Parking Space Thievery
February 8, 2006 4:54 AM   Subscribe

What should be done about those horrible people that occasionally steal your assigned parking space in apartments?

I have this problem from time to time, including tonight when I arrived home from work. I find it very frustrating to come home to this after a long day at work. It's not a super big deal to look for another spot and park, and walk a bit farther. It's just a hassle I would rather not have to deal with.

I don't want to resort to calling the apartment manager at 1:00am and having him tow it. I havn't ever recognized the car. I've tried a couple things in the past, but currently I resign myself to writing down the license plate and vowing to complain if I wake up and it's still there.

Is there some sort of procedure I should be following here? What have you done in the past to keep this issue from ruining what's left of your night?
posted by Phynix to Travel & Transportation (52 answers total)
I'd suggest biting the bullet and calling the apartment manager. It will be inconvenient, yes, but the offender is unlikely to take your spot again.

If you can't stomach that, leave a note that says something like, "You're in my parking spot. Don't park here again or I will have your car towed."
posted by thirteenkiller at 5:00 AM on February 8, 2006

I've honestly seen people back off because of this: slap one of those 'internet stickers' on some part of the car, preferably a noticable one.

Something like this.
posted by Lockeownzj00 at 5:13 AM on February 8, 2006

Well, as an apartment dweller who airheadedly parks in other slots from time to time (until I put tape up on my carport roof, I was always parking in the wrong spot), you may wish to leave a note on their windshield explaining that your landlord assigns parking spaces, and that they are in yours. Use colorful language if you like. It may or may not work. It never does with me, I'm stupid.

Also, obtain an orange traffic cone. Put it in your spot when you leave. How you obtain a traffic cone is entirely up to you. I do this so I know which parking spot is mine, because I am that airheaded. Really.

And finally, challenge yourself to think of something else when this happens. Of all the things that can ruin the end of your day, don't let some pinhead with parking issues be the reason for your stress. Find something else to ruin your day with. Burn dinner. Forget to change loads in the laundry. Whatever.

The energy you're expending by being upset with someone who takes your parking spot isn't being offset by the parking pinhead feeling guilty about it.
posted by Slap Incognito at 5:13 AM on February 8, 2006

Is it possible for you to post a laminated note at your parking spot (for example, if there is a wall there) stating that you use your parking spot regularly and that you often return home fairly late and expect to find your spot available when you do? Maybe people are parking there because they think the spot isn't used regularly?

If someone parks in your spot anyway, I suggest leving a note, but maybe phrased a little nicer than thirteenkiller suggests, adding in an "I'd appreciate it if", and an "otherwise I'll be forced to".

I wouldn't call the apartment manager unless you come across a repeat offender that won't be dissuaded by notes.
posted by hazyjane at 5:15 AM on February 8, 2006

I'd leave a handwritten note on the car (not a sticker) asking nicely for the person not to take your space, but with the added message of, "I would have spoken to you about this personally but I'm not sure who you are/what unit you're in" or something to that effect. Something that shows you're not "one of those people" who leaves notes because you're too scared of just asking someone politely to their face. Because if you knew who it was, you'd do that, right?

If the same car continues to take your space after that, though, do report it. You asked nicely in the only way you could; choosing to ignore that polite and not unreasonable request makes them a dick.
posted by Gator at 5:25 AM on February 8, 2006

Go to whatever passes for a tenant's meeting. If there are assigned spaces, suggest that the building contact a tow truck company. Most tow companies extract so much money out of the people who they tow. So much that they might not even charge your building/complex to let their drivers patrol the parking lot for people, though I can't say for certain.

The tow truck drivers will generally hit the parking lots around midnight. Probably because of the scenario you raise - what sucks more than working late and getting home to find someone parked in your spot?
posted by clearlynuts at 5:26 AM on February 8, 2006

Sheesh, just call the apartment manager. He'll be pissed off, but at the guy who's breaking the rules.

Passive agressive little notes are likely to be ignored since the guy obviously knows he's not parking in the right space. Every tenant has their own assigned parking space, right? Not just you?
posted by bshort at 5:47 AM on February 8, 2006

This was happening a lot in our townhouse complex, but its guests parking in assigned resident spots. It sort of chaps my ass because I'm super super careful making sure my guests aren't infringing on my neighbors spots. Recently, I just blocked someone in. I had got home late, someone was in my spot in front of my house, all the guest spots were taken, and I wasn't myself parking out in the cul de sac. Knowing the HOA president, I knew he'd be asleep by then and he's sort of mamby pamby passive aggressive about things.

I was going to be upstairs working in my office (with my desk next to the window) and I would would there. I figured the person would be embarrassed or at least contrite (as I would be), I'd assure her it was okay and explain where she should park. Things really never work out the way you envision, though :) Long story short, she was belligerent, there was a bit of an argument wherein I may have raised my voice, but that neighbor's guests stopped monopolizing everyone's spots and started parking in the cul de sac.
posted by jerseygirl at 5:58 AM on February 8, 2006

I park in other people's spaces all the time, at a variety of buildings. I usually receieve a nasty note the next morning, and usually don't park in the noted space again.

My advice is 1. write an articulate but stern note 2. if it happens again, tow.
posted by The Jesse Helms at 6:02 AM on February 8, 2006

Depends how I'm feeling and whether it's me or my girlfriend coming home. I'm more likely to tow, mostly because it also happens at my office and we tow without blinking there. Recently, we blocked someone in, and I wish we hadn't since they took their SUV and ran over our flower beds to get out. If I see the person's car again, not only will I berate them, I'll have them towed. Fuck them.
posted by klangklangston at 6:13 AM on February 8, 2006

This reminds me of something I saw in high school 'social studies' class. The teacher went to China and found a place where bicycles weren't supposed to park. The 'fine' for parking there was that someone would let the air out of your tires.

Simple, annoying, no property damage.

I have no idea if it was effective.
posted by Wild_Eep at 6:19 AM on February 8, 2006

You don't necessarily have to complain to the manager at 1 am when you get home. Since you said you take down the plate number(s), you could stop by the management office during hours they are open and give them the information/complain about it. If it's someone who lives at the complex, they will have the plate number on file and be able to contact the person. If the cars parking there aren't repeat offenders, it's possible it's visitors who might not know there is assigned parking. Are there signs up that state this? Is marked visitor parking available? Is there a sign saying cars will be towed if they don't park in their assigned spots? These are other things you might want to mention to the people at the management office if there aren't signs.
posted by Orb at 6:25 AM on February 8, 2006

no air in tires != empty parking spot
posted by michaelkuznet at 6:28 AM on February 8, 2006

Leave a note before resorting to calling the apartment manager over something like this. You don't want to be branded as the guy who calls the apartment manager every time the wind blows the wrong way, or you'll never get the important stuff taken care of when you really need it. If it happens again, then call, and at least you've tried resolving it yourself first.

The note does *not* have to be a namby-pamby "asking nicely" note though. You're more than justified in telling them "This is a reserved spot. Please park elsewhere or your car will be towed." Date the note; it will look like you're keeping track.
posted by boomchicka at 6:30 AM on February 8, 2006

I wouldn't let the air out of the tires. It could be just as irritating as being towed, and it could result in the car being there a lot longer, as the owner has to go search for a pump.

You could try leaving a note, but if its a diffrent car every time, its not going to do you much good.
posted by delmoi at 6:37 AM on February 8, 2006

Are you paying for this space? If so, or if the cost of the space is built into your rent, someone parking in it is the equivilant of sleeping on your couch when you're not home.

If it's the same person, a strongly worded note might work - but if it's a number of different people, I'd say towing is the way to go. As soon as the word gets out that your lot is heavily towed, you won't have any problems.

If you're writing to MeFi about this, it's clear you have some kind of "conscience," and really don't want to go that extreme - so talking to your landlord, super, whatever, and leaving your complaint in writing might shift the responsibility (and guilt) of towing some jackass's car to someone else.
posted by itchi23 at 6:44 AM on February 8, 2006

let the air out of your tires. Simple, annoying, no property damage.

Cars are, alas, a great deal heavier than bicycles, and a ton or two pushing down onto rubber via narrow rim edges is a pretty good way to ensure property damage.
posted by mendel at 6:58 AM on February 8, 2006

It depends on the culture of your complex. At my place, towing is a given and happens quickly. I've never had to ask for a tow, fortunately. We own our spots and I agree that this would make a difference.

I would not suggest letting the air out of the tires. This would be interpreted as an act of aggression from YOU, whereas the towing would be interpreted as more of a shared responsibility action: you and the management.
posted by Morrigan at 6:59 AM on February 8, 2006

Are the parking spots clearly marked as private? Owned? I think as long as its readily apparent to any parker that they're parking in someone else's spot, just have them towed. If its more likely to be an accident, do the note, then tow route.

I've lived for six years in two different apartment complexes which don't sell spots, but just promise any spot within the parking lot. Nothing irritates me more than to come home late at night to find the parking lot filled. You pay money in some form for the spot, be it rent or extra. Anyone purposefully denying you the use of such deserves no mercy. Ahem.
posted by Atreides at 7:26 AM on February 8, 2006

It's 1 a.m., and you consistently have to deal with a variety of guest vehicles using your space. It's late, you're tired, and it's a hassle. Leaving a note will have to be repeated over and over again, since there are always new guests. Call the apartment manager during the day, explain that you have a recurring problem, and that you need help dealing with it, so you won't have to call him/her at 1 a.m. They should increase whatever they do to control parking. If they start towing illegally parked cars, word will get out, and your problem will be greatly diminished.

If you want to leave a note, have the manager put something on letterhead, with space for license #, time, date, make, model, etc. Every time you leave one, make a copy. The note should be polite but firm.
posted by theora55 at 7:32 AM on February 8, 2006

If you're looking for the harsh instruction of revenge (letting air out of tires, etc) consider smearing a nice glob of vaseline on the underside of the driverside door handle. No lasting damage to the car and just enough of a bother to balance your frustration.

But that's really for last resorts. You don't want to be picking some sort of war with your neighbors, so a nice but firm note would be the best.

If it's random cars that keep doing, could you put a sign up at the front of the space? Something like "Welcome Home, [Your Name Here]!" that can clue parkers in to the fact that this space is used, but not something so agressive as "Don't Park Here, Or ELSE!"
posted by robocop is bleeding at 7:34 AM on February 8, 2006

Make some remote-control roadspikes that fold down when you hit the button so you can park there, and hit the button to make them pop up when you leave. That way, they'll have to tow themselves if they're not watching, from having four flat tires. Then sell this invention and make a million dollars and move out of apartments for good.
posted by vanoakenfold at 7:41 AM on February 8, 2006

If it's random cars that keep doing, could you put a sign up at the front of the space? Something like "Welcome Home, [Your Name Here]!"

Don't do this. There's a reason you don't put your name on your mailbox.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 7:43 AM on February 8, 2006

My sister-in-law lives in an apartment with some assigned spaces, only there's no indication that they're assigned. When she first moved into the complex, I would park in these spaces (since naturally they're more desirable) unwittingly, completely oblivious that I was probably thwarting the spots' owners. It was only after my sister-in-law noticed and explained that these were special spots that I stopped. If there isn't anything posted, it's difficult for a visitor to know that a spot is reserved. (Of course, this may not be true in your case — it may be that your complex has clearly marked reserved spaces.)
posted by jdroth at 7:46 AM on February 8, 2006

Leaving a note worked OK for me when I was in this position (the reserved spaces weren't marked all that well).
posted by teleskiving at 8:04 AM on February 8, 2006

At my old apartment we had a rental agreement for parking stalls, that clearly showed that stall 26 (the stalls were individually numbered) was rented to me. If somebody parked in my spot, I just called a tow truck and had the car towed - there was no need to call the building manager, since I had adequate proof that the stall was mine, and that somebody else had parked there.

Of course, I also had a laminated sign in front of the stall that said something to the effect of "This is a private stall. The owner's car is a blue Toyota with a license plate ending in 193. If you park here and aren't the owner of the stall, you will be towed". If somebody parked in my spot, they knew that they weren't supposed to be there, but parked there anyway, and therefore deserved to have their car towed.

This solution worked really well - I never had to deal with people parking in my spot.
posted by gwenzel at 8:05 AM on February 8, 2006

Definitely go with the note first (not a sticker) on the windshield or tucked into the driver side door. Reserve Towing for repeat offenders (get license plate numbers). I wouldn't recommend ever blocking someone in just because at the very least it'll escalate into hard feelings, and in a worst case scenario your car gets retaliated on. Never any fun.
posted by Smarson at 8:06 AM on February 8, 2006

There was a guy in my sister's old apartment complex who, if he saw a non-resident park anywhere in the lot, would block the person in, then go up and call a tow truck, and only move when the tow truck arrived. I wouldn't recommend this as the first option but it might be something to do if you get repeat offenders after you've left a note or whatever.
posted by SisterHavana at 8:18 AM on February 8, 2006

jerseygirl writes "Recently, I just blocked someone in."

This can be extremely efective if it is a single repeat offender

mendel writes "Cars are, alas, a great deal heavier than bicycles, and a ton or two pushing down onto rubber via narrow rim edges is a pretty good way to ensure property damage."

Not that I advocate letting air out of a tire but doing so won't damage anything if they don't drive on it. In 99.9%[1] of cases it won't even unseat the bead.

[1] Except in the extremely unlikely case they happen to be driving something with 16.5 rims.
posted by Mitheral at 8:54 AM on February 8, 2006

I had this happen to me a few times after a bunch of new tenants moved in. I called the landlord and told him he needed to clarify the parking rules, so he sent notices (and posted one in the laundry room) explaining which parking spaces were assigned and which were for guests, and asking the tenants to pass those rules along to our guests. He also gave the number of the tow company and told us we had authorization to tow anyone parked in our spot. I never had a problem with it again.
posted by stefanie at 8:55 AM on February 8, 2006

I may be mistaken, but my understanding is that towing companies receive "contracts" to monitor illegal parking in certain lots. They get money for everyone that they tow who is illegally parked. At least that is how it has worked in various cities I have lived in.

So...could you ask the apartment manager how to contact the towing company late at night? Then you can go directly to them, and they will most likely be motivated to quickly respond.

I would not feel guilty in the slightest about having someone towed out of my spot, but that's just me...
posted by eileen at 8:58 AM on February 8, 2006

In DC I've seen something like vanoakenfold describes, not with spikes but a manually-operated rig made from pipes, secured with a padlock, which collapses so a vehicle can park on top of it.

Also in DC, "a friend" once had his car vandalized for parking in the nearby townhouse lot (since it was 1AM and no street parking was available). Came back to it the next morning and discovered the windshield wipers all twisted and mangled.
posted by Rash at 9:06 AM on February 8, 2006

I don't want to resort to calling the apartment manager at 1:00am and having him tow it.

Why not? That's the best solution. Dealing with problems like this is part of his job.
posted by Mars Saxman at 9:13 AM on February 8, 2006

If it's an uninformed guest parking in your assigned spot, just leave a polite note informing them that spots are assigned and they're in your spot. Being nice has always worked for me and you don't have to threaten them. Most people are decent.

If the same car does it again after the note, or if it's an inconsiderate neighbor, call the apartment manager and have them deal with it. That's what you pay them for.
posted by Opposite George at 9:51 AM on February 8, 2006

Judging from the way you wrote your post, I think the best way to handle it would be a note warning that if it happens again, they'll be towed. Also, point out the situation to your apartment manager to see if there's any solutions they can offer.

If it's been multiple people, having them towed isn't going to have that much more affect than leaving notes (at least as the first course of action). And if you made a mistake and parked in someone's spot, would you want to have to go through the trouble of getting your car back?
posted by drezdn at 9:56 AM on February 8, 2006

Just to echo based on similar experiences - Find out if the landlord will let you call the towing company directly. You don't have to call them, but at least it's an option you can consider based on how the situation continues.

Also in DC, "a friend" once had his car vandalized for parking in the nearby townhouse lot (since it was 1AM and no street parking was available). Came back to it the next morning and discovered the windshield wipers all twisted and mangled.

Don't damage a vehicle unless you're not planning on ever using your spot again. Were I the friend mentioned above, I might (were I a less easygoing person) be inclined to monitor the spot for several nights then wreak a bit of havoc myself. Nobody wants vandalism to escalate.
posted by jalexei at 10:01 AM on February 8, 2006

I second the vote for obtaining and using a traffic cone.

A quick google search turns up several places you can buy them online.

You can even get them in green.
posted by thedward at 10:12 AM on February 8, 2006

Dollars to donuts it'd get nicked within a week, though.
posted by Gator at 10:12 AM on February 8, 2006

A half metre chunk of pipe set in an ice cream bucket of cement then painted orange is just as effective and less likely to be stolen.
posted by Mitheral at 10:18 AM on February 8, 2006

Not that I advocate letting air out of a tire but doing so won't damage anything if they don't drive on it.

You can still damage the sidewall from the weight of the car pressing down on it, especially if it sits overnight. I had to replace a tire from this once-- had a nail hole that was repairable, but I still had to buy a new tire because of the sidewall damage.
posted by InfidelZombie at 10:20 AM on February 8, 2006

Another vote for no violence. Won't solve anything and will only foster retaliation in kind.
posted by jerseygirl at 10:31 AM on February 8, 2006

I agree with the simple solution many previous people offered...just put up a sign that states "Reserved space; violators will be towed". That's about as straightforward as it gets, and anyone who parks there anyway gets what's coming to him.
posted by apple scruff at 11:03 AM on February 8, 2006

You may want to check your renters agreement/HOA docs to see if you are permitted to put any signage though.
posted by jerseygirl at 11:09 AM on February 8, 2006

Buy "The Boot" and boot their car. Then put a nice note on their window.

Betcha they think twice about parking like an asshat in the future. :)

Personally, I haven't had this problem in many years. When I lived near Seattle, I had a problem with some jerk that kept parking in my spot. I left 1 note and the next time, I had his ass towed.
posted by drstein at 11:17 AM on February 8, 2006

InfidelZombie writes "You can still damage the sidewall from the weight of the car pressing down on it, especially if it sits overnight. I had to replace a tire from this once-- had a nail hole that was repairable, but I still had to buy a new tire because of the sidewall damage."

Interesting, I'd never heard of that happening before. Man I just love AskMe.
posted by Mitheral at 11:31 AM on February 8, 2006

As a resident manager of an apartment complex, I would encourage you to be as self-sufficient as possible in solving this problem. While I can't know the kind of relationship you have with your on-site manager, I personally can't stand the tenants who feel it's their job to inform me of every small problem or infraction on others' parts, whether or not it had an effect on them.

I do know that when people wake me up at 1 in the morning for small problems that they could easily solve on their own, they're the ones building the bad reputation.

I recommend the following:

1. Is it the same car parking there every time? If so, it's either another resident or a frequent guest. In this case, you don't want to do anything to needlessly piss them off. Leave a polite note reminding them that you live there and pay for parking, and would they please park elsewhere. Explain that you don't know who the car belongs to, and you don't want to create friction between neighbors who likely just want to be left alone.

1a. During his normal business hours, notify the on-site manager that this car parks in your spot a lot, and would he/she be willing to keep an eye out for it or contact the towing company to increase patrols?

2. If it's random cars, night after night, then it's probably random guests from some of your neighbors. Find out ahead of time from the manager who the tow company is. Call the tow company and have the cars removed.

2a. During normal business hours, tell the on-site manager what you did. Share a laugh with him/her over dumbshits that get their car towed.

3. Do not perform any acts of vandalism. You lose the high ground when you do this, and at the property where I'm in charge, fucking with other peoples' cars is very likely to get you into a physical altercation with folks who will call their homeboys over to help out.

4. Try really hard to keep perspective on this. In all likelihood, the violator is just spacing out or doesn't know that parking is assigned. In the event that the violator is an asshole, you've got the big guns (res. mgr and the tow company) on your side, and you can call them in. But acting politely is most likely the best course of action.
posted by rocketman at 12:39 PM on February 8, 2006

Isn't it an illegal act to let the air out of a car's tires?
posted by MrMulan at 1:03 PM on February 8, 2006

Parking spots are assigned, one per apartment, and are numbered. Painted between the lines of the space, on the side of the aisle, so they are clearly marked when you pull in. There are plenty of parking spaces with no numbers, and the parking lot is never full.

I would never actually want to damage the car. It's illegal, and can very easily be traced back. Especially when you consider that the parking spot numbers...are the same numbers as the apartment. No hiding here. Also, there's no wall or anything to put a note up, and I'm guessing the Cone thing would be so passive-aggressive that it would disappear in a matter of hours. ;)

Tenant policies here, and pretty much every complex I've ever lived in, state that you need to inform guests about where to park. And they do state that towing could happen. There is no notation as to what tow company would be used. This is one of those things that the people that don't really care never read anyway.

As for the apartment manager, I generally try not to bug him, and just go about my business. I figure he has enough to do as is. However, he doesn't even use his parking space, he parks in the 'For potential new residents only' parking spots right by the office. Obviously he doesn't care if anyone parks in his space, which happens often. This is a small town, and the complex only has about 60 units.
posted by Phynix at 1:12 PM on February 8, 2006

As for the apartment manager, I generally try not to bug him, and just go about my business. I figure he has enough to do as is.

Don't be so delicate. Are you willing to let someone park in your space and inconvenience you because, God forbid, resolving it would mean you'd have to bother your apartment manager to do his JOB? Stand up for yourself. It's good that you're not attempting to use violence or vandalism to settle things (which wouldn't work) but you still have to assert yourself.
posted by apple scruff at 2:11 PM on February 8, 2006

There's a sign hanging where I park my car: it says, "RESERVED APT 7." As it happens, I don't actually live in apartment 7, so if some psychopath happens to get cheesed off at me, he'll go break down the wrong door.
posted by ikkyu2 at 2:42 PM on February 8, 2006

MrMulan writes "Isn't it an illegal act to let the air out of a car's tires?"

Yes but (as I found out when some bozo dragged my van out into the middle of the street with his 4X4 because I, OMG, was parked next the curb in front of his house) it's really unlikely anything will happen unless it's the mayor's car or something. I'm not advocating any kind of petty vandalism though,i t's so immature like the aformentioned bozo.
posted by Mitheral at 4:33 PM on February 8, 2006

I'd get on to the management company/landlord to put up some notices in each space indicating that it's reserved, and detailing for whom it is reserved.
At the same time, they should mark up any guest spaces as such.

We had a similar problem at our place - and discovered that the management company couldn't hire a clamp, as their insurance wouldn't cover any damage to wheel rims; they couldn't stick anything to the windscreens, as if the person subsequently had an accident due to obscured vision then the MC would be liable; they spoke to the policy, but were told that nothing legal could be enforced as it is private land. UK law really sucks.

Signs and letters to the residents resolved the problem eventually, but it was a right-royal pain...
posted by Chunder at 4:08 AM on February 9, 2006

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