Local authorities are not doing enough to highlight the appeals process to motorists who've been slapped with parking fines, according to the Local Government Ombudsman (LGO). Make sure you know your rights if you've been unfairly fined.

Councils across the country must consider 'informal challenges' to parking penalties within 28 days of the fine being issued, while the dispute can be escalated to an independent parking adjudicator if the matter is not resolved by an informal challenge or a subsequent 'formal representation'.

However, in its recent 'Fairer Fines' report, the LGO states it's common for councils not to tell penalised parkers of their right to appeal a fine. The report also suggests that certain councils are failing to consider informal challenges and are not available to discuss issues motorists have with penalty notices.

The report also outlined the fact that some local authorities are failing to respond to cases where penalty charges are being issued to motorists at their old addresses. As a result, the new inhabitants are chased for payment of the ticket.

Make sure you know how to make parking ticket appeals by checking out our guide.

How do I challenge a council parking ticket?

When a penalty charge notice is placed on your vehicle, it must outline that you have a right to make an informal challenge to the local authority before you receive the 'notice to owner' letter that's sent out if the fine remains unpaid after 28 days.

While you can't just refuse to pay your ticket, this informal procedure means you do have the right to challenge the charge if you feel it's unfair, or there are mitigating circumstances.

Any informal challenge must be made within 28 days of receiving the fine – after that you will be sent a notice to owner letter.

The local authority has an obligation to consider informal challenges and can use its discretion to cancel fines. If it decides not to do this, it needs to explain why.

Can I challenge my fine after receiving a 'notice to owner' letter?

Yes. Once you've received the notice to owner letter, you still have rights to appeal against the charge and to do this you must go through the formal representation process.

The local authority responsible for issuing your parking ticket will inform you of how you go about this, but it must be done within 28 days of receiving the letter.

There are a few legal grounds that you can use when making a formal representation against your charge:

  • The penalty charge notice has already been paid.
  • You weren't the owner of the vehicle when the offence took place.
  • The offence the charge is for didn't actually happen.
  • The vehicle was parked by someone else and without the driver's consent.
  • The vehicle is owned by a hire firm (and the driver has signed a liability statement).
  • The charge amount is excessive given the circumstances.
  • The penalty charge procedures have not been correctly followed.
  • There are additional mitigating circumstances (such as the parking meter may have been broken or a medical emergency meant you were not able to return to your vehicle in time).

What happens if my formal representation has not been successful?

If your formal representation has been turned down, and you don't feel the outcome has been satisfactory, you can contact the parking adjudicator. You should be given an appeal form, or details to contact the adjudicator, by the local authority if your formal representation is declined.

The parking adjudicator is an external body to the authority issuing the charge, so it's important you go through the formal representation process before getting in contact.

What if the vehicle that's been ticketed has nothing to do with me?

The LGO report highlights instances where people have received penalty charges for vehicles registered to their address but that they do not own. This can happen in cases where previous occupants have not updated their details with the DVLA.

The report outlines one specific case where a penalty notice was issued to an individual because his address was held by the DVLA, but the vehicle in question was not his. Despite the fact that the new occupant returned all the previous resident's post, the local authority got a warrant to recover the charge from the address, which was then passed to bailiffs.

If you receive a penalty charge notice at your home for someone else, you should return it to the local authority ASAP. It's always best to do this with trackable delivery, in case the documents get lost in the post.

In cases where you receive a notice for a car you used to own, but have since sold, you will have to go through the standard appeals process.

What if my parking ticket was issued by a private company?

Unfortunately, these procedures only apply to penalty charges issued by local authorities. A parking ticket issued by a private company is referred to as a 'parking charge notice' and the rules on appealing these are different. Further information can be found in our Parking Charge Notice guide.