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This step-by-step guide shows you how to appeal against unfair parking fines, and includes free template letters. The most recent figures show that despite more fines being issued, there's been an 8% annual drop in the number of motorists who fight all the way to the independent adjudicator - yet the figures also show 56% of those who do win.
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 Fight Unfair Private Parking 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.
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 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. You can reclaim them… 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.
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 Know your rights if you're clamped or towed.
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.
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.
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 way to appeal informally so you jump straight to making 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.
In rare cases your parking ticket may be an Excess Charge Notice (still issued by a few councils when parked on public land, eg, high street) or a Fixed Penalty Notice (issued by the police on red routes, white zig-zags etc).
These notices operate under criminal rather than civil law, so there are different rules for appealing.
If you're in the rare position of having an Excess Charge Notice issued by a council that's yet to adopt a civil regime, there's a three-stage process. Obviously if you win earlier on though, you won't have to go through it all.
Whether you have seven or 14 days to appeal depends on the council, so check the ticket carefully. If you submit an appeal on time, most councils still allow you to pay the reduced ticket rate if the appeal is rejected.
At this point, there's generally no form to fill in (though it's also worth checking the council's website, in case there is one), so you'll need to send a letter. Here's a template to help:
Make sure you submit all supporting evidence – include an address, your vehicle registration number and the ticket number.
Take it any further than this, and you'll probably lose your chance to pay a reduced fee. Double-check with the council – even if you believe in the justice of your case, it's worth balancing what you'll gain by winning with the time and cost of losing.
Some councils may then give you the opportunity to appeal again to a more senior parking official. If they do, it'll be explained on your rejection letter (it's also worth checking the council's website for more details).
If they don't, move to the next stage. However, it's unlikely you'll be able to pay the fine at the reduced rate if you appeal again.
At this point, the council will send a letter demanding payment. You have the option of appealing to the relevant Ombudsman service, which is free – you can ask it to investigate if you feel the council got it wrong or failed to show discretion regarding mitigating circumstances.
An Ombudsman can only usually intervene where there has been a procedural error. Yet as few cases are black and white, it's worth at least contacting the Ombudsman for guidance.
There are four relevant services, depending on where the fine was issued:
In England: Use the Local Government & Social Care Ombudsman.
In Wales: Use the Public Services Ombudsman for Wales.
In Scotland: Use the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman.
In Northern Ireland: Use the Northern Ireland Public Services Ombudsman.
You could also take your council to court if it applied the law incorrectly. However, this will cost you serious money if you lose. Seek legal advice before you take this nuclear option.
This is usually a one- or two-stage process. Unfortunately, if you have a police ticket your chances of success are likely to be lower than with a council ticket.
Officially, appeals against police tickets can only be made via the courts, but some forces may allow informal appeals. The notice or vehicle release form may indicate whether you're allowed to informally challenge it. If it's not clear, call the issuing police force or any number listed on the ticket to check.
Usually, you'll be writing to a department called the 'Central Ticket Office' which deals with many types of police fines. There are no forms to fill in, you just send a letter. Make sure you submit all supporting evidence to give yourself a greater chance of winning, and include an address, your vehicle registration number and the ticket number. Here's a template to help:
If the police force rejects your appeal it'll inform you in writing. If you win, that's fantastic. If not, move onto the next stage.
If your appeal is rejected or you're unable to make an informal appeal, you'll get a Notice to Owner form with options to pay the charge, or to nominate an alternative driver's name (mainly for hire companies as the owner is responsible) or request a hearing at a magistrates' court. If you don't act within 28 days, the fine will increase by 50% and you'll get a court summons.
If you want to contest it, you can opt for a hearing. This isn't an easy thing to do, and for all but the most determined or legally aware, it's probably best to simply accept the fine.
If you do decide to continue, you may want to consider legal advice as you'll have to attend a hearing to set out your case. In addition, if you lose, you may have to pay court costs.
Our How to Park Right guide explains where and when you're likely to get a ticket and is packed full of tips to help you avoid getting them by parking correctly.
Give it a read and it could help you avoid that feeling of dread when you find a ticket on your windscreen – or even worse, that your car's been clamped.
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.
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 paid, or attempted to, such as bank statements, cheque stubs or receipts.
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 with the Traffic Penalty Tribunal or 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.
|Ticket/Penalty Charge Notice (PCN) for serious offence 1||£130*||£110*||£130*||£70* depending on council||£60*||£90*|
|Ticket/PCN for less serious offence||£80*||£60*||N/A||£50* depending on council||N/A||N/A|
|Additional clamp release fee 3||£70||£70||N/A||£40||N/A||£40|
|Storage charge in car pound||£40/day||£40/day||N/A||£12/day||£20/day||£12/day|
|Correct at May 2019. * Penalty halved if paid within 14 days (or 21 days if caught on CCTV). (1) Serious offences include blocking traffic or entrances, or parking in restricted areas such as disabled bays without a valid permit. (2) In N Ireland, clamping and towing happen but are rare, see NI Direct for more info. (3) Not practised by all councils. (4) More on the London Councils website.|
There are many other reasons why you may have been given a ticket unfairly, 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:
There are also some reasons, that although might sound like good excuses, simply don't count – for example:
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.)
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, the latest figures show 56% of those who take it all the way win.
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 the next step 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 or email address 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 letter to help:
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:
This is the key decision point. If you believe the ticket is unfair, remember that the latest figures show that 56% 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.
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:
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.
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 and appeal anyway).
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:
England and Wales (not London): Traffic Penalty Tribunal.
Scotland: Parking and Bus Lane Tribunal for Scotland.
Northern Ireland: Northern Ireland Traffic Penalty Tribunal.
London: Environment and Traffic Adjudicators.
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:
You need to pay the penalty within 28 days or the fine can increase by 50%.
In some limited circumstances you may be able to take things further and this will be explained if you lose your appeal.
Sometimes the appeal's dismissed but the adjudicator considers there are compelling reasons why the penalty should not be paid.
This is usually due to mitigating circumstances. The adjudicator can't force the council to waive the penalty but can ask it to. The council has 35 days to tell you and the adjudicator its decision. If it doesn't respond in time, you win by default.
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.
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.
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 parking management company NSL on 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:
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):
This is the category most people fall into. Officially the wording's "the contravention did not occur". Essentially it means they got it wrong, for example if there were errors on the signs or markings where you parked.
It shouldn't have clamped or towed your car. If the ticket was issued because either there was no pay-and-display ticket displayed, or it was an expired pay-and-display ticket, the council must wait 30 minutes after serving the Penalty Charge Notice before clamping or towing you away. (This is reduced to 15 minutes for anyone with three or more outstanding parking tickets.)
The council has to hand a ticket to the driver or put one on the vehicle before it's towed.
If there are compelling reasons why you shouldn't have been charged, the adjudicator can recommend the council cancels the ticket and refunds the charges (but not force it to). Mitigating circumstances could include:
That's not the full list – here are the other official grounds for appeal (with translations into plain English):
The vehicle was taken without the owner's consent. If your vehicle is stolen, not lent to someone, and the thief parks illegally, the ticket can be waived if you can prove it was stolen. To do this, you need to have reported the incident to the police.
The vehicle was not in a civil enforcement area for parking contraventions. You were clamped where the council had no jurisdiction. If the vehicle was parked on land where the council had no right to enforce parking, eg, a private car park, it shouldn't have clamped or towed you.
The penalty, release or storage charge exceeded the applicable amount. You were overcharged. The cost should be no more than the standard charges.
There has been a procedural impropriety by the council. The council made an admin error. Under the Civil Enforcement of Parking Contraventions General Regulations (2007) the person fixing the clamp must also first issue a Penalty Charge Notice and obey the following three rules:
It must indicate you've been clamped. This should include a visible warning that no attempt should be made to drive the vehicle until it has been released from that device.
It must tell you how to get it unlocked.
It must warn you not to touch it. This means it should say that unlawful removal of an immobilisation device is an offence.
Plus it must follow the correct Penalty Charge Notice procedures. See the full list of information that must be on a civil Penalty Charge Notice. (There's a slightly different list for posted tickets.)
A disabled person's current badge was displayed on the vehicle (clamping only). This one's pretty obvious. A disabled valid blue-badge holder can't be clamped. Cars can be relocated to a safer place but should not be removed to the pound.
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 go to Step 3: Final appeal to the adjudicator.
If you think you've been clamped or towed 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.
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