Read Time 5 Minutes, 20 Seconds

Private parking companies can’t directly deploy bailiffs for private parking fines. But before you breathe a sigh of relief, they have another route – applying for a County Court Judgement (CCJ) against you.

Let us explain this process.

Warren Marshall
Last updated on 9 October 2023
Fact Checked

Table of Contents

1. Parking fines on private land
2. Private Parking Charge Notices: The Law
3. Don’t ignore Parking Charge Notice correspondence
4. Can Private Parking Companies Use Bailiffs?
5. Lastly, Can I expect bailiffs for a private parking fine?
6. Key Points


Parking fines on private land

When driving around the UK, especially in crowded urban areas, you might often find yourself parking in private territories. These are not your typical public parking spaces. Here, parking management operates differently. Receiving a notice from these territories can be quite startling.

Parking management companies have the right to issue you a Parking Charge Notice. But when it comes to an alleged parking offence, they cannot fine you. Landowners authorise them to issue Parking Charge Notices to drivers who don’t follow the Terms and Conditions of using a car park.

However, until a judge rules you have to pay, they cannot be enforced.

Many car parks that are managed privately use Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPF) technology. So whenever you enter or leave a car park, the registration of your car gets recorded. These details are also recorded on the ticket you purchase.

You will receive a demand for payment through the post for parking violations for:

  • Overstaying: Even a few minutes over can get you a notice
  • Parking Incorrectly: Parking outside of designated spaces or blocking someone
  • Not purchasing a ticket for using or entering a car park

Note that an accredited private parking management company can access the registration details of your vehicle from the DVLA. Also, private operators had the right to clamp cars before 2012. But now, this is not allowed, and it is illegal.

Keep in mind that local authorities don’t issue the parking tickets you get when you’re at a private car park. This falls under the Regulation 10 Penalty Charge Notice (PCN). These are invoices that operators raise when you violate the rules.

Private Parking Charge Notices: The Law

The Protection of Freedoms Act 2012, paragraphs 4 to 12 of Schedule 4, consists of the law regarding parking charges issues on private land. According to the law in the UK, a parking management company is only obligated to:

  • Notice the keeper, who should
  • Inform the driver, and thereafter
  • Give the notice to the driver

The Protections of Freedoms Act also consists of the following:

  • Owner Liability: The Act introduced the concept that car owners, not just drivers, could be held liable for unpaid parking charges.
  • Appeal Mechanisms: The Act ensures parking companies offer a form of appeal against any charges.
  • Timeframes: Companies have a specific window in which they must send out a Notice to Keeper. This is crucial for those taking notes on timelines.

So, can a parking management company send bailiffs for private parking fines? The answer is no. They can only send debt collectors.

Bailiffs vs. Debt Collectors: Know the Difference

Many confuse bailiffs with debt collectors, but they’re not the same. As mentioned before, parking companies, based on the Act, cannot immediately unleash bailiffs for private parking fines. Instead, they might opt for debt collectors. So it’s important that you know the following:

  • Authority Levels: Debt collectors don’t possess the same legal clout as bailiffs. They can’t seize goods or demand entry into your home.
  • Purpose: Their primary role is to remind you about the unpaid debt. They are negotiators, not enforcers.
  • Entry to your home: unlike bailiffs, debt collectors don’t have the right to enter your home to collect debt. If they do, you can ask them to go away and contact you only through post, email, or phone.

So, if you’re wondering about bailiffs for private parking fines, several legal steps need to occur before they even come into the picture. Thus, don’t worry, but always be informed.

Can a private company force me to pay?

Yes, a private parking management company has the right to force you to make the payment if you are the registered keeper of the vehicle, and a court has ruled that you should. This usually happens when the details of the actual driver are not known.

You will receive a letter from the operator demanding you to pay. Note that each letter might be more aggressive than the one before. In some cases, if you’re lucky, the operator might drop the case. But there’s a chance they might start court proceedings against you.

In such a situation, you’ll get a Defendants Response Pack when the operator takes you to court. You should make sure you defend it.

Don’t ignore Parking Charge Notice correspondence.

Ignoring problems rarely makes them disappear. The same applies to Parking Charge Notices. Ignoring their correspondence only fuels their intent to take legal action. If you’re unsure if the fine is yours or not, contest it instead of ignoring it.

You also have the option to appeal a private parking fine. If your first appeal gets rejected, escalate the parking fine appeal. The process varies between car park operators depending on:

  • If they’re a member of the IPC
  • If they’re a member of the BPA and follow the BPA code of practice

Every letter you receive is a step closer to court proceedings. So, heed the warnings, address the notices, and ensure you don’t reach a stage where you’re asking, “Will the bailiffs be next?”.

Can Private Parking Companies Use Bailiffs?

No. A private parking operator doesn’t have the right to use bailiffs for private parking fines in order to recover the money. But they have the right to chase you for payment through the County Court. They can file for a County Court Judgement (CCJ) against you.

The process is as follows:

1. Chasing through County Court: The parking company’s first step isn’t to engage a bailiff. Instead, they pursue the alleged defaulter through the County Court, aiming to make their claim official.
2. Acquisition of the County Court Judgement (CCJ): This is the turning point. If the court rules in favour of the parking company, they issue a CCJ against the individual. This document is crucial, and here’s why:

  • It’s an official stamp, a recognition that the debt exists and is valid.
  • The CCJ mandates the payment of the specified sum, giving the company legal leverage.

But we recommend that you deal with the issue before it comes down to a CCJ, as an unpaid parking fine is not worth the legal costs. This is because:

  • A CCJ will negatively impact your credit history
  • The CCJ will remain on your credit report for six years.
  • You will have to pay more money in addition to the unpaid parking fine.
Can UK car park management take you to court?

Yes, you can be taken to court if you don’t pay a Parking Charge Notice. But in a situation where an operator broke the rules when issuing it, the case might not succeed. If you manage to win the case, your case will be struck out. But if you lose, a CCJ will appear on your credit history.

The regulations governing parking on private land are overseen by the International Parking Community (IPC) and the British Parking Association (BPA). These organisations have defined the guidelines that private operators must adhere to when overseeing car parks on behalf of landowners.

Will I get a CCJ for an unpaid private parking ticket?

Over the years, many parking management companies have got a bad reputation due to:

  • ANPR technology is unreliable
  • Operators relying on motorists failing to defend a case when taken to court

Due to this, the motorist receives a default judgement. Also, when things go down this route, it’s much more difficult to have the judgement set aside.

Lastly, Can I expect bailiffs for a private parking fine?

No, but you might receive letters demanding payment from an operator if you don’t pay or challenge a Parking Charge Notice. Also, expect:

  • Phone calls
  • Letters
  • Visits from debt collection companies

This is why it’s crucial that you don’t ignore fines on private land. The consequences you will have to face because of it is not worth it. Also, avoid treating them the same as a Penalty Charge Notice (PCN). Even though they look alike, PCN and private parking notices have a significant difference. So we recommend that you:

  • Make sure the fine is yours without delay
  • Ensure that it was issued correctly according to the Code of Practice
  • Reply to correspondence that the operator sends you
  • Avoid ignoring letters from a debt collection agency
  • Challenge the fine if you believe it’s incorrect or unfair
  • Avoid ignoring formal letters from a court
  • Defend a claim if the operator starts a legal proceeding

In conclusion, parking fines on private lands can be intimidating. But with the right knowledge and timely actions, you can navigate this maze with confidence. Always stay informed and act promptly, and you can keep potential complications, like bailiffs, out of the picture.

Additional Advice and Guidance

If you want additional debt help and guidance, we recommend that you speak to a qualified and licensed debt advisor. Feel free to click on the link and our Money Advisor team will guide you on the path you must take for a debt free future.

Alternatively, feel free to fill out our online form by clicking here if you want personal help from our Money Advisor Team based on your current financial standing.

Key Points

  • While council-issued parking tickets have different enforcement rules, private parking fines come from parking management companies. They operate based on the terms and conditions set for their respective car parks.
  • Private parking companies can’t directly engage bailiffs for private parking fines. There’s a legal procedure they must follow before reaching that stage.
  • It’s essential to note that many individuals in the UK could legally write off some of their debt. Knowledge of this can offer relief in stressful financial situations.
  • Before bailiffs can be considered, companies must chase payment through the County Court. It’s only after obtaining a County Court Judgement (CCJ) that further enforcement action becomes a possibility.
  • Ignoring Parking Charge Notices or related correspondence isn’t advisable. Whether you choose to contest or pay the fine, action is required. Inactivity could lead to escalating consequences.
  • If you find yourself taken to court over a private parking fine, defending the claim is crucial. Successfully doing so can prevent a CCJ from staining your credit history.
  • A County Court Judgement isn’t just a piece of paper. It has ramifications, impacting credit scores and future financial decisions. Avoiding one should be a priority.
  • When in doubt regarding a private parking fine, its validity, or the steps to take next, seeking professional advice is always beneficial. Don’t tread unknown waters without guidance.

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