Parking tickets, penalty notices and fines

26th April 2018

Public parking tickets

Public parking tickets are those which are issued by the local council or Transport for London (TFL). Generally, a public parking ticket will be issued in the form of a Penalty Charge Notice (PCN).

Always make sure that your ticket is a Penalty Charge Notice, as private parking companies often issue similarly named Parking Charge Notices, which are far more difficult to enforce. You can read more about these in the Private Parking Tickets section below.

If the PCN is not left on your vehicle, it will be posted to you and this usually happens when your car is caught on CCTV.

When you receive a PCN, there are two options available to you:

Paying the PCN

The earlier you pay the PCN, the less it will cost you. If you pay within 14 days of the charge being issued (or 21 days if it was posted to you) then the charge will be reduced by 50%. This will result in a £70 fine dropping to £35.

If you don’t pay within this initial period, you will have to pay the full amount. A reminder of the PCN, known as the Notice to Owner (NTO), will be sent to the registered owner of the car if the fine is not paid within 28 days.

If you do not pay within 56 days of the PCN being issued, the council has the power to increase the fine by a further 50%, taking a £70 fine up to £105.

Challenging the PCN

If you think that the ticket is unfair, you must not ignore it, as this could lead to you being summonsed to court - whether the PCN was fair or not. However, you do have the option of challenging the PCN.

If you disagree with the PCN, you can challenge it within 28 days of its issue by writing to the council. This is known as an ‘informal challenge’. Some councils also allow you to issue informal challenges online – visit the council’s website for details.

If the council rejects this challenge and you still feel that the PCN is unfair, you can make a ‘formal challenge’ after the council sends you the Notice to Owner. The council must decide within 56 days of the formal challenge being made whether or not to concede and cancel the fine. If they still do not agree with your challenge, they will send you a ‘Notice of Rejection’.

If you still wish to challenge the PCN, your final option is to appeal to the Traffic Penalty Tribunal (or, if the PCN was issued in London, the Parking and Traffic Appeals service). Again, you must make this appeal within 28 days of the Notice of Rejection being issued.

Grounds for appealing a parking ticket

There are a number of reasons why your PCN could be considered unfair – here are a few of the more common arguments:

You weren’t at fault

You could be wrongly issued with a parking ticket for a variety of reasons. For example, a ticket may have been issued if you stopped your vehicle to make a delivery in a no parking zone which allows for loading and unloading.

You could also argue this if the relevant signs were misleading or obscured, or if you had a valid parking permit that the issuer had missed. How to prove this will vary according to the situation, but eyewitness accounts and any photographic evidence that you can provide will help to strengthen your case.

Other evidence may be useful in specific circumstances – for example, if you received a ticket while you were delivering something, you could provide a delivery note as proof. Similarly, if you had a valid permit for where you had parked, you should provide this as evidence.

You were not driving the vehicle at the time

As the registered owner of the car, you will be sent the PCN and the Notice to Owner, however, if you can prove that you were not driving the car at the time, you should be able to avoid the fine.

Proving this will depend on the reason why someone else was driving the car. If you had hired the car out to someone else and they signed a qualifying hiring agreement and a statement of liability, you will be able to pass liability to the driver who hired the car, as long as you can provide their name and address.

If the car had been stolen, you should provide the crime reference number for the theft.

You didn’t own the vehicle when the violation happened

Similarly, the violation may have occurred when someone else was driving because you did not own the vehicle at the time. This is likely to happen due to the DVLA’s records being out of date – for example, if you sold the car, the ownership of the car may not have transferred to the new owner.

To contest the parking ticket on these grounds, you should provide the name and address of the new owner. It could also help to have proof of purchase or sale.

The council failed to follow correct procedures in issuing the PCN

You may be able to avoid a fine if the PCN is incomplete, or if the proper procedures were not followed. For instance, if the Notice to Owner is sent more than six months after the original ticket was issued, rather than the usual 28 days, this will give you strong grounds for appeal.

A PCN also needs to include certain information to ensure its validity – if any of the following information is missing, you should consider appealing:

  • The size of the fine
  • The nature of the infraction
  • The date and time of the infraction
  • Information on how to pay the charge and who to pay it to.

The PCN should also inform you of the 28-day deadline for paying the fine, and the 14-day deadline that can spare you half of the bill.

The fine is too expensive

If the fine is greater than the council or authority is allowed to fine you, you can appeal on this basis.

Mitigating circumstances

If you are unable to appeal against your parking ticket on the grounds that it is was unfair or wrong, you may still be able to avoid paying if you can prove that there were mitigating circumstances that led you to commit the violation.

Mitigating circumstances are generally cited in relation to an injury, illness, or bereavement. For example:

  • You were dropping an ill patient at the hospital
  • You had to stop due to a medical condition
  • You are recently bereaved
  • You stopped to deal with an emergency
  • You were at a funeral when you received the ticket
  • Your car had broken down.

Your chances of success will depend on whether the circumstances caused you to commit the breach of law.

You may be able to appeal simply on the grounds that you are unfamiliar with the area or that you are a law-abiding citizen who simply made a mistake. This is less likely to succeed, but it is possible that the council will show leniency.

Excess Charge Notices and Fixed Penalty Notices

Some councils issue parking tickets known as Excess Charge Notices, or ECNs. Unlike a PCN, an ECN is a criminal charge.

The police may give you a Fixed Penalty Notice (FPN) for a parking offence if, for example, you park somewhere that blocks a junction. An FPN issued for a parking offence can result in points on your licence.

Private Parking Tickets

Private parking tickets are issued by non-public bodies for parking in areas such as supermarkets, hospitals and service stations.

These are not as easy to enforce as public parking fines, since they aren’t technically fines – the only way that parking companies can enforce them is by taking you to court.

However, tickets issued by parking companies are often made to look suspiciously similar to public PCNs – and Parking Charge Notices, issued by private companies, even make liberal use of the same initials. Inspect your parking ticket carefully before deciding upon a course of action.

In terms of paying private parking charges, they work similarly to public fines – you are generally given 28 days to pay, and you will receive a discount if you pay within two weeks of the notice being issued.

If you receive a Parking Charge Notice, you should first find out whether the company that issued it is registered with the British Parking Association (BPA). You can do this by calling the British Parking Association on 01444 447 300 or by visiting their website.

If the company is a member of the BPA, they have the power to obtain your details from the DVLA in order to pursue you for the parking charge. However, if the company is not a BPA member, they have no such power.

If you think that the parking ticket is unfair, you should contact the company to challenge it, and their appeals process should be detailed on the ticket.

Alternatively, you may just be able to ignore it, since the company cannot make you pay the charge without taking you to a small claims court.

As the cost of doing so is likely to be greater than the cost of your charge, there is a good chance that they will not take the matter further.  We would recommend that you take legal advice if you find yourself in receipt of a parking ticket.

Without a court ruling, the company is unable to send bailiffs to your house, contrary to any threats they might make. They are also unable to clamp or tow your vehicle – in fact, doing so without legal authority is a serious offence, punishable by a fine of up to £5,000. If in doubt, seek legal help.

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