn’t a criminal matter 

Was the parking ticket issued unfairly? 

Parking on private land without the owner’s permission, or parking there and not following the rules set out by the owner (which should be displayed in the carpark), can both lead to a fine. 

A landowner or private parking firm doesn't need a licence to issue a ticket and although there are official trade bodies, including the  British Parking Association (BPA) and the  International Parking Community (IPC), many firms are unregulated. 

Should you pay the fine, ignore it, or challenge it? 

You don’t need to automatically pay a fine you receive on private land, you could also just do nothing and ignore it or challenge it. 

The ticket you’ve been given isn’t a fixed penalty (although it looks like one) and a parking ticket issued on private land isn’t a criminal matter. 

It’s basically just a notice or an invoice from the person who owns the land telling you they plan to take you to a civil court unless you pay the fine. 

You could pay it, and often you’ll be offered a lower price if you do this in a certain time frame - usually in the first 14 days. 

Or you could ignore the ticket and do nothing if you think you shouldn't have to pay it. In this case the parking operator may continue to chase you for the money or could even take you to court. 

If this happens, you’ll then get a chance to defend yourself if you genuinely believe the ticket was unfair, and it’s then up to the civil (not criminal) court to decide. However, if it gets to this stage and the court decides you breached the contract with the parking operator then you’ll probably face a higher charge than the one you originally received. 

The firm may also choose to ignore the ticket if it’s a small fine and not worth chasing or going to court. 

There’s lots of advice available if you don’t know what to do, including from  Citizen’s Advice

How to appeal against the ticket 

If you’re going to appeal an unfair ticket, the process isn’t the most straightforward but the first thing to do is contact the parking operator. 

Tell them the reasons you believe the ticket is unfair - such as if you don’t think you broke any rules, you had a good reason for doing so, you didn’t park the car, or it wasn’t clear and obvious what the rules were. 

There are a number of free template letters you can use in this case if you’re not sure what to write. 

Evidence is key so keep everything including photos of where you parked plus receipts of the ticket and photos of anything else relevant such as the any rules on display for parking. 

If your challenge is rejected, you can then appeal to an independent appeals service for free. 

Check the BPA website to see if the parking operator is a member and if so you’ll need to go to the Parking on Private Land Appeals (POPLA) website to make the appeal. If it’s not a member of the BPA, you can go through the Independent Appeals Service to make an appeal, although the operator needs to agree to this if it’s not a member. There’s more information and step-by-step guides on the websites of both organisations. 

3 things to do right now...

Check the ticket you’ve been issued. If it’s a ‘Parking Charge Notice’ it’s from a private company, if it’s a ‘Penalty Charge Notice’ it’s from a local council and there’s a different process for challenging it. 

If you were genuinely in the wrong you may have to pay the fine. But if you believe the ticket was issued unfairly, you may have a case. You can now either pay it, challenge it, or ignore it and do nothing and hope the parking operator decides to write it off. 

Gather as much evidence as possible. If you’re going to challenge the ticket you’ll need evidence of everything from photos of the car, where it was parked, and any parking rules to receipts of paid parking and any correspondence between you and the parking firm.

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Don’t forget that while you may think that this article is brilliant, it is intended for information purposes only and should not be mistaken for financial advice or recommendations.