You may be able to avoid paying a parking fine if you follow the correct appeals procedure and have a good reason for making the appeal. Simply disagreeing with the parking regulations or returning to your car late will not be sufficient to get out of paying the ticket.
In this guide for motorists, we look at when you are allowed to appeal a parking fine, and the type of defences you may be able to rely on in a successful appeal.
How to appeal a parking ticket
The way in which you appeal, and your prospects of success, vary considerably depending on who issued the ticket and the type of ticket you received.
The main types of parking tickets are as follows:
- Penalty Charge Notice – issued by local councils or state bodies, such as Transport for London (TfL)
- Excess Charge Notice – issued by a small number of local councils, and strictly speaking operating under criminal law, rather than civil law
- Fixed Penalty Notice – issued by the police and a criminal ticket, rather than a civil one.
- Parking Charge Notice (or similar wording) – issued by a private parking company. Strictly speaking this is not a fine, it is an invoice.
Once you have identified the type of ticket and the issuing body, you can use follow this guide in making an appeal.
A final point is that in all circumstances, if you wish to appeal you should not pay the fine. If you do, this will be treated as an admission of liability and you will not be able to take the matter further.
The parking ticket appeals process
The process for appealing in relation to each type of ticket is set out below.
Penalty Charge Notice
As stated above, these are issued by local councils.
If the PCN is stuck to your car window then you must first make an informal challenge. If you do this within fourteen days and you lose, most councils and TfL will still allow you to pay the fine at the discounted rate. There is no form to fill in to lodge an informal challenge – you should simply write or email to the address on the back of the ticket.
If your informal challenge was unsuccessful, you will receive a ‘Notice to Owner’ or NTO. You will then have 28 days to pay the fine in full, or lodge an appeal. If you do neither then the fine could increase by 50% after the expiry of the 28 day period.
If you ignored the PCN the first time round, you will receive an NTO demanding payment or inviting you to appeal.
If you received your ticket by post, then that ticket is already an NTO. This is usually because you were caught by camera as opposed to a parking attendant. If you appeal within 14 days. or 21 days where you were caught by CCTV, then you might be able to pay the reduced rate if you were unsuccessful.
Your next step is to appeal against the NTO. The NTO itself will contain a formal appeals form. You may find that there is not enough space for you to explain your reasons for appealing. In that case you can attach a letter which sets out your reasons in full.
Once you have submitted your appeal, the council has 56 days to respond or you will win the appeal automatically.
if your formal appeal is rejected then you will have 28 days to pay or appeal to an independent tribunal. If you fail either to pay or submit a further appeal then you will be liable to pay an extra penalty charge. To avoid confusion, the notification letter you receive will be called a ‘Notice of Rejection of Representations’.
The independent tribunal is different depending on whether you live in Scotland, Northern Ireland, England and Wales (not including London) or London.
It is free to lodge this appeal, called a ‘Notice of Appeal’, and you can chose whether you want to do it online, by post or have a hearing by telephone or even in person.
Again, if you lose you will need to pay the penalty within 28 days or incur a 50% extra charge.
In very limited circumstances there may be the opportunity to take your appeal further but that is outside the scope of this article.
Excess Charge Notice
This type of ticket can also be called a ‘Standard Charge Notice’. There are only a few councils who give out this type of ticket, so they are pretty rare. If you do receive one, it is best to contact the issuer (most likely the council) as soon as possible after your receive it to ask them for details of the appeals procedure. The most common first step following an informal challenge, is a formal appeal to a senior parking official, followed by a further appeal to the Ombudsman service for the home nation in which you live.
Fixed Penalty Notice
As stated above, this is a criminal ticket issued by the police. Some police forces allow you to make informal representations – you should check your ticket. Most of the time, however, you will simply have 28 days to pay, appeal to the magistrates’ court or nominate the driver who was actually responsible for parking the car.
If you appeal to the magistrates’ court you will be sent a summons with a date for your court hearing. It goes without saying that you need to be prepared to explain your case in person before a magistrate or appoint someone else to do so on your behalf. You would also be advised to take independent legal advice before taking this step, as you do not want to be responsible for court costs if you lose your appeal.
Parking Charge Notice (or similar wording that is not ‘Penalty Charge Notice’)
First, it is important to note that legally, the tickets issued by private parking companies are not fines, but invoices. In other words, under a legal analysis, by parking on the land in question you have entered into a contract with the parking provider, but failed to adhere to the terms and conditions of that contractual relationship and been invoiced accordingly.
Second, how you challenge a parking ticket issued by a private parking company or operator depends on whether the company is part of a trade body or not. The two parking trade bodies are the British Parking Association (the BPA) and the International Parking Community (IPC). The appeal provider for BPA members is POPLA (Parking on Private Land Appeals) and the appeal provider for the IPC is the IAS (Independent Appeals Service). Appeals to each of these bodies are explained below.
Where the company is not part of either the BPA or the IPC
Where you have received a parking ticket from a company that is neither a member of the BPA nor the IPC, you should not even ask the company for their appeals procedure. This is because the company in question has chosen not to join either the IPC or the BPA, so it is questionable how fair its appeals procedure will be. Also, by co-operating with the company’s procedure you could be seen to be acknowledging the validity of the ticket in the first place.
Instead, you should simply write to the company explaining that you do not accept its invoice and that you do not consider the charge to be fair. You can give reasons as to why you consider it to be unfair.
Ultimately, you might have to be prepared to argue your case in the county court. However, it is likely that the company will have given up trying to enforce the ticket before that point.
Where the company is part of the BPA or the IPC
You challenge a parking fine by first appealing directly to the parking operator that issued your parking charge notice. Usually, you must make this first appeal within 21 or 28 days of receiving the parking charge notice. If the operator rejects your appeal then you can appeal to either POPLA or the IAS, either online or by post.
Under both procedures you will lose the ability to make the discounted payment, as this early-settlement period will not be extended or paused while the appeal is processed.
The appeals process usually takes 6-8 weeks. If you are appeal is unsuccessful then you will have 14 or 28 days to pay. Alternatively you could take independent legal advice if you wish to take the matter further.
Parking ticket loopholes or excuses
There are some common defences which you may consider to build your appeal. For example:
- You overstayed in your parking space for less than 10 minutes – Local councils and the BPA now recognise that a ten minute grace period must be given to drivers.
- Where you were caught by CCTV or ANPR remember that additional rules apply, including relating to adequate signage, i.e. that it was clear that you would be recorded
- Generally, the signs were wrong (they gave incorrect information) or obscured, e.g. by trees
- The Council made an error on the letter. There is information that the Council must include on the NTO. If they didn’t the fine does not stand.
- You should not have been given a fine in the first place, e.g. your disabled blue badge was displayed.
- You were overcharged
- Your car was stolen at the time
- You did not own the car at the time
It is also possible that you had a good reason to park where and when you did, even if officially you did break the rules. These are known as mitigating circumstances. Councils and parking appeals bodies do not have to take these into account, but many do. Examples include:
- Your car was broken down and you were waiting for recovery
- You had a ticket but it fell off the window or was not visible
- You are a medical professional and you were attending an appointment and there was no other legal place to park
- You were dropping an ill patient off at hospital
- You were too ill to move your car
- You suffered a bereavement or were attending a funeral
- You were on holiday while a temporary traffic restriction was introduced
Can I ignore a parking charge notice?
It is not generally advisable to ignore a parking charge notice if it has been issued by the local council or the police. This is because you will probably end up with a summons to appear in court and could receive a criminal penalty. If your ticket was issued by a private company then you could try to ignore it depending on the type of private operator that issued the ticket. It is possible that the company would seek a judgment in the county court and seek to enforce it via debt collectors.
Are private car park fines enforceable?
Yes, private car park fines are often enforceable, but it depends if the company is part of either the British Parking Association or the International Parking Community. Where the company is a member of either of those bodies, then, ultimately, it could seek to enforce a ticket in the small claims court. Once the company has the court judgment then it can seek to recover the debt via a debt collection agency. Where the company is not a member of either of those trade bodies, it is less likely to go all the way to the court to enforce its ‘debt’.
What happens if you don’t pay a parking charge?
If you don’t pay your parking charge you run the risk of incurring further fees and of having a court judgment against you. If your parking charge was issued by the police then you could end up committing a criminal offence if you do not pay. Alternatively, if the parking charge was issued by a company, it may simply give up and not pursue you any more.
The matters contained in this article are intended to be for general information purposes only. This article does not constitute legal advice, nor is it a complete or authoritative statement of the law, and should not be treated as such. Whilst every effort is made to ensure that the information is correct, no warranty, express or implied, is given as to its accuracy and no liability is accepted for any error or omission. Before acting on any of the information contained herein, expert legal advice should be sought.