Quick do's and don'ts before you start
DON'T assume every ticket is unfair
DO check who your ticket's from
DON'T assume the driver's responsible
DO act immediately
Should you appeal?
Usually, pay the fine within 14 days and it's half price. For further info, check out typical parking fines and the costs if you don't pay.
Even if you do start an appeal, and it's unsuccessful, although this isn't guaranteed, you're often still allowed to pay at the half price rate within 14 days of the rejection. Help the chances of this by clearly requesting the fine to be put on hold in your appeal letter.
The chances of success
If you get all the way to the last, Independent Tribunal stage, the success rate is an extraordinary 70%, which means if you believe in the justice of your cause the odds are in your favour if you keep going, though it can be a slog.
Here's a few examples to give you inspiration (also read about Martin's appeal success in his Parking Fines blog).
MSE Guy had parked in his usual residents' parking bay. No problem normally, except this day a sign had been placed quite a distance up the road to say it was suspended for a few days and the road name it gave was incorrect, rendering the sign invalid. Guy's appeal was twice rejected by his local council, but at the Independent Tribunal stage, the council didn't bother to put up a defence and it was uncontested so he won.
MoneySaver JWF: "I got a PCN issued by my council in July 2008 and my first appeal was rejected. I heard nothing for a long time, then just before Xmas I received the Notice to Owner, some 5 months after the original ticket was issued. I made formal representations in Jan 2009 and the ticket was overturned due to a 'procedural error' a few weeks later".
Don't waste any time. All your evidence should be contemporaneous to reflect the situation when you got your ticket. Gather as much evidence as possible, as without it, winning an appeal is more difficult.
Of course, if your car isn't there when you get back you first need to establish whether it's been towed or stolen. Contact your local police or the firm that owns the car park, if parked on private land. In London, call Trace, the 24-hour car locating service run by London Councils on 020 7747 4747.
If you can, photograph the scene, if it'll help explain your argument. Don't worry about the type of camera, even a mobile phone picture will do, providing it's clear. Things to photograph include:
- Road signs. Any unclear signs such as suspended bay signs or residents' parking signs.
- Road markings. Any unclear bay markings or yellow/red lines.
- Lack of signs/markings. Areas without signs or markings you believe should be there.
- Your car. If you're disputing where you were alleged to have parked, take a picture of your car and capture the immediate area around your car.
- The meter. If you were parked in a paid-for bay, keep your ticket or take a photo of the meter if it still registers the time your paid-for parking expired.
Gather the paperwork
Any documentary evidence you can gather is also useful. Sometimes this can be tricky to get, but everything that proves your part of the story is helpful. This includes:
- Proof of mitigating circumstances
Keep anything relevant. Examples include travel documents if bays were suspended when you were on holiday, a death certificate if you've had a bereavement, a doctor's note if you were ill or the ticket/permit if it fell off. Read a list of further possible mitigating circumstances.
- Crime reference number
If your vehicle was stolen, include a crime reference number and any correspondence from the police.
- Witness statements
If anyone will corroborate your story, get their details and ask them to sign a statement. For example, if it was impossible to see the signs or you were loading or unloading goods from your car and you stayed within the rules.
- Keep copies of all correspondence
Appeals can sometimes drag on, so keep the ticket and any correspondence safe.
If your vehicle's been clamped or towed away
There's no definition of a ticketable, clampable or a towable offence. With the exception of some time limits, it's purely down to the discretion of the officials on patrol at the time.
So, any offence worthy of a ticket can result in your vehicle having a lump of metal attached to its wheel or getting removed.
First though, if you've returned to your car and it isn't there the first thing to establish is whether it's been towed or stolen.
Your local police or the firm that owns the car park, if parked on private land, should be able to help, or in London call Trace, the 24 hour car locating service run by local councils on 020 7747 4747.
Whether you've been clamped or towed away, you need to pay to get your vehicle back. Here, paying DOESN'T count as an admission of guilt so you can still appeal. One word of warning though: don't try and remove the clamp yourself. That's classed as criminal damage and is also likely to damage your vehicle.
If a vehicle is clamped and you ignore it, it can get moved to the car pound within hours, meaning you pay tow away fees plus clamp release fees and the ticket charge.
If your vehicle's in the car pound, for every day it's left there, the cost to get it back rockets. If you don't collect it, it will eventually be destroyed which means further costs.
When you collect your vehicle from the pound, take your driving licence (counterpart and photocard), the vehicle registration document and a utility bill with your address.
Beware tickets that come through the post
Regulations brought in during 2008 mean you can get a ticket through the post in England and Wales, if caught on CCTV.
This makes it more difficult to gather evidence for an appeal because the 'contravention' would have taken place days before. The only plus side is that you have 21 days if caught on CCTV, instead of the usual 14 days, to pay at the reduced rate.
If you can't afford to pay
If you can't pay the fine, it will end up as a court debt like any other. This will NOT go on your credit file, as there was no borrowing in the first place.
If you car has been towed away and you can't afford to pay, you'll need to negotiate. Technically, there is no leeway and eventually your car will be crushed and you'll still be liable for all the charges, though kind-hearted officials may help. If you get no joy then urgently contact Citizens Advice for help urgently.
How to appeal against parking fines
The appeal process is in place so that you can fight your corner if you believe the fine is unfair. You have a right to appeal whether you think the council got it wrong, or you broke the rules due to mitigating circumstances. Some tips and rules before you start:
- You can't appeal if you've paid the fine
Paying the fine is considered an admission of liability. However, if you've been clamped or towed away you have to pay to get your motor released, after which you can appeal.
- The appeal can take a couple of months
How long it takes depends on who issued the ticket. There can be three stages to the appeal: an informal appeal, formal appeal, and if all else fails an appeal to the independent adjudicator.
- Most people have nothing to lose in the first stage
Those who make an informal appeal within two weeks and lose it will usually have a further 14 days to pay the ticket at the reduced rate. So you'll lose nothing by making that first appeal, although this isn't guaranteed.
- Stick rigidly to the timeline
Stick to the deadlines or you'll lose by default. Don't worry if the council, police or adjudicator take a while to respond. During that time, the appeal's effectively frozen which means any time period you need to abide by only begins when you receive a reply. Though if you hear nothing within 56 days of a formal appeal, you'll usually win by default anyway.
- Submit full evidence at each stage
Ensure you submit full evidence at each appeal stage. There'll always be a different official dealing with it, who will often have no idea what you've previously sent.
Step 1. Work out who issued the ticket
(or clamped/towed your vehicle)
There are four different issuers of parking tickets and the appeals procedure operates separately with each. The biggest difference is whether they operate under civil or criminal law.
If it's criminal, don't fret that you'll be branded a convict. As long as you pay it on time or win your appeal you won't encounter any legal problems or get a criminal record. Criminal tickets are more difficult to successfully appeal against though.
The four types of agency are:
1. Local authorities
2.Transport for London: Penalty Charge Notices
3. The police: Fixed Penalty Notices
4. Private companies
Step 2: The grounds for appeal
The grounds for appeal differ depending whether yours is a ticket under civil or criminal law.
- The civil system
The appeal grounds and procedures to follow are consistently laid out. They're detailed in full below.
- The criminal system
Criminal rules can vary, so either check your council's website or if the police issued a ticket, call the number listed, to ensure you know the rules. In general, it's worth reading the civil guidelines below as the same principles usually apply.
Where procedures differ, it's usually about the levels of fines, timescales and what information must be present on the ticket and any correspondence you receive.
The grounds for appeal for civil penalties
There are nine official grounds for appealing against a ticket and eight for clamping and being towed. Don't get too worried, they're mainly in place for the council or adjudicator's benefit. If you pick the wrong box on the form, they'll just allocate you to the correct one.
They can exercise discretion, so appeal even if you don't fit into a category. In particular, if there are mitigating circumstances to explain why you parked 'illegally', councils should listen to them.
I've focused on the rules for England and Wales below. It's by and large the same in Scotland and Northern Ireland, with only very minor differences. For precise info go to the NI Traffic Penalty Tribunal site or call the Scottish Parking Appeals Service on 0131 221 0409 as it has no website.
The nine grounds for appealing against parking tickets
Most people will fall into the first category.
The alleged contravention did not occur.
In plain English: The traffic warden or council got it wrong.
This is the one most people fall into, as it covers unclear signs or markings. Classic examples are when signs or markings have faded, are blocked by trees or other objects, have been tampered with, or when signs or road markings contradict each other or are ambiguous. It also covers instances when an over-zealous traffic warden incorrectly plonked a ticket on the windscreen..
Additionally, this ground applies to those who were buying a pay & display ticket, or who were on the way to buy a ticket when their car was ticketed. However, if you bought your parking ticket, say 10 minutes after the penalty was issued, you are unlikely to win. We're only talking about a few minutes here.
The penalty exceeded the amount applicable in the circumstances of the case.
In plain English: You were overcharged.
The cost should be no more than the standard charges. See the charges list to check.
There has been a procedural impropriety by the Enforcement Authority.
In plain English: The council made an administrative error.
This applies when councils have failed to include all the required information on their tickets or 'Notice to Owner' letters, which renders the charge invalid. If you've been unfairly fined, this is a useful tactic to ensure your appeal wins.
According to the sexily named Civil Enforcement of Parking Contraventions General Regulations (2007), there's a list of information that must be contained and accurate on a civil Penalty Charge Notice. See the full list (there's a slightly different list for posted tickets).
In all cases, a council must respond within 56 days of receiving your formal appeal, otherwise the penalty is unenforceable.
The order alleged to have been contravened in relation to the vehicle concerned is invalid.
In plain English: They added a new restriction, eg, a yellow line, and didn't follow proper procedures in doing so.
It's unlikely you'll ever appeal under this ground. When applying a new parking restriction, the council must follow certain procedures such as consulting upon its proposed changes. Only if it has not followed the correct procedures, can this ground come into play. Even then, you only have six weeks after the restriction came into force to dispute it.
The Penalty Charge Notice was served by post because the council say the Civil Enforcement Officer was prevented by some person from fixing the Penalty Charge Notice to the vehicle or handing it to the person in charge of the vehicles, but this did not happen.
In plain English: The council wrongly claims you, or someone else, prevented a traffic warden from giving a ticket.
It's very specific that you can only appeal if no-one prevented the officer fixing the ticket. If someone else prevented them without you knowing you're out of luck.
The appellant did not own the vehicle when the alleged contravention occurred.
In plain English: You were not the owner when the 'offence' took place.
If the previous owner committed the offence you need to prove you were not the owner at the time, which your log book or dealer/showroom receipt will show. If you sold the car before the contravention occurred, then you'll need to send copies of the receipt of sale and proof you informed the DVLA.
The owner is a vehicle hire firm and the vehicle was on hire under a qualifying hiring agreement.
This only applies to hire firms and is beyond the scope of this guide.
The vehicle was taken without the owner's consent.
In plain English: Your vehicle was stolen and the thief committed the offence.
If your vehicle is stolen, not lent to someone, and the thief parks illegally, the ticket will be waived if you can prove it was stolen. To do this, you need to have reported the incident to the police.
The penalty's already been paid (i) in full; or (ii) at the discount rate and in time.
In plain English: You've paid the relevant fine in time, so it shouldn't have been increased.
If you made a genuine attempt to pay but the council hasn't received your money, then gather any evidence that you paid on time. If the money has left your account use your credit card or bank statement as evidence.
If money hasn't yet left your account you'll need to prove you attempted to pay within 14 days to earn the discount. You can also use cheque stubs, internet or phone records, or even the history page of your browser as evidence.
The eight grounds for appealing parking tickets when you've been clamped or towed
Click here for the full list
Appeals based on mitigating circumstances
If you hold up your hands to parking illegally but believe there are mitigating circumstances why the penalty should be waved, you can still appeal and the Traffic Penalty Tribunal says councils must show discretion.
If possible, it can be a good idea to inform of any mitigating circumstances before you park, as this can avoid the rigmarole of having to appeal a ticket.
Most mitigating circumstances include issues of health (yours or others), bereavement and motor breakdown. See a full list of typical mitigating circumstances.
In addition, you could also appeal under the following circumstances:
You were fined within three minutes of paid parking expiring
Some councils offer an amnesty where you won't get a ticket within three minutes of the meter, pay and display, pay-by-phone or voucher parking paid-for period ending. It's mainly to cover instances where yours and the traffic warden's watch don't match up.
Check with your council if it offers this amnesty, and if it does, ask for the penalty to be waived as you were simply following its published guidelines. You may be able to find the rules on your council's website.
The penalty was too harsh – towing or clamping only
It's possible to argue that getting towed or clamped is excessive and the resulting cost is unfair; and ask to pay only the Penalty Charge Notice value. Councils have been known to make partial refunds on this basis.
To help, check the PCN code to see whether the 'contravention' you committed is deemed a serious or less serious offence. While you've a better chance if it's a lower offence, even if not, there's no harm appealing as you've already paid so won't lose out financially.
You can't afford to pay
While, technically this is no defence, you'll sometimes find a kind-hearted council worker who will let you off. Make sure you submit all financial evidence to highlight your plight.
With mitigating circumstances, like those above, it's really a question of the luck of the draw. It's up to the council whether it accepts your appeal and some do have a heart. If these cases reach the adjudicator, it doesn't have power to cancel the ticket but can recommend the council cancels it, yet this isn't binding.
Once you've picked your ground to appeal jump to Step 3: How to appeal.
Circumstances councils say you can't appeal
There are some situations where you can't appeal, such as if there is no where to park, and in general trying will meet failure. Yet if you strongly believe in the justice of your case and have the time, there's no harm trying, providing you don't lose the opportunity to pay at the reduced rate.
Some circumstances in which you can't appeal:
Step 3: How to appeal
Now we get to the nitty gritty and you've got to write out an appeal. Whatever form your appeal takes, there's a golden rule to begin with...
A human being will decide your appeal, so be friendly but firm. Get rude or angry and you've less chance of success.
The appeal rules depend on your ticket type so ensure you read the right one below from civil ticket appeals, criminal ticket appeals and police ticket appeals.
Your appeal will largely involve writing up to three separate letters, though the general content will usually be similar in each of them. Therefore, keep a copy of the first one safe and just alter the introduction and any other points as necessary.
Ticket appeal process
Once you've read the steps above, you'll know which of the following appeals processes to follow.