Are car parking fines enforceable by law?

April 4, 2016

**Please note: We cannot take calls and offer advice on parking fines. Please try consumer action websites such as Pepipoo.**


The law regarding car parking fines differs depending on where you have parked and who has issued the ticket. The local authority or police are generally responsible for managing public car parking areas, and tickets can be issued by parking attendants, traffic wardens, or police officers.

Parking on public land

Tickets issued by a police officer or traffic warden

When a police officer or traffic warden issues a ticket, they will give you a fixed penalty notice, which is a criminal matter if it remains unpaid. The notice will state that you have 21 days’ in which to respond, by either paying or requesting a court hearing.

If you’ve not responded within 21 days you’ll receive a reminder, and be charged 50% on top of the original penalty. The issue then becomes a criminal matter, enforceable by law.

Tickets issued by a local authority parking attendant

A parking attendant can only issue a penalty charge, which becomes a civil rather than a criminal issue if not paid. There is a time limit of 28 days in which to respond, but you can make an appeal to the local authority.

If the appeal is rejected and you fail to pay, or you simply ignore the original ticket, you will receive a reminder and a charge certificate that states you owe an additional 50% of the original amount.

On further non-payment, the local authority is entitled to register the debt at court without a hearing, and take enforcement action against you.

Parking on private land

A private car parking ticket is similar to a notice for breach of contract, as the owners of the car park are not allowed to fine or impose a financial penalty in the same way as the police and local authorities.

At the entrance to all privately-owned car parks there should be a notice clearly stating the terms of use, and rules/regulations that motorists need to follow. This effectively forms a contract between driver and owner, and comes into play once you enter the car park.

With this in mind, the key points to consider if you’ve been issued with a private parking ticket include:

  • Are the terms and conditions of use placed at the entrance, as well as throughout the car park?
  • Are the rules and regulations clear, or are some of the terms misleading?

Motorists are offered some protection in law against misleading rules and regulations, and it might be the case that no contract actually exists because the wording used on the notice is ambiguous.

If you decide not to pay

A parking operator has to go to court before taking any enforcement action over unpaid parking tickets. They may threaten you with legal action, but due to the small amounts involved, enforcement action is unlikely.

As an alternative, they could take you to small claims court, but you can challenge the claim if you feel that the charges are too high, or there were mitigating circumstances such as unclear signage.

If you have accumulated thousands of pounds worth of parking fines which you cannot pay, Scotland Debt Solutions can offer personal insolvency advice. Contact us to make a same-day appointment.

John Baird

Insolvency Adviser

Tel: 0800 063 9250

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