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Parking fines and debt. What should I do?

Different types of parking fines or penalties for other traffic offences can be issued by the police or the local council.

The way the fine is enforced depends on who has issued it. You need to pay the amount asked for using the details on the notice. If you pay by a certain date the amount you have to pay will be reduced. If you leave it longer, the amount due can be doubled.

Types of parking fines

There are three common types of traffic penalties:

Fixed penalty notice (FPN) issued by the police

These are issued for parking, dangerous driving or other minor offences. Points can also be added to your licence as well as the financial penalty. In Northern Ireland you have 21 days to pay, and in England and Wales you have 28 days. 

If you don’t pay within the allocated time, you may get a summons to a magistrates’ court and the amount you owe will increase. The only way to appeal against a FPN is to go to a hearing at the court.

Penalty charge notice (PCN) issued by local authority traffic wardens

These are issued for parking or other driving issues, such as driving in a bus lane. If you don’t pay the PCN, the amount you owe will increase and the debt may be registered in the County Court.

The local authority can use bailiffs or enforcement agents to recover the money and extra fees will be added. You can appeal a PCN, initially to the council and then through a formal tribunal process.

Invoices issued by private companies for parking on private land

These are issued for overstaying in supermarket, hospital or other private car parks. If you don’t pay the amount owed, the parking company will write to you and may apply for a County Court judgment.

In the past these companies would clamp cars, but this has been illegal since 2012.

My penalty charge notice is unfair. How do I challenge it?

If you believe that the penalty you’ve been issued is unfair, you may be able to challenge it.

Before you start your appeal, you need to consider why the penalty is unfair. For example, if you made a mistake, you might not be able to appeal the fine.

You also need to gather evidence that supports your appeal, such as car park receipts. If you were parked near a meter, take a photograph of your car near the meter, and the date and time that was on the meter.

Once you’ve gathered this evidence, you need to send your appeal either as a letter to the address on your parking fine ticket, or via the parking enforcer’s website.

In your appeal letter, make sure you include:

  • Your address
  • The date of the offence
  • Your vehicle registration number
  • The PCN number 
  • The reason for appeal and why you believe it’s been issued unfairly
  • All evidence that can support your appeal

How do I write my appeal letter?

It’s really important that you clearly get your point across in your appeal letter. To do this, you need to:

  1. Explain why you’re writing the letter, making sure that you reference your PCN number and date, time and location of the penalty
  2. Explain the reason why the parking fine was issued 
  3. Give reasons why you’re disputing the fine. Some examples are:

  • Unclear or incorrect road signs
  • You weren’t driving the vehicle at the time the fine was issued
  • You didn’t own the vehicle at the time, and the offence was committed by the previous owner (you will need evidence of ownership from the DVLA to prove this)
  • You have evidence that you were allowed to park in a certain area or space within the timeframe of the fine
  • You have a Blue Badge due to a disability, and were permitted to park in the area for which you received the fine 
  • Mitigating circumstances, such as parking on a double line due to an emergency

You should send your appeal off within 14 days of the fine being issued. Doing this will give you time to pay a reduced fine if your appeal is rejected. However, this doesn't guarantee that your appeal will be successful.

What’s the difference between a penalty charge notice and a parking charge notice?

Penalty Charge Notices (PCNs) are issued by your local council. They’re often confused with private parking invoices – which are sometimes called a Parking Charge Notice.

The main difference is that a ‘genuine’ Penalty Charge Notice can be enforced with bailiffs if it’s unpaid. A private parking operator can’t issue bailiffs, but they can pursue the debt through County Court to apply for a County Court Judgment against you.

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Need help with parking fine debt?

If you have a parking fine that you’re struggling to pay it could be the sign of a larger debt problem. Contact us and we can help. You can use our online debt advice tool, or call us (free from all landlines and mobiles) for impartial advice.