Parking tickets are a huge source of revenue for cities and private companies — not to mention a huge source of frustration for you and your bank account.
While you’re required by law to pay tickets from the city, we wanted to find out if the same rules applied if you received a ticket while parking in a private lot. Here’s what we discovered.
When you enter a lot, there will be posted terms and conditions. These terms and conditions will usually state that by driving into the parking lot, you agree to these provisions.
Essentially a contract is formed between you and the parking lot company. If you choose not to pay the ticket, you should be aware of the repercussions, such as the company suing you for breach of contract or passing your debt on to a collections agency.
If you dispute the ticket, because you don’t agree with certain terms and conditions that were posted in the parking lot, then theoretically a collections agency is not allowed to report your unpaid debt to credit agencies. That’s a good thing, because it means your credit score will not be affected while you are trying to sort the matter out.
But keep in mind, there are some cities in which collections agencies are not restricted in the same rules, and may in fact pass on your unpaid debt to a credit agency. Once this happens, it can be difficult to have your record wiped clean, so it’s worth checking this out in advance.
There is always the possibility that you may be able to negotiate a ticket. An argument that you can make is that the terms and conditions weren’t clearly posted when you were parking, so you actually didn’t know what you were yourself getting into. Another possible legal argument is that because the fine on the ticket is so disproportionate to the lot’s hourly charge, the contract should not be enforced.
We would encourage you to at least contact the parking lot company and put them on notice that you’re disputing the ticket and attempt to negotiate something.
You never know whether or not you’re going to be successful but it’s worth a try. Private lots can be individually owned so the amount of wiggle room you have will depend on the company. When dealing with customer service, be polite but persistent.
Just a few weeks ago, one of the Smart Cookies attempted to have a parking ticket reduced. At first, the private lot parking company was not receptive to her request. However, our Cookie was persistent and, lo and behold, the ticket price was reduced from $60 to $15. That’s definitely worth a five-minute phone call.
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