Parking charge notices
This fact sheet covers England & Wales. You will need different advice if you live in Scotland.
Use this fact sheet to:
- understand what a parking charge notice for private parking is;
- how to deal with the parking charge notice if you agree you owe the money;
- see what you can do if you don’t agree that you owe the money; and
- understand what a private parking operator can do to try to get you to pay the parking charge notice.
This fact sheet tells you how to deal with most types of parking charge notice. These are sometimes called ‘private parking tickets’. Parking charge notices dealt with in this fact sheet are civil debts. They are not a criminal matter.
This fact sheet does not deal with the following charges or penalties because the rules for these are different.
- Parking charge notices issued under Byelaws, such as Railway Byelaws. If you have been given a parking charge notice that says it has been issued under a Byelaw, contact us for advice.
- Penalty charge notices issued for parking by the council. See our Penalty charge notices fact sheet for more information.
- Fixed penalties and fines issued by the magistrates’ court. See our Magistrates’ court fines fact sheet for more information.
If you are unsure which type of charge or penalty you have been sent, contact us for advice.
What is a parking charge notice?
When you park on some privately owned land, such as a supermarket car park, you enter into an agreement with the land owner.
There should be clear signs telling you that you are driving onto private land. Signs should also show you what the parking rules and charges for using the car park are. This is so you can decide whether you want to make the agreement and use the car park, or leave.
Many land owners use a private parking operator to keep track of vehicles that park on their land. If you break the parking rules or park without permission, the land owner, or their parking operator, can issue a parking charge notice. You could be given a parking charge notice because you:
- didn’t pay to park in the car park;
- stayed for longer than you paid for;
- stayed for longer than the maximum time allowed; or
- parked where you were not allowed.
10 minute grace period
Parking operators who are members of an accredited trade association, such as the British Parking Association (BPA) or International Parking Community (IPC), should give you a 10 minute grace period before issuing a parking charge notice. This is to allow you a reasonable period after your parking time has finished to leave the car park. If you weren’t given this grace period, you may be able to challenge the charge. See the later section If you do not agree that you owe the parking charge for more information.
How can a parking charge notice be issued?
A parking charge notice can be issued in several ways.
- It can be given to the vehicle’s driver or placed on the windscreen. This is called a ‘Notice to driver’.
- It can be sent through the post to the vehicle’s registered driver. This is called a ‘Notice to keeper’.
- It can be sent to the hirer of the vehicle. This is called a ‘Notice to hirer’.
The amount of time that a parking operator has to issue a parking charge notice depends on:
- the type of notice they are using;
- which laws they are using; and
- which codes of practice apply.
For more information on the different timescales that apply, contact us for advice.
Can a parking charge notice affect your credit reference file?
A parking charge notice will not appear on your credit file. Your credit file will only be affected if a county court judgment is given against you. See the later section How can a parking charge notice be enforced? for more information.
Who can be asked to pay?
If the parking operator knows who was driving the vehicle when the parking charge notice was issued, they should ask that person to pay.
If they do not know who was driving the vehicle, the Protection of Freedoms Act 2012 allows the parking operator to ask the registered keeper to pay. This is called ‘Keeper liability’.
Parking operators who are members of an accredited trade association, such as the British Parking Association (BPA) or International Parking Community (IPC), can ask the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) for the name and address of the registered keeper of a vehicle.
If the parking operator is not a member of an accredited trade association, they cannot ask the DVLA for the registered keeper’s details. This means that unless you give them your details, it is unlikely that they will be able to take the matter any further.
Always check if a parking operator is a member of an accredited trade association. It should say on the parking operator’s letter or website if they belong to the BPA or IPC. See Useful contacts later in this fact sheet.
You are the registered keeper but someone else was driving the vehicle
If you are the registered keeper of a vehicle but someone else was driving it when the parking charge occurred, contact the parking operator. Their contact details will be on the notice they sent to you. You can also find them on their website.
You have 28 days to reply to a Notice to keeper before any further action can be taken. Give the parking operator the full name and address of the person who was driving the vehicle. If you do this within the timescale given, the parking operator should ask the driver to pay the parking charge notice.
Under the Protection of Freedoms Act 2012, if you do not reply in time, refuse or are unable to give details of who was driving the vehicle, the parking operator can continue to ask you, the registered keeper, to pay.
You hired the vehicle
When you hire a vehicle, you are usually asked to complete a hire agreement. Many hire agreements will ask you to agree that you will be responsible for any parking charges that occur while you are hiring the vehicle.
If you have signed a hire agreement that includes this responsibility, the hire company can give your name and address to the parking operator. The parking operator will usually send you a Notice to hirer, which asks you to pay the parking charge. They are allowed to do this under the Protection of Freedoms Act 2012.
You have 21 days to reply to a Notice to hirer before any further action can be taken.
If you agree that you owe the parking charge
If you can pay the charge in full without causing any financial difficulty, do so. Make sure you get a receipt and keep evidence of the payment.
Parking operators who are members of the BPA or IPC must follow the code of practice produced by their accredited trade association. Both the BPA and IPC say that:
- a parking charge notice must be reasonable and not usually for more than £100;
- you should be offered a discount of at least 40% if you pay in full within 14 days; and
- you can still pay after 14 days, but the amount payable will increase to the original amount.
If the parking operator does not belong to an accredited trade association, you will need to check the parking charge notice for any discounts offered by the parking operator.
If you agree that you owe the charge but cannot afford to pay it in full, contact us for advice.
If you do not agree that you owe the parking charge
If you do not agree that you owe the parking charge, write to the parking operator and explain the reason why. This is sometimes called ‘making a representation’. There are several reasons for disputing a parking charge. These could include the following.
- The parking operator who sent the charge was not responsible for looking after the land you parked on.
- You followed the parking rules.
- You bought a ticket and displayed it correctly.
- The signs were unclear or unreadable.
- You were not the registered keeper of the vehicle when the parking charge was issued.
- The vehicle broke down.
- The payment machines were out of order.
- There were compassionate reasons, for example, you were ill at the time or someone close to you has recently died.
The parking charge notice should give you the address to write to. Make sure that you send any evidence you have to support your case, such as the crime reference number if the vehicle was stolen. Keep a copy of your letter and send it by Signed For delivery (sometimes called ‘recorded delivery’) if possible.
If the parking operator is a member of an accredited trade association, they should not ask you to pay the charge while they look into your case. When they have made a decision, they should tell you whether they:
- agree with you, and have cancelled the charge;
- agree with you in part, and have reduced the charge; or
- do not agree with you, and have rejected your dispute.
If they reject your case, the parking operator should send you a notice. This is sometimes called a ‘Notice of rejection’. They must also tell you how you can appeal against their decision. If the parking operator is not a member of an accredited trade association, you will need to ask them for details of their dispute process. Also ask them if they have a code of practice.
It is likely that your dispute will take longer than 14 days. If this is the case and your appeal is unsuccessful, you will lose your right to pay at the discounted amount.
How do I appeal a parking charge notice?
If you disputed a parking charge notice and are unhappy with the decision made by the parking operator, you may be able to appeal.
Appeals for decisions made by BPA members
Appeals against decisions given by BPA members are made to Parking on Private Land Appeals (POPLA). POPLA provides a free appeals service and your case will be looked at by an independent assessor.
To appeal to POPLA, you must have disputed the charge with the BPA parking operator first. You will need a ‘verification code’ to show POPLA that you have done this. You will find the verification code on the Notice of rejection sent to you by the parking operator.
You can appeal to POPLA by post or online. Usually, you have 28 days from the date of the Notice of rejection to appeal against the parking operator’s decision. POPLA sometimes allows late appeals, but you will need to show good reason and provide evidence for the delay.
POPLA will not look at an appeal if you have paid the parking charge.
Appeals for decisions made by IPC members
Appeals for decisions given by IPC members are made to the Independent Appeals Service (IAS). You can appeal to the IAS by post or online. Your case will be dealt with by an independent adjudicator, who can only look at whether the charge is lawful or not.
To appeal to the IAS, you must have disputed the charge with the IPC parking operator first. You will need your parking charge number and the vehicle registration number to make the appeal.
You have 21 days to appeal against the IPC parking operator’s decision for free. This is called the ‘Standard Appeals Procedure’.
You can appeal after this time, but the parking operator must have rejected your dispute within the last 12 months. If you appeal after the 21 day deadline, you will need to pay £15. This is called the ‘Non-Standard Appeals Procedure’. If you use this procedure you will agree to be bound by any decision made by the IAS.
The IAS will not look at an appeal if you have paid the parking charge.
What happens next?
The parking operator should not ask you to pay the parking charge notice while either POPLA or the IAS is looking at your appeal. The decision made by POPLA or the IAS is final, so make sure that you send any evidence you have to support your appeal. You will be told whether POPLA or the IAS:
- uphold your appeal and tell the parking operator to cancel the charge; or
- disagree with your reasons for appealing and allow the parking operator to continue to ask you to pay.
What if the parking operator is not a member of an accredited trade association?
If the parking operator is not a member of an accredited trade association, you will need to ask the operator whether they have an appeals service. Ask them to send you details of the process and any codes of practice they have agreed to follow.
How can a parking charge notice be enforced?
If you have not paid in full, successfully made representation or successfully appealed against the parking charge notice, the parking operator may do the following.
- Continue to ask you to pay.
- Pass the debt to a debt collection agency to collect. Debt collectors are not bailiffs and are not able to take your goods.
- Add reasonable costs to cover the debt recovery.
- Decide to take court action in the County Court. This type of court action is civil, not criminal. The court is not there to judge anyone innocent or guilty.
If you receive any claim forms, contact us for advice straightaway. This is because you only have a limited time to respond to the forms. If you:
- agree that you owe the debt, you can use the court forms to make a monthly repayment offer; or
- don’t agree that you owe the debt, you can use the court forms to put in a defence. This can be complicated and extra costs can be added if you lose any defence.
If the parking operator gets a county court judgment, it will usually be recorded on your credit reference file for six years. Your income and assets could also be at risk.
If you need time to get debt advice and find a debt solution, you may want to consider applying for breathing space. Breathing space will stop most types of enforcement, and also stop most creditors applying interest and charges, for 60 days.
To find out more, see our Breathing space fact sheet.
British Parking Association Phone: 0144 444 7300 https://www.britishparking.co.uk
Driving and Vehicle Licensing Authority www.gov.uk/contact-the-dvla
Independent Appeals Service www.theias.org
International Parking Community Phone: 0800 619 1122 www.theipc.info
Parking on Private Land Appeals Phone: 0330 159 6126 www.popla.co.uk
Other fact sheets that may help you
Credit reference agencies fact sheet
Replying to a County Court claim fact sheet
Magistrates’ court fines fact sheet