I Can't Pay My Parking Fine: What Should I Do?
Parking tickets are consistently voted amongst the most annoying aspects of modern life. We all know the feeling: something takes just a few minutes longer than expected, and we run back to the car only to find the wardens have already been round.
It is another fact of life that unexpected expenditures like parking tickets always come at the time when we can least afford them. Although there is normally a discount for prompt payment, parking tickets aren’t cheap – and it is common for recipients to be unsure about how they will pay them.
The important thing to remember is that ignoring a parking ticket is not an option. If you can’t pay your fine you need to tackle it head on – either by appealing, or by making separate payment arrangements.
Can I appeal?Your first step should be to determine whether or not you might have grounds for appeal. There is a significant range of factors that might mean you can reasonably appeal against the ticket – but it is important that you gather evidence at the time you receive the ticket.
Grounds for appeal might include unclear road markings, incorrect meter readings, and a lack of sufficient signs. There is more information about the potential grounds for appeal elsewhere on this site.
If you do choose to appeal your ticket, it is important that you do so within 14 days of receipt – and that you make clear in your appeal that you want the fine to be postponed until the appeal is settled. This will help to make sure that you still benefit from the prompt payment discount, even if your appeal is unsuccessful.
What if I can’t appeal?If you don’t have reasonable grounds for appeal, or if your appeal fails, you should begin thinking about your next steps.
It is absolutely vital that you don’t ignore your ticket. It is tempting to think that the issuer will simply forget about the fine and it will eventually go away – but, in reality, this is seldom the case.
You need to think about a strategy for payment. Your first step is to determine which organisation gave you the ticket. This might be, for example, the local authority, the police, or a private body.
You should contact the organisation in question as a matter of urgency, to explain the situation. In many cases you will find that the issuing organisation is willing to negotiate – the idea being that it is generally better for them to get some money than to have to pursue non-payment through the courts. Explain that you can’t pay at the moment, and that you would prefer to arrange a payment plan – for example over a few months. This strategy is often particularly effective in cases where the ticket has been issued by a local authority, as they are already used to negotiating payment plans for things like overdue Council Tax.
It is important to note that, depending on the type of fine and the organisation it was issued by, offering to make payment may constitute an admission of wrongdoing. You should therefore make sure that you are willing to accept the ticket before you try to negotiate payment terms.
What happens if I don’t pay?If you simply don’t pay your parking fine, it is highly unlikely that it will simply go away. What is certain is that you will miss the discount period, meaning that the fine increases. After that, you will probably receive a warning letter telling you that the fine is overdue, and that you should pay it.
After this, the next stage will depend on the issuing organisation. If the ticket was issued by a local authority, you may receive several warning letters until further action is taken. In other cases, though, your fine may be passed on to a third party debt collection agency, who will chase you for payment.
These agencies tend to be more aggressive in their pursuit of debt – and they are also fond of adding extra fees at every possible stage of the process. Late payers therefore frequently find themselves landed with much larger fines than they initially accrued.
Eventually, if you continue not to pay (or if you fail to stick to a payment arrangement), you will probably be taken to court. Provided that the court finds you are liable to pay the fine, a Court Order will be made. If you do not pay, bailiffs will be sent.
If you are having difficulty paying a parking fine, it is imperative that you don’t let the situation reach this stage. Instead, seek independent legal advice as a matter of urgency. Free advice is available from your local Citizens Advice Bureau.