While it’s rare that drivers will find themselves in an altercation with the authorities out on the road, there is one legal headache that pretty much every motorist will encounter at some point: parking tickets. Everyone dreads the moment when you return to your car to see the yellow glare of a penalty notice stuck to your windshield.
To help you avoid fines in the future — or challenge the ones that aren’t fair — we’ve put together an in-depth guide explaining where you can and can’t park and everything you need to know about parking tickets.
- Street parking: where you can and can’t park
- Residential areas: where you can and can’t park
- Parking tickets
- What types of parking tickets are there?
- How much is a parking ticket?
- How to pay a parking ticket
- What happens if you don’t pay a parking ticket?
- Appealing a parking ticket
Street parking: where you can and can’t park
Double yellow lines
You cannot park on double yellow lines at any time, whether they’re painted on the road or the kerb. You may be allowed to load and unload things to and from your vehicle on double yellow lines unless there are specific restrictions against it. These restrictions are indicated by local signs or by yellow dashes going up onto the kerb.
Single yellow lines
You can park on single yellow lines — but only between the times specified by nearby signs. Typically, the times you’re allowed to park on single yellows are from 8 pm to 8 am, though this can vary. Parking at any other times is illegal and can result in a fine. You should always check the signs near single yellow lines before parking to make sure you aren’t violating the rules.
A clearway is any main road other than a motorway on which vehicles are not permitted to stop. Clearways are indicated by a sign bearing a red cross over a blue background. You cannot stop on a clearway regardless of the time of day, even to pick up or drop off passengers. There are often signs to reinforce this that say things like ‘No Stopping’, as well as other signs indicating the length of the clearway ahead (e.g. “For 5 miles”).
Licence: cc-by-sa/2.0 - © Albert Bridge. Source: geograph.org.uk/p/3961310
There are two different types of zig-zag lines, each with slightly different rules:
- White zig-zag lines — The approach to, and exit from, a pedestrian crossing is marked with white zig-zag lines. Drivers must not park or overtake in this area, as parking would block the view for pedestrians and oncoming traffic. You risk fines and penalty points by parking on white zig-zag lines. No signs are required to be put up nearby for parking penalties to be enforceable by police or local authorities.
- Yellow zig-zag lines — Found outside schools, hospitals, or fire, police or ambulance stations. They indicate the length of road where stopping or waiting is strictly prohibited. The Highway Code states that you should keep these areas clear of stationary vehicles, even if picking up or setting down children. You may also find an upright sign, indicating a mandatory prohibition of stopping during the times shown. While you can be fined for parking on a yellow zig-zag, there needs to be an accompanying sign for the penalty to be legally enforceable, which is not the case for white zig-zags.
Residential areas: where you can and can’t park
On a driveway
Believe it or not, it’s not illegal to park on someone else’s driveway.
If someone has parked on your driveway without your permission, this would be classed as trespassing. As trespassing is a civil offence, not a criminal one, the police are unlikely to get involved. And as your driveway is classed as private property, local authorities don’t have the power to issue a fine or remove the vehicle.
Although extremely frustrating, there’s often not a lot you can do unless you’re willing to pay for an eviction notice from the courts. It’s often best to sit tight and wait for the driver to leave.
Blocking a driveway
Most councils have taken on the responsibility for enforcing parking provisions, under what is known as Civil Parking Enforcement (CPE). It is an offence under CPE to park a vehicle where it blocks a dropped kerb driveway. Check if your local council has taken on CPE.
If you find your council has taken on CPE, you will need to report the vehicle obstructing your dropped kerb driveway to them. If your local council has not taken on CPE, you will need to contact the local police. The outcome will vary depending on the police/council’s policy for dealing with such matters. You could find that police will only attend if your car is blocked in.
On-road parking can often be the source of disputes between neighbours who don’t have designated parking spaces. Unfortunately, there’s not a lot you can do about cars parking in the prime spot outside your house – annoying as it may be when you’ve just come home from a long day at work and it’s pouring with rain. Providing that they’re not contravening parking restrictions, drivers can park in any space they find.
Unfortunately, saving the parking space outside your house isn’t allowed. Anyone caught obstructing the road can be fined by the authorities, so it’s not worth leaving a traffic cone out in the hope that it’ll deter drivers from parking outside your house.
What types of parking tickets are there?
There are three different types of parking tickets you could be issued in the UK:
- Penalty Charge Notice (PCN) or Excess Charge Notice (ECN) from the council – These will be issued on public land; a high street, for example.
- Parking Charge Notice from a landowner or parking company – These will be issued on private land, such as a supermarket car park.
- Fixed Penalty Notice from the police – These will be issued on red routes, white zig-zags or where the police enforce the violation of parking rules.
Whether you have received a ticket on your windscreen or a letter through the post, they should both state whether it is from the council, police or a private parking company.
How much is a parking ticket?
The cost of a parking ticket can vary greatly depending on a variety of factors:
- Where the ticket was issued — Fines in London are often much higher than they are in small townships; you can be charged as much as £130.
- Who issued it — Each council has unique parking ticketing criteria with different tiers of fines. Plus, private landowners can issue fines of more than £100 for parking without purchasing or displaying a ticket.
- The severity of the parking violation — Parking offences considered to be more high-level include contraventions like parking in a loading bay or parking on double-yellow lines. The penalties for these violations are often more expensive than simple offences like having your ticket expire.
How to pay a parking ticket
Your ticket should include clear instructions about how to pay. If you lose your ticket, you should contact the ticket issuer to find out how to pay.
You can pay almost all types of parking tickets online. However, if you’d rather pay by phone, the vast majority of parking authorities will have a number you can call to arrange payment of the fine.
You’ll usually have 28 days to pay your parking charge. Sometimes, the fine is reduced if you pay it within the first 14 days.
What happens if you don’t pay a parking ticket?
If you fail to pay within the stated period, your fine can increase. For example, if you don’t pay a fixed penalty notice (FPN) — usually issued by the police, local council or Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) — within 28, you’ll have to pay 50% more as a forfeit.
Appealing a parking ticket
Can I appeal my parking ticket?
You can appeal a parking ticket if you’re doing so for one of the following reasons:
- The car park signs were wrong
- There was poor signage
- The traffic warden or council made a mistake
- An error on the ticket
- An error with your pay and display ticket
- You have been overcharged
- You were parked correctly and returned to your vehicle before your ticket expired
There are also some mitigating circumstances, which may be considered in an appeal. This is when you have broken the rules but your reason for doing so was legitimate. Examples of mitigating circumstances include:
- You got a ticket while your car was broken down
- You were tending to an emergency or clearing an obstruction
- You drove an ill patient to the hospital
- You're too ill to move your car
- You've had a recent bereavement
Evidence that can be used in an appeal
When challenging a parking ticket that has been unfairly given, collecting evidence will help support your case. Here are some of the things that will help you in your appeal:
- Photographic evidence — Take photos of where your car was parked, the meter and your ticket, as well as any unclear signs or bay markings.
- Evidence of correspondence — Hold onto any information you have received regarding your parking ticket to refer back to in your appeal. Make copies of anything you have sent off.
- Proof of mitigating circumstances — Keep proof of any issues you had that led to you breaking the rules; for example, receipts from a breakdown company or a dated doctor’s note.
- Third-party testimonies — Get the contact information of anyone present during the time of the incident. Note down their story and ask them to consent to give a statement to help your case.
If you decide to appeal, do not pay the parking fine. Doing so is seen as admitting you were wrong – so you won't be able to appeal it once you've paid. Appealing a ticket will extend your payment window so you won’t have to pay a larger fine, the details of which can be found on your ticket. If you have any concerns over not paying, call whoever issued the ticket and get them to confirm that you shouldn't pay if you are appealing.
How to appeal a fixed penalty notice (FPN)
- Make an informal appeal if possible
First, check if the Fixed Penalty Notice was issued by the council or the police. You will need to write to them to make an informal appeal. Make sure to include any evidence that will support why you believe the ticket to be unfair.
If the ticket was issued by the police, your letter can be sent to the Central Ticket Office closest to where the ticket was issued. It is important to note, not all areas will allow you to raise an informal appeal, you can check by calling the number listed on the notice.
If the ticket was issued by the council, your letter can be sent to the address on the ticket or letter.
- If your informal appeal is rejected
If your informal appeal is rejected you will be sent a letter saying your Fixed Penalty Notice will not be cancelled.
At this point, you may decide to pay in full because the only other option is to ask for a hearing in a magistrates’ court. If this goes to court, you will need to pay court costs and your fine could increase by 50% if you lose. You will also need to attend the hearing to plead not guilty.
How to appeal to the council (PCN or ECN)
- Write to the council
The first thing you should do when challenging a ticket from the council is to write to them to explain your reasoning. This is called making an informal appeal. You should find an address, email address or fax number on the back of the parking ticket. You may also be able to send an appeal online via the council's website.
In the letter, you need to give the reasons why you're appealing and why you believe the fine is unfair. Include any evidence to back up your reasons if possible and ensure to include your vehicle registration, ticket number, the date the ticket was issued and your address.
You'll have 14 days to make an informal appeal from when you were given the notice, or 21 days if it was sent to you by post.
- Make a formal appeal
If your informal appeal hasn't been successful, or you didn't make one, it's time for you to make a formal challenge. You'll be sent a 'Notice to Owner', which includes full payment and formal appeal forms.
Once you receive it, you have 28 days to pay or appeal, otherwise the penalty could increase by another 50% and you'll lose the chance to fight the fine.
- Go to an independent tribunal
If your formal appeal is rejected, you'll be sent a 'Notice of Rejection of Representations' letter, and a form called a 'Notice of Appeal'. This allows you to challenge the ticket at an independent tribunal. Details on how to appeal should be on the Notice of Appeal form. You'll no longer be able to pay the fine at a reduced rate and will need to submit the form within 30 days.
If you're unsure about going to a tribunal, it could be helpful to know that it is not a court hearing. Going to a Government adjudicator is free and can be done by post, phone or online.
If the independent tribunal disagrees, you should pay the PCN fine as soon as you can. The council can take you to court if you refuse, which will affect your credit rating and means you’ll have to pay court costs.
How to appeal a private parking charge notice
- Check if the parking company is a member of an accredited trade association (ATA)
If the company is not an ATA member, Citizens Advice recommends not to pay the parking ticket. They will not be able to take you to court as they will be unable to get your details from the DVLA. If you have received the ticket in the post from a non-ATA member, your details will have been obtained illegally. You can report them to Action Fraud.
If you’ve been clamped, ensure to check the notice first to see who the clamp is from. Only the police, council, DVLA, or a private company acting on their behalf is allowed to do so on private land. If you have been clamped by a private landowner or a company working for them you should call the police on 101. It is important to not attempt to remove the clamp yourself as you could be taken to court for criminal damage – or even theft if you keep the clamp.
- Contact the parking company if they’re an ATA member
You should find the contact details on the parking notice. The notice should also tell you if you must appeal through their website or if you can write to them with your reasons for objecting. You're likely to boost your chances of success if you also include evidence to support your case and clearly explain why you're appealing.
- Make a formal appeal if your first appeal is rejected
If your appeal has been rejected, you can then appeal to an independent appeals service. This is completely free and if they disagree with the parking company’s view, your ticket could be cancelled. There are two trade bodies and each has its own appeals process:
- Popla – for BPA members. You can appeal online or via post to Popla, PO Box 1270, Warrington, WA4 9RL.
- The Independent Appeals Service – for IPC members. You can appeal online, but if you want to appeal by post, you must use a different set of forms. You will have 28 days from when your informal appeal was rejected to make a formal appeal for BPA members, for IPC members you will have 21 days. Make sure to include all the evidence to support your appeal.
Savvy drivers that know what to look for before they park up are unlikely to run into trouble with charges and fines. However, you can never rule out the chances of an unfair ticket coming your way.
Thankfully, our Classic Car Insurance includes Driver’s Legal Protection so your expenses are covered if you need to take an appeal to court. We have over 60 years’ experience providing car insurance to our customers, helping us craft comprehensive cover that works for you, whatever options you choose.