What to do about a parking ticket from a private company.
April 10, 2007 4:27 PM   Subscribe

What happens if you don't pay a parking ticket to a private company?

In Western Canada, since that will probably make some difference. I understand that many municipalities will tack on hefty fees ($25-$50) for every 21 days you fail to make payment, but what can a private company do? And, more than that, how can they force me to pay the ticket (or, more appropriately, what will happen to my credit rating if I don't?).

JustificationFilter: the ticket dispenser was out of service in the lot I used, and the nearest one would have been somewhere in the neighbourhood of a 1km round-trip walk from where I was parked. Given the time constraints I was under, this wasn't really possible (or all that reasonable even if it was), yet the parking attendant still saw fit to ticket my car.

I contacted the company in question and was asked to send an e-mail. The response I got essentially boiled down to "You should have walked to another meter". Now, the parking ticket in question isn't for a large enough fee to really make a difference to me one way or the other, but out of principle alone I'd like not to pay it. So, what happens?

Note: I did respond to them with a rather entertaining--and moderately uncharitable--e-mail that referenced everything from Mercantilism to jackbooted parking attendants to dragons, which was deeply satisfying but probably won't be altogether successful.

My only other recourse, I imagine, is channeling the spirit of others before me and paying the ticket in unrolled pennies.
posted by The God Complex to Law & Government (16 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Regarding your penny idea, they're only required to accept payment for a debt in pennies up to 25 cents. So paying in pennies won't be any better than not paying.
posted by grouse at 4:39 PM on April 10, 2007

I worked closely with an American parking company for a number of years. Basically, they operate on scare tactics, hoping to make people pay up quickly, because it's expensive for them to actually follow through on their stated actions.

I especially wouldn't worry about your credit in this case, as it doesn't have much to do with it.
posted by WetherMan at 4:41 PM on April 10, 2007

WetherMan, would they follow up on their scare tactics? I paid a private ticket a while ago. Could I have gotten away without it?
posted by craven_morhead at 4:45 PM on April 10, 2007

Technically, if the fees were high enough, they could send the bill to a collection agency, which could then report it to credit agencies. But at least in the cities I've lived in, the real money appears to be in the cut the parking company gets when your car is towed. You're probably lucky it was still there when you got back, ya deadbeat!

I take calculated risks in private lots all the time, figuring they'll never get a towtruck there before I get back from whatever errand I was running. This has failed me a couple of times though...
posted by M.C. Lo-Carb! at 4:48 PM on April 10, 2007

Seems to me, they could take one of a few paths:
1) They could try to take you to small-claims court, on the grounds that you agreed to pay the fee by entering their lot, and thus have breached contract;
2) They could try to use a collection agency, which might ding your credit rating, and leave you fighting it out with them;
3) They could basically decide to do nothing besides write you nasty letters, and in the end just ban you from their property (and possibly tow your car for trespassing if you ever park on their lot again).

I've never had any experience with unpaid tickets owed to commercial agencies, but I know people who have declined to pay tickets to various private higher-education institutions, and #3 seemed to be the popular route. They'd just put your car on a "Tow List" and warn you not to come back.

A commercial organization might be (probably?) more aggressive, but unless you really piss someone off, they're anger is going to be limited to what's profitable. You didn't say what the value of the ticket is, and other people may have different opinions on this, but I've rarely heard of collection agents being employed for less than $100USD, unless there was something personal going on.

If they contact you again, try repeating what you said in your initial email, but do it in writing, and see if you can get them to admit, tacitly or otherwise, that the meter was indeed broken, in writing. (Email doesn't really count, although you should print out whatever you have right now.) If they're true sleazebags, and it comes down to an issue if whether you made a good-faith effort to try and pay and were thwarted by their broken meter, they'll just deny that the meter was broken. Since that's sorta the crux of your side, you really need to get everyone to agree that's the case.
posted by Kadin2048 at 4:50 PM on April 10, 2007

Most meters (at least here in Vancouver) have a sign that says you can't park there if the meter is broken.

I don't know if they'll send you to collections. But I've been told that, if you don't pay, you'd better make sure you never park in one of their lots again. (And that includes the lots of their subsidiaries and parent companies.) Otherwise, they'll impound you.
posted by acoutu at 5:09 PM on April 10, 2007

I guess I'll wait and see how they respond to the latest e-mail and go from there. It seems a bit ridiculous that they'd expect me to go for a brisk afternoon walk when I have other pressing things to do (as most people at higher-education institutions do). It was a higher-ed inst. Kadin2048, but the parking is handled by a private firm. I no longer attend the institution, however, so I'm not overly concerned at this point.
posted by The God Complex at 5:43 PM on April 10, 2007

(Oh, and the text of the more entertaining e-mail I sent them on the website in my profile. I didn't want to post it here because it was somewhat beside the point, but I thought I'd let everyone know in case anyone was curious.)
posted by The God Complex at 5:48 PM on April 10, 2007

I took a look at your blog and saw that your problem is with R-o-b-b-i-n-s Parking. Ahh! I've had my share of fun with them too. I pretty much encountered the same problem as you, went to pay, machine ate my money, so I walked away ticket-less. Came back and lo and behold I had a $30 ticket. I disputed it and they accepted after awhile. I have a friend who, for some reason or another, receives fines even though he always has his receipt displayed on his dash (he has the proof, as well as the credit card statements) he has long winded emails with said parking company and usually after awhile they come to terms and let the ticket slide. Dispute it, even if they say it's not possible, continue to dispute it, email them back stating your case, and continue to do so until they let it slide. They'll put up a fight but will back down eventually. Good luck!
posted by 913 at 6:26 PM on April 10, 2007

No offense to you whatsoever, but your email to them was really long winded. Keep it short and concise. You're disputing a parking ticket not writing an essay. It will get you a MUCH better response. Constant short emails.
posted by 913 at 6:30 PM on April 10, 2007

i have received numerous parking tickets from my university, but have only paid one. when i went to the Parking Services office to pay the first time, they asked if the vehicle that had been ticketed was registered under my name or student number. when i said it wasn't, i paid the ticket, and the desk clerk basically told me that unpaid tickets only really matter if they're on your "university record/account".

since i don't have a parking pass and have not registered my car with the university for any reason, they won't stop me from writing exams or getting residence deposits back or anything like that. in short, they won't force me to pay them.

as previously mentioned, i think it really only counts if it's a hefty fine. but don't gamble too much on this, because i do know that a lot of private lots will tow (as is the case at my school too).
posted by gursky at 6:33 PM on April 10, 2007

WetherMan, would they follow up on their scare tactics? I paid a private ticket a while ago. Could I have gotten away without it?

It depends on the company really. Like some posters have mentioned, some companies pay special interest to repeat ofenders and may tow immediately if you attempt to park in one of their lots again.

One tactic that these companies will use is the 'early pay discount'. i.e. if you pay within 15/30/etc days the fee will only be $75, but if you wait longer it'll be $150. This is a tacit admission that they want you to pay sooner, rather than follow up with an expensive collections process later.

In Summary: If you've got a basic ticket, and don't expect to have to deal with the company again, you'll probably be fine.
posted by WetherMan at 6:51 PM on April 10, 2007

I have an outstanding ticket at Fresno State from 2003 that I never paid. It was their fault for not having a parking space available when I went to take the GMAT. I do not intend to pay it in the future, either, at least not until they hire Boba Fett or that scary lizard guy to hunt me down and freeze me in Carbonite and carry me back to the Hutt ruler of Fresno State. The letters just stopped coming after about 2 years.

Let 'em come after you. What's the worst that can happen?
posted by charlesv at 6:58 PM on April 10, 2007

No offense to you whatsoever, but your email to them was really long winded. Keep it short and concise. You're disputing a parking ticket not writing an essay. It will get you a MUCH better response. Constant short emails.

They'd already denied my initial, shorter e-mail, so I thought I'd have a bit of fun with the second ;)
posted by The God Complex at 7:19 PM on April 10, 2007

Awesome email. And I got to feel all stalkerish finding your blog!
posted by oxford blue at 7:48 PM on April 10, 2007

I just read your blog. I went to the same school you do. I am at a loss as to how the nearest parking space was a kilometre round-trip. The map of parking spaces on the R. website for your school suggests the nearest lot should have been closer.
posted by acoutu at 9:50 PM on April 10, 2007

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