Do I need to pay a parking-lot "ticket" issued by a private company?
December 20, 2011 2:31 PM   Subscribe

Do I need to pay a parking-lot "ticket" issued by a private company?

I parked in the 16th/Bryant stripmall lot in San Francisco and immediately got a PCS parking "ticket" for $63 (with an early bird reduction to $40, ha). The ticket states "unauthorized parking, walked off to Sports Basement." This is, in fact, true, and while parked there I also went to Petco, which is in the stripmall.

I don't want to start a whole discussion about whether it's ethical or unethical to pay the ticket, since my feet did leave the mall for a short time, and presumably there are signs posted telling you not to do so (I did not see any). But I do want to know if anyone knows for certain whether a citation issued by a private company this way is legal and enforceable. I know that towing is legal, and so is issuing a warning, but can this company actually require people to pay a "citation" for any random amount?

I've seen contradicting info about this in my searches online. One person said that if you send them a letter to dispute the charge (they give you 21 days), you are giving them your contact info for free, rather than forcing their hand in purchasing it from the DMV. This would make it easier for them to pursue collection or (doubtful) small claims court, the only remedies available to them to make you pay.

I should also mention that in 2007 this company was forced to pay $130K in fines plus refunds for four years' worth of citations they issued that looked like official DPT citations. http://www.marinij.com/ci_7706352

Any help is much appreciated!
posted by roxie110 to Law & Government (24 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
 
Our garage here in Oakland is a PCS-run garage and the guys that work in the garage said to just toss the ticket--they only pursue it if you respond. (I have a nodding acquaintance with them and when I went to ask about the ticket I got for over-staying in a 60 min spot the guy said if he'd known it was my car he wouldn't have written it).
posted by agatha_magatha at 2:36 PM on December 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


Different jurisdiction, different laws, but this happened to me, I didn't pay, they call you home once a week trying to collect. Here in Vancouver they can only do this for a year, then they need to stop the calls.

I guess the thing you need to consider is how much effort/expense can the exert to collect 60 bucks? Not much.
posted by Keith Talent at 2:39 PM on December 20, 2011


Going by that article, it seems like a) the ticket is a load of hooey, and b) a call to the county District Attorney's office is in order.

Do not pay unless you are absolutely, positively certain that you are legally obligated.
posted by Sys Rq at 2:46 PM on December 20, 2011 [5 favorites]


In Cleveland some of the outside suburban shopping “experiences” such as Legacy Village and Crocker Park have charity/private parking meters at which one may be issued “suggested tickets” if you don’t pay. I don’t really have an opinion on their right to do that, but it seems dishonest given the massive tax abatement the developers likely received from the local municipal corp. to monetize that bit of land to begin with. It seems scam-y.
posted by vkxmai at 2:48 PM on December 20, 2011 [3 favorites]


Your first stop should be to call the company that gave you the ticket and politely tell them your story. I have had very good luck with private parking companies dismissing tickets that weren't valid, even when it was my own fault (I put the parking ticket blank side up). YMMV

If they won't dismiss it, you should check local regulations. It could be a debt they are legally allowed to send to collections, with all the credit dings that entails, or they could be without recourse further than towing you the next time you park on their property.
posted by nomisxid at 2:49 PM on December 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


I remember researching this after getting a totally bogus ticket. Someone in that thread (randomstriker) claimed that the basis of their activities are private property/trespassing laws, the worst they can do is tow you next time you park on one of their lots. They will threaten to sue you but won't, and even if they did the outcome is questionable. I never did find a definitive answer as to whether the debt is legal and enforceable and if they are likely to try a collections agency.

(I wrote very nasty letters and complained to the BBB and they dropped the ticket out of "good will", even though they are lying scum, because with God as my witness I had parked ACROSS THE STREET FROM THEIR LOT ON A PUBLIC STREET AND WAS STILL TICKETED FUCK YOU DIAMOND PARKING SERVICES ugh.)
posted by PercussivePaul at 2:51 PM on December 20, 2011 [3 favorites]


I wouldn't worry about it until hey come up with a private court, judge, and jury system that reports only to strip malls. Here in Chicago the often put up signs (no unauthorized parking etc) and can have you towed, and you will be stuck with the fees to get your car back, but no way to criminally prosecute you.
posted by timsteil at 3:22 PM on December 20, 2011


I never paid one at an MBTA commuter rail station with a third-party parking lot, and I never heard from them again. It was $10 or something for the fine.
posted by kpht at 3:45 PM on December 20, 2011


But I do want to know if anyone knows for certain whether a citation issued by a private company this way is legal and enforceable.

Many years ago I worked in a car park. At said car park, there are notices explaining that in return for the consideration of you being able to park there, you agree to blah blah blah.

I presume that a contract exists when you park there.

I know that towing is legal, and so is issuing a warning, but can this company actually require people to pay a "citation" for any random amount?

Where I worked, it wouldn't be 'any random amount' - it'd be a posted amount, which you implicitly agreed to pay when you availed yourself of their facilities. You seem quite hung up on the term 'citation', when what you have there is a bill for services rendered. You can probably simply renege on this, if you're so inclined.
posted by pompomtom at 3:55 PM on December 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


Get a hold of the owners of the stripmall and find out who they use for parking enforcement and what their contact info is. I'd consider it a scam until then.
posted by jwells at 4:29 PM on December 20, 2011


I should probably clarify that this is a free, non-gated parking lot. Just a normal stripmall parking lot, but with parking ninjas following your every move, it appears.
posted by roxie110 at 4:58 PM on December 20, 2011


Vancouver can only call for a year, Keith Talent? Where did you get that? I've had this one collection agency calling since a couple months after the Olympics on behalf of a bullshit ticket gotten during that week in a parking lot that doesn't even exist anymore. They (an automated machine, anyway) call every damn day. I ignore them every damn day.

To answer the question, obviously it's going to depend on where you are, but in my experience the worst they can do is harass you over the phone...
posted by cgg at 5:17 PM on December 20, 2011


I'd call the business that has the agreement with the parking lot, and see if they can intervene on your behalf. Brownie points if you still have the receipt from shopping at their store.
posted by cyndigo at 5:17 PM on December 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


I got one of these once. I threw it away. Nothing happened.
posted by amodelcitizen at 5:19 PM on December 20, 2011


I'd call the business that has the agreement with the parking lot, and see if they can intervene on your behalf. Brownie points if you still have the receipt from shopping at their store.

Seconding this. You're their customer, and they usually want to make you happy. I'd drop the business a quick note, enclosing a copy of the ticket and of your receipt (if you still have it), and saying that you like visiting their store, but will find a more convenient pet supply shop if you're going to be ticket for shopping there. If this fails, I'd just throw it out.
posted by zachlipton at 5:53 PM on December 20, 2011 [3 favorites]


You don't NEED to pay it, but if you don't, they can send you to collections.

Will they, though? The evidence seems to be against it. I myself have discarded one of these without getting so much as a letter.

But they do have the right and the ability to do so if they want.
posted by ErikaB at 6:25 PM on December 20, 2011


You don't NEED to pay it, but if you don't, they can send you to collections.

But they can't. They don't know who he is. At most they have a license plate number.
posted by tylerkaraszewski at 8:12 PM on December 20, 2011


Get a hold of the owners of the stripmall and find out who they use for parking enforcement and what their contact info is. I'd consider it a scam until then.
posted by jwells at 4:29 PM on December 20
[+] [!]


This suggestion involves you giving way too much weight and time to this clearly bogus and immoral buckraking scheme.
posted by jayder at 8:12 PM on December 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


ErikaB: But they do have the right and the ability to do so if they want.

Why do you think this?
posted by raf at 8:17 PM on December 20, 2011


You can't enter into a contract by driving onto someone's property.

At most they can have your car towed away.

Private individuals cannot issue fines.
posted by dave99 at 9:59 PM on December 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


Ignore them. If they call you, its because they got your details as the registered owner, but you need to tell them that their business is with the driver on the day, and you haven't any idea who that might be. If they can identifty the driver, they need to contact him.
posted by muckybob at 12:28 AM on December 21, 2011


It could be a debt they are legally allowed to send to collections

Highly doubtful.
posted by rhizome at 12:43 PM on December 21, 2011


I haven't done anything and haven't heard anything, so hopefully that will be that. Of course my car was just stolen this weekend, which is rather devastating, but unrelated.
posted by roxie110 at 1:03 PM on January 20, 2012


Oh damn roxie! :(
posted by PercussivePaul at 9:51 AM on January 21, 2012


« Older Daddy read me a story   |   How can I turn two love letters into a gift? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.