When most drivers catch sight of a yellow-coloured, small plastic bag stuck to their car’s windscreen, their heart sinks: it’s a parking ticket. But instead of taking the Penalty Charge Notice (PCN) on the chin and coughing up to settle the fine, you can appeal a parking ticket.
Parking laws are in place for a reason. But all too often, drivers can be unfairly issued with a parking ticket. That could be because of unclear signs, failure to follow procedure or, sometimes, underhand enforcement officers. Here’s how to check whether you have a case, and what to do to contest the ticket.
You have a 10-minute period of grace
If you parked in a site operated by the council, there should be a 10-minute period between a pay and display ticket running out and you being penalised. This was introduced in March 2015 after the government declared it wanted to: ‘Deliver a fairer deal for motorists and help boost the high street.’
So, if you returned to your car within that 10-minute window, you should be able to have the PCN cancelled.
Was the Penalty Charge Notice issued fairly?
Be realistic: did you park badly, in the wrong place, overstay or even fail to pay in the first place? If you did, there’s little point in contesting the PCN.
Grounds for appeal
There are official grounds for appeal. These include issues concerning signs, the traffic warden or council parking attendant making a mistake, an error on the ticket or letter that came by post, you’d sold the car or it was stolen, no parking ticket was placed on the vehicle even though there was an opportunity to do so, and plenty more besides.
In addition to these, there are mitigating circumstances. If your car wouldn’t start in a car park, broke down at the side of the road, or you were taking an ill patient to hospital or were on holiday when a bay was suspended, there are grounds for appeal.
Gather evidence and witnesses
If you feel you’ve been unfairly issued with a parking ticket, it’s time to set about gathering evidence of why that is. A smartphone can be very useful. Use it to take photographs or video of missing or obscured signs, broken parking meters, the position of your car or the paper copy of the ticket you’d purchased.
Additionally, you could ask someone to be a witness. That may be a fellow driver or shop keeper, and they could help corroborate your facts.
If the car broke down, do you have a repair note, either from a breakdown provider or local garage?
Alternatively, if you sold the car or it was stolen, you’ll need to show authorities copies of the V5C registration document notifying the DVLA of a change of registered keeper, or a crime reference number from the police.
Don’t pay the fine if you intend to appeal
You never pay and then set about appealing a parking ticket. Paying can be seen as an admission of guilt. Appeal first, then, if necessary, pay later.
Lodge an informal appeal within 14 days
Contest a Penalty Charge Notice as soon as possible. You have 14 days to do this if the PCN was served on the vehicle, or 21 days if it was sent in the post. That should mean you’d only have to pay the discounted fine if your appeal is unsuccessful.
Make a formal appeal
If your informal appeal is rejected, don’t give up. You can then submit a formal appeal. Just over half of those that do win their case.
Consider the independent adjudicator
If the formal appeal didn’t do the trick, there is a final step worth trying. It’s a Notice of Appeal, and it allows drivers to challenge the ticket at an independent tribunal. This is a free process and you don’t have to attend in person. So, you’ve got nothing to lose by having one last try.
And finally… let someone else do the hard work for you
James is a motoring journalist and former magazine editor at BBC Top Gear and Auto Express. He has scooped, reported on and reviewed most new cars of the past 20 years, and currently contributes to the Driving section of The Sunday Times.