Ask Avvo: Do I have to pay a parking ticket from a private company?

Money, Rights

Parking tickets are a pain in the fender, particularly in areas imposing substantial fees and penalties.

As you likely know, failure to make a timely payment to a city, municipality or state government agency issuing a ticket can create problems for your credit rating and driving history, both of which are affected by parking-infractions.

But what happens when a parking ticket is issued by a private, non-governmental parking authority patrolling an office parking lot or shopping area? In most cases, these private parking tickets will not negatively affect your driving record; however, those parking piranhas can still ruin your day and drain your wallet. Here, a look at the three options you have when facing a private parking ticket.

Option 1: Ignoring the ticket

One way to handle a private parking ticket is to crumple it up and ignore it. It is unlikely the parking company will expend the time and resources to pursue you in civil court, and a private parking authority has absolutely no jurisdiction to access and add to your criminal driving history.

This system may work for the first or second ticket, but even private ticketing entities often keep track of the license plate numbers. If you are a repeat offender, you may find your vehicle towed or outfitted with a boot until the debt is paid. It may also be possible for the private company to send outstanding tickets to a collections agency, provided the company is aware of the vehicle owner’s identity.

Option 2: Disputing the fine

Depending on the entity issuing the ticket, it may be possible to dispute or appeal the fine. More often than not, the procedure for disputing a fine is located on the reverse side of the ticket or somewhere on the ticket’s envelope. Much like a municipal fine, there is usually a ­very small window of time within which the dispute must take place, or the fine is considered accepted.

Legitimate dispute reasons include:

  • Parking rules or regulations are not conspicuously posted
  • The vehicle was parked correctly at all times (pictures would help here)
  • The vehicle owner maintains a monthly or quarterly parking pass
  • The private parking agency has no jurisdiction (i.e., you were parked on a city-owned street)

In some cities, disgruntled motorists have actually reported seedy private parking companies to the police, alleging possible criminal activity. If you suspect the parking authority is a scam or not officially sanctioned by a nearby business or private establishment, you may want to consider contacting local authorities about the situation.

Option 3: Giving in … sigh … and paying the ticket

Depending on the situation, you may be best served by giving in and paying the ticket. If the rules of the lot are clearly and conspicuously posted, you are considered on notice of the parking guidelines and are expected to follow the private regulations.

And, as mentioned earlier, allowing dozens of tickets to stack up could result in your car being booted or towed, which ultimately adds additional expense and hassle.

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