Can this private parking company "ticket" me?
September 12, 2023 10:50 AM   Subscribe

YANML, but I am trying to figure out whether "citations" from this private parking company are meaningful in any way, as in, are they able to collect this money from people?

Quick history here: I parked in a lot that they manage, and after arriving like three minutes late, I got a $63 ticket that supposedly doubles every 21 days. I called them to inquire about it, and I was surprised when the person on the phone just vacated the "citation" because the ticket was made one minute after my pass expired. So I'm in the clear, but I'm curious what are the rules about this.

So here's what I'm trying to parse through:

1. This company provides surface parking management in Los Angeles (city proper), and you pay for it at a vending machine type of setup (no human interaction).

2. When your pass expires, they put a "ticket" under your wipers that looks like a city ticket -- a big red and white envelope that says "CITATION" all over it, and then when you open that up there's basically a receipt that says "FINE" all over it.

3. I am absolutely familiar with the idea that California law and LA Municipal Code allow them to tow you.

4. However, I don't recall any fine print when I paid for the parking pass, or making any agreement that I owed money after my pass expired. I'm sure there are signs reminding me that I could be towed, but again, nothing in the lot said anything about additional fees.

5. It seems to me they are a private business rather than a part of LADOT, and they issue "CITATIONS" which actually amount to just a charge for services which no one agrees to.

Could they collect this money that I never agreed to pay? Could they send it to collections, for example? And of course, where is my thinking off or incomplete here?
posted by kensington314 to Law & Government (7 answers total)
Best answer: CBS News Sacramento:
You may have seen one of the tickets. They look like they're from the city but they're not...

Abscher has parked in this lot across from The Comedy Spot for three years on J Street and 20th with no problem. But on Sunday night he saw a ticket on his windshield.

"I saw the thing on my car and said, 'oh man, I got a parking ticket' and then as I pull it off it says parking notice," he says.

The notice has a photo of Abscher's license plate and it says he owes $45 to the private company Priority Parking..

But he noticed something was off.

"It never says "ticket", it never says city of Sacramento on here.

So he pulled up the payment website and realized this notice has nothing to do with the city.

"The first thing that went through my mind, is this some sort of scam?" he said. "Am I legally obligated to pay this?"

The answer to that is no. A 2011 state ruling says private property owners can't issue warnings or citations. So, despite the misleading-looking paperwork, if you don't pay, the company can't boot your car, or send the bill to collections. You can't get in trouble with the law or the DMV in the state of California.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 11:02 AM on September 12, 2023 [12 favorites]

I would think probably not.

Chicago's metered parking is (in)famously run by a private company. Their website very explicitly explains the public-private relationship, how responsibilities lie for ticketing and payment, and who has jurisdiction over what. I am entirely ignorant of how parking works in LA but I don't see any similar language on your parking company's website, so I have to assume they don't work like things do in Chicago.
posted by phunniemee at 11:03 AM on September 12, 2023 [1 favorite]

Best answer: This spurred me to look up the rules in WA. According to this older P-I article, as long as the signage is clear about the consequences, private parking companies can charge you these "fines" and they can send them to collections if you do not pay. They can also send for a tow truck, but tow trucks aren't allowed to rove around looking for potential violators and they cannot put a boot on your car.

Anyway, maybe triple check the law in CA -- it doesn't have to be a "ticket" to still be collectible.
posted by rouftop at 11:33 AM on September 12, 2023 [2 favorites]

A 2011 state ruling says private property owners can't issue warnings or citations.
Even assuming that was held to not apply to things like violating posted rules with posted fines for violating them (which I would think would be legal on private property?), issuing a paper notice with "citation" and "fine" written on it would certainly fly in the face of the ruling.

$63 ticket that supposedly doubles every 21 days
This part seems the most questionable to me, assuming usury laws apply.
posted by tubedogg at 11:48 AM on September 12, 2023

I've gotten this very ticket! FWIW, I paid it because -- per multiple people on Yelp -- this company HAS gotten people's cars towed when they are not parked in their lot, like out on the street. (I'm sure that isn't kosher but also I didn't want to deal with it if it happened.) I will not park in their lot again.
posted by Countess Sandwich at 12:24 PM on September 12, 2023

That 2011 AG ruling:
"Neither California Vehicle Code section 22658, nor any other state law, authorizes private property owners to issue parking citations imposing monetary sanctions to the owners of vehicles parked on their property..."
posted by Iris Gambol at 2:20 PM on September 12, 2023

Reddit thread from 2019:

TL;DR -- no, you don't have to pay, but they keep records, and if you ever park in one of their lots again, they'll tow your vehicle for previously unpaid tickets. And this policy is subject to different jurisdictions, which can vary depending on which lot you are on.
posted by kschang at 5:37 PM on September 12, 2023

« Older Anarchism or anticapitalistic mindfulness for kids...   |   What hotels in DC offer childcare? Newer »

You are not logged in, either login or create an account to post comments