Legal tips on parking tickets

parking tickets

In this latest blog, we’re focusing on parking tickets on private land – something that may have happened to a lot of us over the years! The reason we’re focusing on private land, not council car parks, is that private land is actually a lot more common than you might think. Private land can mean a shopping centre, a retail park, a hospital or any other privately owned car park, such as private residential land.

Parking Charge Notices

Parking tickets issued on private land are called “Parking Charge Notices”. Although they are very similar-sounding, these are different to what are called “Penalty Charge Notices”, which are issued by the council or police on public land. Both of these can be left on your windscreen or sent to you through the post.

How parking tickets work

If you park in a private car park your automatically enter into a “contract” with the landowner to comply with their parking rules. If you break the parking rules, you break your contract with the landowner, and therefore they are within their rights to issue a parking ticket. Often a parking company will have an agreement with the landowner to set the rules and issue tickets on their behalf.

You can break the parking rules by:

  • not paying
  • staying longer than the time you have paid for
  • breaking the parking rules
  • or parking in the wrong place

Ignoring a parking ticket

Often the temptation is to ignore a parking charge notice, especially if you haven’t heard of the company that issued it, or if you don’t think it should have been given to you in the first place.

If you choose to ignore the parking ticket, it’s the responsibility of the parking company to pursue you for payment. There are two possibilities here:

  • If the parking company is registered with an Accredited Trade Association (ATA), such as the British Parking Association (BPA) or the Independent Parking Committee (IPC), then they are allowed to get details of the registered keeper of the car from the DVLA. This means they can pursue for payment or take you to court.
  • If the company is not an ATA company, they aren’t allowed to get details from the DVLA, so pursuing you may be more difficult for them.

Paying a parking ticket

If you decide to pay your parking ticket, ATA members legally have to give you a discount for paying early, while other non ATA parking companies may or may not – it’s up to them. Usually you are given 28 days to pay the ticket, with a discount of at least 40% if you pay within 14 days.

Challenging a parking ticket

If you park on private land and get a parking ticket, you might think this it’s unfair because you didn’t break the rules or the rules weren’t clear. You might also think a charge is unfair if it wasn’t clear to you that you were parking on private land. In these cases, you can challenge:

Challenging ATA parking companies

If you get a ticket from a parking company that is a member of the British Parking Association (BPA) or Independent Parking Committee (IPC), you can write to the company to challenge the ticket. Details of who to write to should be on the back of the parking notice.

Usually, parking companies will accept reasons such as:

  • the car was stolen or you didn’t own it at the time
  • you didn’t park where your parking ticket said you did, which you will need to prove
  • you were charged the wrong amount for the ticket, or already paid
  • the car was broken down
  • ticket machines were not working

Or, you could plead exceptional circumstances, for example if someone was taken ill, or if there was emergency. It’s then up to the parking company’s discretion as to whether they accept your reasons.

You could also argue the signage wasn’t good enough. ATA companies must follow rules to make signage and parking rules as clear and obvious as possible.

If you car was captured on CCTV, by law an ATA company has to get the parking ticket to you within 14 days of the day the parking violation occurred. You can use this is a reason to challenge the ticket, and even complain to the DVLA, if you didn’t get a ticket within that time. The usage of CCTV must also be clearly advertised.

Challenging non ATA parking companies

If you get a parking ticket from a parking company that isn’t an ATA member, you can also write to that parking company with your reasons if you think the parking ticket is unfair. The problem is these companies can simply ignore your letter.

However, because a non ATA parking company isn’t allowed to get details of the registered keeper of the car from the DVLA, they won’t have your contact details. Therefore, they can’t take you to court. Although, if you do write to them and provide your contact details for a reply, then decide not to pay the parking ticket, the company could then pursue you in court if they wanted to.

If you’re taken to court

If you believe you have good reasons to challenge the parking ticket, or the amount of the charge, you can go to court and fight your case. If you lose the case, you will have to pay the charge and the court costs. It’s also possible that the parking company will take action to recover their costs as well.

One way of limiting costs is arguing that the parking charge is what’s known as an “unenforceable penalty”. When parking companies issue a ticket, it’s for compensation for the losses your parking violation has cost them. This could be the cost of parking, plus any lost income because of you blocking the space. If the amount charged on the ticket is more than the actual loss, this is an “unenforceable penalty”, and a court could order you to pay the actual losses.


We hope this blog has given you some interesting information about how to deal with parking tickets. We’ll be writing a whole series of these everyday legal advice blogs, so make sure to follow us on Facebook or Twitter.

If you ever need advice on a parking ticket, or any other legal matter, we’re here to help. Call our expert solicitors 7 days a week for just £68 – 0203 002 4898. Or email advice@wetalklaw.co.uk.

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