Small Claims Advice – Parking Tickets

Experiencing disagreement and conflict can be uncomfortable and stressful, and the situation can escalate if not dealt with promptly. However, reaching out to a solicitor is not always the best option, as the legal fees can often cost more than the claim itself.

Here, we address one of the most common small claims that can be made. Your rights here depend on whether you have parked on public or private land. This will decide whether you are given penalty charges (public) or parking charges (private).

It’s important to review the circumstances behind the charge before seeking legal advice, as the legal fees can equate to more than the fine and appeal process.

Summary of the law - Your rights

Your rights depend on whether you’ve parked on public or private land:

Public Land: penalty charges

Parking is usually run by the local council, whose traffic wardens (now called local authority civil enforcement officers) can issue parking tickets. Other public land is managed by the police.

The local parking rules are given on street signs. If you break the parking rules, you can be issued with a parking ticket called a ‘Penalty Charge Notice.’

If you don't think you should have received a Penalty Charge Notice, the council must consider your appeal or challenge and must consider both set grounds and use discretion over special circumstances.

Private Land (e.g.: supermarkets, train stations and hospitals): parking charges

When you park on private land (such as a car park) you must follow the landowner’s rules and charges. If you don’t you have broken your 'contract' with the landowner.

The difference of parking on private land is that the landowner (and any private parking companies acting on their behalf) is not allowed to fine or penalise drivers who break their rules.

All they can do is charge for any lost income or other losses or damages. Therefore, this is unlikely to be more than the parking charge they could have made to another motorist using the parking space and any admin expenses. So, it is arguable that charges such as £50 or £100 are an excessive sum and amount to an illegal penalty.

You may have received a notice on your windscreen, or a letter sent to the registered keeper of the vehicle.

The landowner should have a procedure in place to consider any appeal or challenge to the charges.

How to appeal or challenge a parking ticket

If you think the PCN is incorrect, you can appeal the charge. If you intend to appeal, then make sure you don’t pay the fine. Paying the fine will be taken as an admission of guilt and effectively close the case (you’d be surprised how many pay the penalty and then appeal!).

If you think the charge is incorrect, you should collect evidence and make an informal appeal to the local authority within 14 days. If successful, you won’t have to pay the fine.

If your informal appeal is unsuccessful, you’ll receive what’s called a ‘Notice to Owners,’ which will give you a further 28 days to make the original payment and details on how you can make a formal appeal.

In this formal appeal, you’ll have to explain your reasons for the challenge in as much detail as possible and provide any evidence to support your case. If successful, you won’t have to pay the fine.

Possible reasons for appealing a parking ticket

Below are several reasons for appealing a parking ticket, this list is not exhaustive and does not guarantee a successful appeal. With the appeal, any photo evidence would strongly support your case.

  1. You didn’t own the vehicle when the ticket was issued. The evidence should be the name and address of the person you sold the vehicle to or bought it from.
  2. The vehicle was stolen when the ticket was issued. You could provide a police crime report or insurance claim to prove this.
  3. You didn't break the parking rules, or the charge is unfair e.g., the time on your ticket hadn’t run out.
  4. The rules were not clear: the signage setting out the terms and conditions of parking was not prominent, easily readable, or clear about rules and charges.
  5. Someone prevented the traffic warden from giving you a ticket at the scene (applicable to public parking only). The appeal of this is if you don't think this is true. Perhaps someone was with you who could give a supporting letter or statement.
  6. You’ve been charged more than you should be. You can appeal (or request a refund) if you're charged more than the amount which applies in your circumstances.
  7. The procedure for issuing the ticket or notice wasn’t carried out properly.
  8. You already paid: here you would need proof of earlier payment, such as a receipt or bank statement.
  9. You could not pay at the time as the parking meter or all nearby pay-and-display machines were faulty. Here you should only offer to pay the normal charge not any penalty.
  10. Compassionate or emergency special circumstances e.g., you had to deal with an illness or road traffic accident or bereavement. It’s advised to obtain a doctor’s note to support your challenge.
  11. The charge made is excessive (private land only). Here you can challenge the amount charged as being more than the landowner’s loss of income and reasonable admin expenses caused by your parking in breach of the rules.

Process of appealing

The process of appealing will be outlined in the letter/ticket received.

  1. Contact the telephone number on the ticket or letter and ask for the fine to be suspended or frozen whilst you challenge the ticket. This may mean paying ‘early payment’ charge.
  2. Write in to challenge the ticket (the address to use is on the ticket, notice or letter). Usually, the local council with public land and the ticket company with private land.
  3. Sometimes if your challenge is rejected there is a second right of appeal – that you can use.
  4. Make a formal appeal - with public land this is to the independent adjudicator and with private land this is the ‘Parking on Private Land Appeals’ service.

If you lose on appeal, with private land it is not binding on you and so you can still use the small claims court to claim back a refund or not pay (and wait to see if they take you to court).

Note: With private land, you also have the option of just not paying. Without a court judgment against you, they cannot use debt collectors to collect the charge. So, if you don’t pay, it is up to the landowner to decide if they want to take you to the small claims court to get a court order to force payment. However, they may not want a court decision that reduces their £100 or £50 charge to the landowner’s actual loss of income and reasonable admin expenses - likely to be minimal. So, letting them know you want your day in court might be enough to end the matter. Although some judges may rule in favour of the landowner, meaning your fine will be more than what you initially were charged.  


Complaint Letter Example - Parking Appeal

Posted in: Small Claims

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