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Charges for Parking on Private Property

There is a common belief that owners of private land cannot charge the public for parking on their property.

This belief is however misguided. Consider commercial carparks on private land: Owners of these carparks have for decades charged drivers for parking in their carparks.  It is a matter of contract: The display signs make a contractual parking offer to drivers, which is accepted by every driver who enters the carpark and parks his/her car. 

A recent court case in Dundee confirmed that the legal position is very similar with regard to owners of private property generally. The case concerned a new private housing development along the waterfront in Dundee. Like many such developments, some properties came with their own garage, others instead had their own private parking space, while other properties had only a right to use commonly-owned parking spaces on the development, as and when one was available. 

The Defender in the case was a daughter of one of the tenants of a flat which owned its own garage. She had no greater parking rights than any ordinary member of the public.  She had no permit to display in her car as a result. Nonetheless, she repeatedly ignored the numerous clear parking signs around the development setting out substantial parking charges, and simply parked her car again and again. 

Eventually she was sued for a sum of £24,500 of parking charges by the factoring company employed jointly by the various owners on the development. She argued that the owners (and therefore the factoring company) had no right to levy charges on members of the public to park on private land. 

The court fundamentally disagreed, and found the lady liable to pay the whole parking charges of £24,500. The court’s position is that private owners of property can quite legitimately charge members of the public to park on their land (in a similar way to commercial carpark owners) as long as:-

  1. The parking “offer” has been set out in clear terms, displaying prominently around carparking, giving all drivers fair notice of the parking “offer” they are accepting by parking, and of the charges.
  1. The parking charges are reasonable and proportionate in the circumstances, rather than clearly excessive or amounting to a penal charge.

The advice to all drivers therefore is to be very careful when you are parking – whether on public or on private land – to ensure you are aware of the potential charges for doing so, and also of the charges for overstaying the period you intend to park there.

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