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Don't ignore a parking ticket on a private lot

Don't ignore a parking ticket on a private lot

(Cars, Everything Else) Permanent link

Ever since our 2007 case with Parking Enforcement Services, our office receives questions from drivers concerning whether they can be “ticketed” when they park on private property. The short answer is that they can be fined/requested to pay a fee, provided the parking lot monitor has taken adequate steps to ensure drivers are aware of what happens to unauthorized parkers. Private lot owners and parking monitors can charge people for parking, but they can’t issue lawful citations or suspend driver's licenses.


Phuong Le's article in today’s Seattle P-I helps clear up the confusion.


Posted by Kristin Alexander All Consuming Blog Moderator at 08/19/2009 10:47:49 AM | 

This web page offers misleading advice. A private parking lot may have a contract claim against a party for some reason or another, but most certainly cannot "fine" a party in the sense that the police fines or issues a citation to a car parked on a city street. The only option available to the private lot owner is to sue the driver on contractual grounds in court, but they can't impact a persons credit score. They can send the contractual claim to a company that tries to collect, but it's not a credit collection agency so they have no recourse other than filing a suit. Such a suit is improbable: the filing fees are likely higher than the damages.
Posted by: RMoore ( Email ) at 7/17/2009 5:24 PM

Rich, You are correct that a private parking lot cannot “fine” a party in the sense that police do. In fact, that’s exactly what my May 2008 blog post states. However, you seem to suggest that a creditor can only report a debtor to a credit reporting agency if the creditor has already sued and obtained a judgment. That’s not the law. If you don’t pay a department store credit bill, for example, the business can report you anytime you are delinquent. -- Kristin
Posted by: Kristin Alexander, All Consuming Moderator ( Email | Visit ) at 8/19/2009 10:52 AM

Kristin, an unpaid department store credit bill is a violation of a contract, in which both parties' identities are known and where a "meeting of the minds" has taken place. This is not necessarily true in the case of a private parking lot. What if a friend borrowed my car and parked in a poorly identified parking lot? On what legal grounds would my credit score be affected by this?
Posted by: Vassil ( Email ) at 8/27/2009 4:28 PM

Vassil, I am not a lawyer. Unfortunately, this is not an appropriate forum for "what ifs" and legal analysis of contract law. The article was directed toward those drivers who know that they parked in an authorized spot and chose to ignore a fee. If you don't believe you are responsible for a parking fine/ticket/fee, then by all means, contest it with the business and/or debt collector. If you feel you are a victim of unfair marketing practices, then file a complaint with our Consumer Resource Center. That's why we're here.
Posted by: Kristin Alexander, All Consuming Moderator ( Email ) at 8/28/2009 6:20 PM

Although this blog seems clear about private parking companies and their ability to ticket parking offenders on private property, it does not refer to city/state police enforcing parking. For example, if I park at a mall (private property for public use) and take up a portion of a handicapped aisle, then do city police have the authority to ticket my vehicle? [ ALL CONSUMING BLOG MODERATOR'S RESPONSE: Sorry, this blog is not an appropriate venue for legal analysis.]
Posted by: Jeff Riggins ( Email ) at 4/18/2010 10:48 PM

can a city cop issue a parking ticket in a private parking lot? [ ALL CONSUMING BLOG MODERATOR'S RESPONSE: Sorry, this blog is not an appropriate venue for legal analysis.]
Posted by: michy anderson ( Email ) at 4/28/2010 6:19 PM

I think it's wrong for a private lot to slap a $65 bill on someone's car - no matter what the circumstance - for failure to pay for what would originally have cost only $5. It's like the mob. Pay the extortionists or suffer the consequences.
Posted by: Rae ( Email ) at 9/26/2010 6:33 PM

Do these parking lots have access to look up license plate numbers? How do they know who the cars belong to? [ALL CONSUMING RESPONSE: I don't know whether they look up the license plate numbers. But that's irrelevant. Your parking fine is usually placed on your car's window. So it's obvious if the car is there. I suppose if someone else was driving your car with your permission and receives a fine, then you'll need to take up the issue with that person.]
Posted by: Christene James ( Email ) at 5/2/2011 4:02 PM

Is it legal for parking enforcement to issue a ticket for parking on a private lot if the lot has no signs posted that the lot is private. And if you park in the lot and are visting the private establishment.
Posted by: Lisa ( Email ) at 6/23/2011 6:30 AM

I own a a few parking lots. Our fee is $5 to $20 depending on what events are currently happing down town. I also issue parking tickets to customers who did not park in a legal marked spot. If they dont pay within the stated time I send them to collections.

Lisa, it is legal for the state to issue a parking ticket on private parking as long as it is requested by either the owner or operator.
Posted by: Cody ( Email ) at 9/15/2011 8:48 AM

I lent my car to a friend who failed to pay at a parking lot. Am I responsible for the fees and penalties? [ALL CONSUMING MODERATOR'S RESPONSE: You might want to contact the parking lot agency and explain the situation. Find out what their policy is for this kind of circumstance. But, in the end the ticket was issued to the car that is in your name and if you don't pay the ticket, you run the risk of a negative mark on your credit report if the ticket is sent to collections and is reported to one of the three credit-reporting bureaus.]
Posted by: Mark ( Email ) at 10/20/2011 4:39 PM

My wife just got a ticket parking in a private lot operated by Diamond. The lot serves a retailer and allows 90 minutes free parking for patrons. She shopped in the store for less than 90 minutes, but received a $43 ticket for parking over a line into an adjacent parking spot (this, in a nearly empty lot). What kind of warnings does a lot operator need to give before issuing tickets? [BLOG MODERATOR'S RESPONSE: Generally speaking if her car was parked in a way that another car could not safely or actually park in that slot they may have the right to give a ticket for essentially taking two spots but paying for only one. The fact that the lot was empty may not be relative to the issue.

If she was just on the line or not obstructing the second spot I would recommend that you call and talk to the manager and try to work something out. If all else fails, you can file a complaint with the AGO ( and we could mediate.]
Posted by: Stuart ( Email ) at 12/16/2011 12:40 PM

I received a private parking ticket on March 12, 2012 at 4.48am at a location that I have never parked, I asked my dad who occassionally drives the car if it was him. He has assured me that he hasn't worked in that area over 5 months hasn't park there for five months. I have contacted the private company (Provincial Parking Enforcement Corporation) acting on behalf of the owner of the lot for some form of proof. Instead of providing proof or a copy of the ticket they keep sending me letters that it was my car and that I have to pay for it. My question is... are they require to provide me atleast the ticket since I haven't even seen yet? [ALL CONSUMING MODERATOR'S RESPONSE: You should file a complaint with our Consumer Resource Center at:]
Posted by: Tuyet Dang ( Email ) at 7/13/2012 10:08 AM

I went downtown to see parade. pull in alley into lot where everyone was parking and asked if there was a fee to park. two other people said they didnt see any signs. when we left the parade, there was an envelope stating that we owed 5 dollars for parking in lot and they took down our plate number. Is this legal? no posted fees. [ALL CONSUMING MODERATOR'S RESPONSE: If you were parked in an alley, and there were no posted signs or ways to pay then getting a ticket may be a problem. However if you parked in a lot there are generally signs posted at the front and every so often along the fencing as well as a pay station of some sort. If none of this was visible and no one was there taking money, I would suggest you call the business who left the ticket and try to resolve the issue or file a complaint with our office at:]
Posted by: JIMMY ( Email ) at 8/26/2012 5:09 PM

I received a ticket from a private lot and tried to pay it online. I was unable to pay the ticket after multiple attempts. After emailing and calling, I received an email from the private lot rep saying that I needed to put in a different license plate into the system--not my license plate! Close, but not my plate. Do I have to pay this ticket? Just as a judge would throw out a ticket from a cop that had discrepancies, should this ticket also be thrown out from a private company? I feel I have done my due diligence to pay this and they have not done theirs.
How shall I proceed?
Thank you. [ALL CONSUMING MODERATOR'S RESPONSE: You will need to speak with the parking lot owner or manager to determine if there was a simple data entry error or if the parking lot attendant was ticketing the wrong car. If you are not able to work out the issue with the owner or manager you can file a complaint with our office online at]
Posted by: KK ( Email ) at 2/20/2013 3:12 PM

In 3/6/13, I got a ticket for parking in the "incorrect" location of a private lot. I was fined for $43 dollars paid within 7 days and past due amount is $73. I am wondering if I need to pay the fee, since private lot owner doesn't have the legal authority to issue citation, then how can they fine me? Also, they are threaten (in a nice way on the ticket) to with the collector if fine is not paid in time.

I guess the questions are:
1. why should I pay if they don't have the legal authority? ( if i am correct)
2. What if I don't pay, do they have the authority to enforce the payment on me? Using collector agency legal?
[ALL CONSUMING MODERATOR'S RESPONSE: We can’t answer your “legal” questions. However, generally parking lots have signage that states the prices along with the fees for any overtime parking. As with most businesses, the business owner has several options for collecting bills they believe are past due. Collection agencies are one of those options. The AGO recommends you contact the parking lot and discuss with them your concerns and see if they are willing to lower the fee or remove it. If the parking lot is unresponsive, you may file a complaint with our Consumer Resource Center:]
Posted by: Kyle ( Email ) at 3/8/2013 11:15 AM

I received a parking ticket for parking in a private parking lot but 1 month later received a phone call from lot operator requesting my car plate number because they lost the ticket envelope I mailed my check in. I even wrote the ticket # on the check and they can't match it. Am I obligated to provide this information? If I do not assist them and they cash my check is my debt paid? [ALL CONSUMING MODERATOR'S RESPONSE: We can’t answer these specific questions regarding whether you are required to provide this information again or whether cashing the check is considered payment in full. While frustrating, you may want to contact the parking company and provide their license plate number to ensure that their payment is posted to the correct account and to request that no additional fees or penalties are added to the account considering the lost paperwork. If the parking company is still unable to locate your ticket, you could request a letter stating that they are unable to locate the paperwork, return your check and void the bill or file a complaint with our office at]
Posted by: RF ( Email ) at 4/22/2013 8:51 PM

A friend parked in a lot and paid the fee but forgot to put the ticket in the window they received a citation. She had to put in the first 3 of her license plate when she paid for parking and that appears on her ticket, so she can prove it was her car and she paid. When friend told them she had the ticket but forgot to put it in the window it did not matter they want her to pay the fine anyway, what can happen if she does not pay the huge fee they are asking? [ALL CONSUMING MODERATOR'S RESPONSE: If your friend does not pay the fine it is possible that the owners of the parking lot could send her to collections and/or add additional fees to the balance. We recommend that your friend first try to talk to the manager or owner of the parking lot and if they are not able to, to send a certified return receipt letter to the business and request that they reconsider the fine. Your friend can also file a complaint with our office via our website at]
Posted by: Mammmj ( Email ) at 6/29/2013 10:02 AM

I parked in a private owned lot by a train station for A long weekend. The sign said $10 parking fee and an envelope would be left to send in the money. I got back to find 4 envelopes on my car. The envelopes said it was a daily fee, but the signs do not. When I called about it, the guy was a real ass and told me to "pay what I wanted, and we'd proceed from there". I have no problem with the initial fee, but what about the others? Should the sign
have specified?
[Blog Post Manager Comment (lw)] If you wish to file a complaint please visit our website at or you may contact our Consumer Protection Division at 800-551-4636 10:00 am – 3:00 pm Monday through Friday for assistance.
Posted by: James ( Email ) at 9/30/2013 8:46 AM

I park in a parking-lot were I paid the maximum $9/day. When I come back later, I was given a $28 citation for parking in a 1hr slot. Am I obliged to pay that ticket? If I don't pay, what could the consequence be?

Blog Post Comment Manager (KD): I would strongly suggest filing a complaint with this office’s Consumer Resource Center at
Posted by: Allen ( Email ) at 11/2/2013 2:32 PM

I park in a lot in downtown Seattle. The lot has pay machines at the exit, but the lot itself is very odd and confusing. None of the signage asks to pay in advance. Upon exit, I try to pay, and the attendant points out that I've already received a citation. The attendant does not allow me to pay. The question, is there a basic expectation that all parking is paid in advance? Or does the parking lot need to state whether or not to pay in advance, or at exit? I feel like I'm being extorted, because, if I don't pay their absurd $78 citation (on $6 parking), they can ban me from all of their lots.
AGO Blog Comment Manager (lw): I would recommend filing a complaint with our Consumer Protection Division by visiting our website at at or you may contact our Consumer Protection Division at 800-551-4636 10:00 am – 3:00 pm Monday through Friday for assistance. This will allow the parking lot to address your concerns.
Posted by: John ( Email ) at 2/6/2014 5:50 PM

I recently received a parking ticket in a lot owned and operated by Standard Parking NW for not paying the parking fee. The reason I didn't pay is because there are absolutely no signs anywhere in or around the lot itself stating the parking fees. there are signs indicating the fine amounts for not paying and another sign stating "all posted rates must be paid in advance" but again, there are no posted rates at any entrance. Do they have grounds to issue citations in this case?
AGO Blog Comment Manager (lw): Please contact our Consumer Protection Division at 800-551-4636 between 10 am and 3 pm for information on how to file a complaint against the parking facility.
Posted by: Rob ( Email ) at 3/19/2014 1:08 PM

I parked in a lot that I paid for, but they ticketed me anyway saying that I didn't pay. It's just a cash drop box that does not provide receipts. They actually accused me of running away. Obviously they aren't looking to be helpful. I already filed a complaint with the ATG, but when I called in today to ask an additional question your representative told me that there is basically nothing you can do. He said you would try to initiate a resolution, but if the company chooses not to respond I am just out of luck and they can send me to collections. In this sort of situation, how should I expect that filing a complaint is even helpful when this business seems to be intentionally scamming me?
AGO Blog Comment Manager (lw): Our Consumer Protection Division can only act as informal mediators between a consumer and a business. We cannot act as legal representation for private citizens. Once a complaint is filed if the business chooses to not respond or want to participate in mediation to resolve the issue, our office can take no further legal action and will advise you to seek individual personal legal representation.
Posted by: James ( Email ) at 3/20/2014 9:28 PM

I recently parked at a lot that I have parked at numerous times before. There is a pay box however, it is not used anymore but once was. There are signs indiciating the unauthorized vehicles may be towed at owners expense but nothing about ticketing cars. The only reason I knew that I had a parking ticket is because I got it sent to me in the mail. There was nothing left on my car idicating the ticket and by the time I received the notice, the ticket was already past due. What can I do? I feel that the company that ticketed me was unwarranted for doing so considering the fact there was nothing indicating that one may be ticketed as well as the fact there was no ticket left on my car. I now owe this company triple what I did for their failure to notify me in a timely fashion. I am more than willing to pay the $30 even if I think it's bogus but if I don't, what are my consequences? It is a private company and was not issued through the city, state or county.
AGO Blog Comment Manager (lk): Our Consumer Protection Division can act as informal mediators for consumer complaints filed with our office. Please go to and file a complaint with our office.
Posted by: Caitlin ( Email ) at 8/18/2014 3:11 PM

I received a $41 "ticket" from Northwest Parking Control after parking outside World Market on 23rd in Portland. No clear signs stating that ticketing would occur - big prominent sign stating FREE PARKING 2.5 HOURS.

Found a statement made by Ken Burgess (Property Manager at Uptown Shopping Center) from the City of Portland's Official Minutes dated September 9, 2005:

"At least here there's some teeth that, you know, that we can write the ticket, go through [sic] it on their dash, and I would encourage you to, you know, keep the rate at $25 for Northwest Parking Control because, you know, if people get word that this particular fee, you know, has no grounds for collection, then, the service will not be adequate."

So, this kind of fee "has no grounds for collection" according to a property manager in Portland. Why do I even need to be concerned about it?
AGO Blog Comment Manager (lk): Are you concerned about a parking ticket here in Washington or Oregon as you mentioned Portland several times. If you have a parking ticket in Oregon you should contact their Attorney General office. If you have concerns about a parking ticket in a private parking lot here in Washington state you may contact our Consumer Protection Division at 800-551-4636 between 10 am and 3 pm.
Posted by: Irene ( Email ) at 10/29/2014 5:15 PM

While traveling and driving a rental I paid and parked in a lot where there was no signs evident that stated anything about some spots being treated differently than others and none of the stalls were marked/ numbered. I paid $10.00 for all day parking and was there for less than three hours. When I returned to the car there was a citation for $59.00 for parking in a "Monthly Stall". 1 no signage was evident describing "Monthly Stall", 2 I paid for parking, 3 the fee is exorbitant, 4 what is a monthly stall, 5 I'm in a rental car, what can they do?
AGO Blog Comment Manager (lk): You may wish to file a complaint with our Consumer Protection Division. You can do this by going to and clicking on the consumer complaint icon.
Posted by: Steve Peters ( Email ) at 11/6/2014 5:36 AM

I was at a doctor’s apt and parked in the structures private underground lot. My parking stub was validated by my doctor. I received a ticket from and when I tried to dispute it that was when I was told that I parked in a slot intended for taller vehicles (I drive a mini). I asked them to send me a photo of my vehicle in front of the stall stating it is only intended for taller vehicles and they could only send me separate photo’s: one of my vehicle (with an illegible tiny sign) and another with a sign that reads “over height vehicles 6’ 8” and taller”. I recall I was parked between two sedans and I do not recall that sign at all. I am torn on whether to just pay it, but out of principle I feel like I am being taken advantage of. Not sure what to do…
AGO Blog Comment Manager (lk): Please visit our website at and file a consumer complaint
Posted by: Mea ( Email ) at 12/24/2014 6:00 PM

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