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Parking Ticket Appeals

Fight unfair parking tickets

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Megan F | Edited by Steve N

Updated June 2016

Reclaim unfair parking ticketsIt's a hideous moment. You return to your car, van or motorbike to find a parking ticket on it and are faced with the worry of a hefty fine.

This step-by-step guide shows you how to appeal against unfair parking fines, and includes free template letters. The most recent figures show 57% of motorists who went all the way to the official, independent appeals body won.

If your ticket is from a private firm rather than a council, see the Fight Unfair Private Parking Tickets guide.

We've just given this guide a major update. Please let us know what you think and suggest any changes or ask questions in the Parking Ticket Appeals discussion.

While every effort's been made to ensure this article's accuracy, it doesn't constitute legal advice tailored to your individual circumstances. If you act on it, you acknowledge that you do so at your own risk. We can't assume responsibility and don't accept liability for any damage or loss which may arise as a result of your reliance upon it.

Parking ticket need-to-knows

Spot the difference: one of these tickets is official, the other isn't

Parking tickets can be from official bodies, such as councils and the police, or private companies. It's crucial to know which yours is, as they can look very similar, because private companies' tickets do better impressions than Alistair McGowan.

Take a look at these two tickets:

Here's how you know your ticket's official – it'll be called a Penalty Charge Notice, Excess Charge Notice or Fixed Penalty Notice, and it'll include the name of the issuing authority. If it doesn't have this (even if it uses similar language) it's probably a private parking ticket, and crucially not from a council, or Transport for London, or the police.

If you were ticketed on private land, read Reclaim Private Parking Tickets.

Remember this is about fighting UNFAIR tickets

Parking laws are in place for safety and to help traffic flow, and should benefit us all. Yet mistakes happen, whether it's an unclear sign, technology faults, overzealous parking attendants or just an honest error. The aim of this guide is to prevent you being out of pocket when most reasonable people would think the ticket is unfair.

If you've blocked a school gate, parked on zig-zag lines, or caused a huge traffic backlog by taking a break on a red route, sorry – there's no sympathy here, and this guide isn't intended to help. Even if it did, you'd have little chance of success.

Gather evidence if you plan to appeal

If still at the scene, gather as much evidence as possible. If you're reading this after, it's still worth grabbing what you can, as this evidence can be the key to winning.

Your evidence should be 'contemporaneous' (ie, made at the time) if possible, to truly reflect the situation when you got your ticket, so act ASAP.

Martin found just how crucial evidence can be when he got a ticket at 6.35pm, yet managed to take a photo of a sign showing he could park after 6.30pm – see his Parking fines reclaim blog.

Here's what to collect:

  • Photographs. Snap any unclear signs, bay markings or lines, and areas where you believe they should be. Also take pics of where your car was, the meter and your ticket, plus anything else that might be relevant.

  • Correspondence. Keep everything you've been sent from the company, and copies of any information you've sent off.

  • Proof of mitigating circumstances. Keep anything relevant, such as receipts from a recovery company if you were broken down.

  • Witness statements. If anyone will corroborate your story, get their details and ask them to sign a statement – eg, if it was impossible to see the signs or you were loading or unloading goods from your car and you stayed within the rules.

Never pay a fine if you plan on appealing

never pay

Paying the fine is considered an admission of liability – so if you want to appeal a ticket, don't pay. But don't just ignore it either as the charge will go up and up. Instead you need to follow our step-by-step guide on how to appeal.

However, if you've been clamped or towed away you DO have to pay first to get your motor released, and then you can appeal afterwards. See What to do if you've been clamped or towed.

You shouldn't be fined within 10 minutes of your ticket expiring

Councils offer an amnesty whereby you won't get a ticket within 10 minutes of the meter, pay and display, pay-by-phone or voucher parking paid-for period ending, as long as you're parked in a council bay.

For more on these rules, which were brought in in March 2015, see the 10-minute leeway MSE News story.

Don't assume the driver's liable for the ticket

Official parking tickets are the responsibility of the vehicle's registered owner, not the driver, unless issued to hire cars. This applies throughout the UK.

If you've got a ticket while in a hire car, hire firms can either send you the payment demand or pay the ticket themselves and send you a bill, plus an admin fee. So if you've got a ticket while driving a hire car and want to appeal against it, let the hire firm know.

Beware tickets that come through the post – the rules are different

beware of letter

Regulations brought in during 2008 mean you can get a ticket through the post in England and Wales if caught on CCTV.

This makes it more difficult to gather evidence for an appeal because the 'contravention' would have taken place days before. The only plus is, if caught on CCTV, you've 21 days to pay at the reduced rate, instead of the usual 14.

If you do decide to appeal a ticket, there's no informal appeal so you jump straight to a formal appeal to the council. Read the information they send very carefully as some will still allow you to pay the discounted rate after the formal appeal, whereas others won't.

If it's an 'Excess Charge Notice' or 'Fixed Penalty Notice' the rules are different

In rare cases your parking ticket may be an Excess Charge Notice (still issued by a few councils) or a Fixed Penalty Notice (issued by the police).

These notices operate under criminal rather than civil law, so there are different rules for appealing.

What should I do if I get an Excess Charge Notice from a council?

What if I've got a Fixed Penalty Notice from the police?

Arm yourself with the Glove Box Parking Guide

Our printable A4 guide is packed full of tips on what to do if you're ticketed, and how to avoid tickets by parking correctly in the first place. Print it out and keep it in your glove box in case the dreaded moment comes when a ticket's slapped on your windscreen – or worse, your car's clamped.

What are the grounds for appealing?

ticket appeal

When appealing to a council, or the independent adjudicator if you take it further, there's a strict list of official grounds for appeal. These are the reasons a ticket can be ruled as unfair.

Both the local authority and adjudicator will consider mitigating circumstances too (these are more subjective, where they may decide in your favour even though you don't have a case legally, for instance if you've recently had a bereavement).

It's worth remembering that if you appeal on official grounds you've a pretty good chance, as long as you can prove it. If you're citing mitigating circumstances, even if you think your case is strong, it's less certain.

Official grounds for appeal

  • The signs were wrong. This is the one most people fall into, for example if the sign gave the wrong info or wasn't visible.

  • The traffic warden or council got it wrong. This one is if they simply shouldn't have given you a ticket, eg, if your blue badge was displayed.

  • You've already paid the fine. If you paid in time the fine shouldn't have increased. Gather evidence to show you attempted to pay, such as bank statements or cheque stubs.

  • The council made an error on the ticket or letter. This applies when councils have failed to include all the required information, such as on their tickets or 'Notice to Owner' letters. Here's the info that must be on 'Notice to Owner' letters (it's a slightly different list for posted tickets).

  • The traffic rules are wrong. For example, it might have added a new restriction, eg, a yellow line, and didn't follow proper procedures for the 'Traffic Regulation Order' in doing so. You can check orders here or with your council.

  • You didn't own the vehicle at the time. You'll need to prove you weren't the owner at the time, which your log book or dealer/showroom receipt will show. If you sold the car before the ticket, send copies of the receipt of sale, and proof you'd informed the DVLA.

  • They wrongly claimed the warden was stopped from giving a ticket. If they had the opportunity to put a ticket on a vehicle, they can't then decide to send one via post.

  • Your car was stolen. If the thief parks illegally, the ticket can be waived if you can prove it was stolen, eg, you'd reported it to the police.

  • You were overcharged. The cost should be no more than the standard charges. These depend on the type of enforcement system used, but the table in the following dropdown shows typical fines.

What are typical fines?

You can also claim there were mitigating circumstances

car broken down

There are many other reasons why you shouldn't have been given an unfair ticket, but these are not listed within the official grounds and are instead mitigating circumstances.

Effectively it's where you've broken the rules but had good cause for doing so. You don't have an automatic right not to get a ticket in these circumstances, but many councils will take them into account.

There are no hard and fast rules, though mitigating circumstances could include:

  • Getting a ticket while broken down.
  • Tending to an emergency or clearing an obstruction from the road.
  • Dropping an ill patient off at hospital.
  • You were too ill to move your car.
  • You've had a recent bereavement.
  • You needed to park to attend a funeral or were unable to move your car because you were attending a funeral.
  • You were on holiday when the bay you were in became suspended (temporarily stopping parking there) and the warning was erected while you were away.
  • You bought a ticket/had a permit but it fell off the window or was not visible to the warden (technically it's your responsibility to display the ticket correctly, so prepare for possible defeat, but it's worth appealing).
  • It's a first offence within that council's boundaries. Councils say this in itself is not a valid reason to waive the charge, but it's worth a go.
  • You are a law-abiding citizen, made an honest mistake and are now fully aware of the parking restrictions. Again, councils don't have to refund you on that basis but there's no harm in asking.

When can't I appeal?

There are also some reasons, that although good excuses, simply don't count – for example:

  • If you were getting change to put in a meter. If you were on the way to pay for parking you do have grounds for appeal, but not if you were just going to get change.
  • If you disagree with the parking regulations.
  • If you only parked illegally for a few minutes.
  • If you agree you were blocking the road or footpath.
  • If there was nowhere else to park.

Is it worth appealing?

Normally, if you pay a fine within 14 days of a ticket being issued, you can pay half-price – so it's important to weigh up the risks involved in appealing.

Crucially, most councils will let you submit an informal appeal and still pay the discounted rate if you lose, so submitting an informal appeal's an absolute 'no lose' scenario. If you think the ticket's unfair, you may as well give it a try.

But as the chart below shows, the risk jumps if you make a formal challenge – after that, if you end up paying the fine, you'll pay full price. (Then again, if you do continue past this stage you may as well take it all the way as you'll already be paying the full fine if you lose.)

How to appeal against parking fines

Here's a step-by-step guide to fighting tickets in England and Wales. Hopefully you'll win early so it's all over, but, if you need to pursue the matter all the way to the adjudicator, recent figures show 57% who do this win.

Are the rules the same for Scotland and Northern Ireland?

Step 1: Make an informal challenge

14days

This first step only applies to people who've had a Penalty Charge Notice (PCN) stuck on their windscreen. If you had a ticket by post, there's no informal appeal procedure, so go straight to Step 2 below.

If you've found a ticket on your car, it's worth first making an informal challenge – but do it within 14 days. That way if you lose, most councils and Transport for London will still allow you to pay the fine at the reduced rate, so you won't have lost anything.

There should be an address, email address or fax number on the back of the ticket to challenge the penalty. As this is an informal process, there are no set grounds for appeal and no forms to fill in. Just send a letter. It's also worth checking your council's website, as some allow you to send informal appeals via an online form. If you're not sure what to write, here's a template to help:

FREE template letter: Make an Informal parking fine appeal (Problems opening it? See template letter help)

Submit all evidence to give yourself a greater chance of winning. Include your address, your vehicle registration number and the ticket (PCN) number. Some councils allow you to view any photographic evidence they have against you on their websites.

Step 2: Make a formal appeal

The next stage is to do a formal appeal. If you've got this far, you'll have been sent a Notice to Owner (NTO), which demands full payment and also has a formal appeals form on it (see full details of what an NTO should include). This'll be for one of three reasons:

  • You didn't make an informal appeal. If you ignored the ticket for the first 28 days and have been sent an NTO, it's too late to do an informal appeal. (NTOs can take quite a while to come through but you can still do a formal appeal.)
  • Your informal appeal was turned down. At this point the council sends an NTO form to the registered owner. Once you receive it you've 28 days to pay or appeal, or the penalty could increase by another 50% and you'll lose the chance to appeal.
  • Posted tickets. Here you'll be sent an NTO straightaway. If you appeal within 14 days, or 21 if caught on CCTV, you'll usually get the opportunity to pay the reduced rate if your appeal is rejected. See full details of what this should include: Posted parking ticket requirements. In addition, where you're caught on CCTV you can ask for any photographs or other evidence the council uses against you.

This is the key decision point. If you believe the ticket is unfair, remember that 57% of people who go all the way win. There's no reason to stop after this step – the fine will stay the same amount so you may as well go all the way.

How to write your appeal

Simply fill in the form stating all the details. The form should include a space for you to put the grounds for appeal, but it's easier to write a separate letter outlining your appeal to ensure you've enough space to get all your points across. Here's a template to help:

FREE template letter: Make a formal parking fine appeal (Problems opening it? See template letter help)

If you made an informal appeal, resend all the information as it may be read by someone else who may not have the original details. Some councils allow you to view any photographic evidence they have against you on their websites.

The council has 56 days to respond to a formal appeal or you win by default.

Step 3: Final appeal to the independent adjudicator

finalappeal

If your formal appeal wasn't successful, you'll be sent a 'Notice of Rejection of Representations' letter, and a form called a 'Notice of Appeal' which allows you to challenge the ticket at an independent tribunal if you want to.

At this point you've lost the chance to pay at half-price anyway, so there's no harm in continuing to the next stage (though in a tiny, tiny number of instances the independent tribunal can award costs to a council if it rejects your appeal and thinks you've made a "frivolous, vexatious or wholly unreasonable" appeal – eg, if you blatantly blocked a hospital entrance).

You need to submit the form within 30 days of its date.

Don't be put off by the idea of going to the adjudicator. First of all, it's an independent adjudicator appointed by the Government, not any council or authority. And most importantly, to clear up any confusion...

It's free, it's not like a court hearing and you DON'T have to attend. It can be done by post, phone or online.

You do have the option of a personal hearing (and in some cases, a telephone hearing) if you'd like to explain yourself. But for most people, a written appeal will suffice as long as you supply the relevant evidence to support your case.

Which body carries out the appeal depends on where the incident happened:

Again, submit every last smidgeon of relevant evidence as the adjudicator won't have seen any of what you previously submitted. As with a formal appeal to a council, it's worth sending a separate letter attached to the form outlining your case. Here's a template:

FREE template letter: Make an independent tribunal parking fine appeal (Problems opening it? See template letter help)

What happens if I lose?

What if there are mitigating circumstances?

Know your rights if you're clamped or towed

class=

In the worst cases, you may find that your car has been clamped or towed. If that's happened, here's a stark warning...

Don't try to remove the clamp yourself, as any damage could be considered criminal.

How to get your money back if you're clamped or towed

If you think you've been unfairly clamped or towed by a local authority there's a three-step process to try to get your money back.

Step 1: Pay to release your car – but 'under protest'

If your car's been towed, the first hurdle is to find which authority has taken it. Try your local council or the police on 101, or in London you can call the towed vehicle tracing service Trace on 0845 206 8602. If you think it might be the DVLA (which sometimes clamps if chasing unpaid tax), call 0843 224 1999.

If your car's been clamped, there should also be a parking ticket so ring whoever issued it.

It's likely you'll need to pay a charge first to get your vehicle released. Then if it's unfair, seek a refund. When you pay, make sure you get a receipt containing:

  • The location where the alleged parking incident occurred
  • The person's name and signature
  • The date

Step 2: Make a formal appeal to the council

If a council clamps or tows your car it has to issue a Penalty Charge Notice as well. So the appeal route is very similar to the parking tickets route, though you can also ask for the clamp or tow fees to be refunded too.

With clamping or towing, however, there's no informal appeal. You instead have 28 days from the date of your car being released to make a formal appeal (sometimes called a formal representation) to the council.

The council must respond to you within 56 days or it has to refund the charges.

Write and say why you feel the ticket and clamping/towing was unfair. We've listed the grounds for appeal below (in plain English):

The council got it wrong

The council shouldn't have moved the vehicle

No ticket was served before the vehicle was towed

There are mitigating circumstances

Other grounds for appeal

Step 3: Final appeal to the independent adjudicator

If the council disagrees with your formal appeal, it'll send a rejection letter. Your next option is to take your case to an independent adjudicator.

Here the process is the same as if you'd just been given a parking ticket, so jump to Step 3: Final appeal to the adjudicator.

Been clamped or towed illegally? Call the police

If you think you've been clamped or towed away illegally, the first thing to do is call the police.

Don't hand over any money. Don't get into a debate with the clampers. Don't be scared to call 101, the police non-emergency number, if you don't feel threatened – or 999 if you do. There are tough penalties for breaking the law, including a £5,000 fine.