Finding somewhere to park is a regular problem for many of us whether it is parking outside our home, on the street or in a private car park. Where parking can become problematic and costly is when there is a lack of understanding about where you are entitled to park, and the enforceability of parking tickets if you are fined.

Police and Scottish local authorities have collectively long enjoyed the certainty of statutory powers enabling enforcement of parking restrictions and parking fines in relation to public land (both for on-street parking on publicly adopted roads and in council car parks).

Recent years have though seen a growing perception that somehow private landowners are unable to enforce fines against those who park without their permission on their land. However a recent Scottish case, Vehicle Control Services Limited v Carly Mackie [2017] SC DUN 24 highlights the very costly pitfalls for members of the public who don’t comply with private landowners’ parking guidelines.

Why did the case end up in court?

Ms Mackie had repeatedly parked her car outside her father’s house. The house was in a major new-build private development, at the Waterfront District of Dundee, with no public parking rights.

Due to insufficient parking in the general area, there were significant problems with members of the public parking within the development. To address this, a privately managed permit scheme was introduced. It allowed the appointed managing company of the car park to issue parking tickets to individuals who did not exhibit the required parking permit and comply with the other regulations. Notices were placed around the development setting out the terms and conditions of parking, including the penalties for parking without a permit.

By choosing to park at her father’s house, despite not being a resident there and therefore lacking the required parking permit, the defender was issued with parking fines, which amounted to £24,500. She disputed the fines, claiming they were illegal in Scotland. She was taken to court as a result.

Enforceability of parking fines

Parking fines issued by private parking companies are enforceable in Scotland so long as the terms and conditions of the parking are clearly displayed – which was done at the development Ms Mackie’s dad lived in.

By opting to park where notices are displayed, a driver is deemed to have agreed to the conditions set out and a contract is formed between the respective parties. The driver is therefore liable to pay any charges for overstaying or failure to display the necessary ticket. This is the case for any private car parking facility with associated parking charges.

In this case, the Court decided in favour of the managing company, and confirmed that a contract had been created between the parties. Ms Mackie was therefore liable to pay the total amount of her parking fines.

So what can be learned from this “costly mistake”?

Parking permits and restrictions of the kind we saw in the Mackie case are becoming very common. The Court’s judgment is a useful reminder that regardless of where you park – whether in a local authority car park, on a publicly adopted street, or on privately owned land – you should always comply with any parking signs and notices.