Parking ticket

Summary of the law - parking ticket disputes


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 also use discretion over special circumstances. See the next section.

  • Private Land (such as supermarkets, shopping centres, train stations and hospitals): parking charges

When you park on private land (such as a car park) you must follow the land owner’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 (see next section).


How to appeal/challenge a parking ticket?


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. You could also provide proof of purchase or a copy of the DVLA registration form.

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. For example:

  • Your permitted time had not run out
  • The vehicle had broken down and steps were being taken to remove it as soon as possible
  • You were legally loading or unloading
  • You had a proper reason to overstay the permitted time (such as the landowner allowing you to verify parking with a shop purchase, which can be proved by the time on your shopping receipt.

4: The rules were not clear: Here you can argue that the place where the vehicle was parked wasn't properly marked out or the signage setting out the terms and conditions of parking were not prominent, easily readable or clear about rules and charges.

If you've got your mobile phone or a camera with you, take photos of the car, road signs and road markings, focusing on anything that is unclear or misleading.

5: Someone prevented the traffic warden to give you a ticket at the scene (applicable to public parking only). The appeal from 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.

With public parking tickets, if  a charge certificate was issued before an appeal was decided then the correct procedure has not been followed.

With private land, the land owner can sue the registered keeper of the vehicle (even if they were not the driver), but not if any Notice to the Registered Keeper was sent out earlier than 28 days after issuing a ticket.

8:You paid already. 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. If you’ve got a mobile phone or camera with you, take pictures of the broken meter and/or machines. Here you should only offer to pay the normal charge not any penalty.

10: Compassionate or emergency special circumstances apply. You can ask for the charge to be cancelled in special circumstances, such as having to deal with an illness or road traffic accident or bereavement. In this case you could offer 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. Although this is still an unclear area, many experts think that that is all the private land owner can charge under the Unfair Terms in Consumer Contracts Regulations 1999.


What is the process for appealing/challenging my parking ticket?


  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
  • 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 judgement 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 - which is likely to be minimal. So letting them know you want your day in court might be enough to end the matter.

This is a grey area and it is always possible that if they did take you to court a local judge might not agree with this logic and might uphold the full charge – so you may feel this is too much hassle for £50.



Disclaimer reminder


Please note: To give you general information about your dispute, the information given here is a simplification of a complex area of law and cannot be relied upon. Before taking action please use our Small Claims service to get specialist legal advice on your specific circumstances. See the full terms and conditions of this website


Format - complaint letter(PARKING TICKET )



Information to include

Sample letter – parking ticket


Start of formal letter to car park company

[If you know the name of the person you have spoken to]: Dear John or Dear Mr Smith, 

[If you do not know their name]: Dear Sirs,



Any relevant background information:

  • Date parked
  • Vehicle details
  • Location
  • Time/duration

What happened (be specific and detail all events in chronological order)? 



Vehicle make & mode: Volkswagen Golf

Registration number: V59KJB

Car park: Bristol Newgate Trading Estate

On 7th September 2013, I parked my vehicle in the car park you operate.

I arrived at approximately 15:10.

I spent just over 3 hours in PC World. I have a receipt for my purchase that gives the time as 15.24



Details of any parking tickets purchased


It is a free car park for customers of the adjacent shops.

On 15 September I received a letter stating that you were making a parking charge. It showed a photo of my car arriving at 15.08 and leaving at 15.35 – saying I had overstayed the free period of 3 hours by 27 minutes.

The parking charge was for £100, reduced to £50 if paid within 14 days.

When I contacted your customer helpline on 16 September, they advised I need to write in to challenge the charge but that I should pay the lower sum now.

Therefore reluctantly I paid £50 to you using my Nat West credit card number….. 




Identify clearly why you are unhappy.

Give any relevant dates

Be clear about why you think the other person is responsible.



I wish to complain and challenge this charge for the following reasons:

1: I was a customer of one of the adjacent shops throughout my use of the car park. Therefore I was a legitimate user of the car park.

2: The parking rules – limiting the free stay to 3 hours was not made sufficiently clear to me at the time I parked.

I have since seen a sign saying that after 3 hours a charge of £100 will be made. It Is not big but I accept it will have been present even though I did not notice it on 7 September. However as the attached photograph shows the sign is small and placed in a position I would not have passed having parked directly outside PC World.

3: The charge that I have paid of £50 is excessive and amounts to an illegal penalty. I wish to challenge this. The car park is on private land and therefore you are only entitled to charge me for the landowner’s losses (presumably limited to the parking charge that could have been made to another driver for the 27 minutes I parked over the 3 hours) which are £0.





Be as clear as possible about the remedy you would like.

  • Say what action you would like them to take (or stop).
  • Where you are asking for a payment - put a price on the you seek.



Please refund the charge of £50. I am happy for the refund to be transferred direct to my credit card (details above).




Give your opponent 14 days to reply to the letter – to  either:

  •  agree with your complaint and give you the remedy that you seek


  • arrange to inspect the problem


  • set out their detailed response.



Please do not ignore this letter. I would like us to try to resolve our dispute without court proceedings and legal costs.

Please reply in the next 14 days, so that this dispute can be resolved as set out in this letter.

I also reserve the right to appeal to Parking on Private Land Appeal service

If you do not agree that you are liable and/or do not agree with the remedy sought, then please reply within 14 days with a detailed explanation of why not.





Point out that ignoring your letter will mean you may start legal proceedings for the court to deal with the dispute and that you may refer the judge to your letter.



I am sure it will not prove necessary but if I do not hear from you within 14 days then I reserve the right to start court proceedings without further reference to you. I will ask the court for an order that you pay me £50.00

If I do have to issue court proceedings, I will refer the court to this letter and I will also ask the court to order you to pay me interest, court fees and legal costs.

I look forward to hearing from you within the next 14 days.



[If you started with their name]:

Yours sincerely,

Ian Rate

[If you started using Dear Sirs]:

Yours faithfully,

Ian Rate


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