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Problems with unauthorised parking? What you should and shouldn’t do

  • Oct 02, 2023

Don’t get caught out when trying to deal with problem parking. Read on to discover where you stand as a business.

Are you experiencing issues with your car park? Specifically unauthorised vehicles taking up spaces so that genuine user have nowhere to leave their vehicles?

It’s a common problem. At Creative Car Park we regularly speak to businesses whose car parks are almost full before they even open their doors! With parking at a premium, particularly in towns and cities, drivers may take advantage of your car parking provision. This could lead to lost footfall, reduced revenue and disgruntled visitors.

So what can you do about it? Unlike parking on public land/highways, where the rules are quite explicit, parking on private land is sometimes seen as a grey area. To help you understand what steps you can take, within the law, we’ve compiled this guidance for all business owners.

What you SHOULDN’T do…

Clamp or tow the vehicle
As tempting as it might be, it is unlawful to clamp or remove any vehicle parked on your private land without lawful authority. And not just that, it’s also an offence to block-in or immobilise a vehicle in any way. It has been like this in the UK since 2012, when the government enacted the Protection of Freedoms Act. When it comes to private car parks, the law is the same regardless of whether it’s free to park or a fee is payable. In summary, tampering with vehicles in any way could backfire and expose you to criminal proceedings.

Report it to the police
The above point states that your hands are tied “without lawful authority”, so you might assume that the police can help. However, unauthorised parking on private land is akin to trespassing, which is not classed as a criminal offence. Rather, it’s a civil dispute and in most cases the police can’t help. They can be called if you believe a vehicle has been abandoned on your car park, but only if it’s in dangerous condition (for example, it is leaking fuel, or potentially dangerous items are visible inside the vehicle).

Report it to the council
As with the police, your local council’s powers are limited when it comes to unauthorised parking on private land. But – it is the responsibility of local councils to remove vehicles that have been abandoned, and this applies to private land. So if you genuinely believe that a vehicle has been abandoned on your car park (as in it has been there for multiple days and is perhaps in obvious poor/damaged condition), you can report it to your local council and they’ll advise on the next steps. Click here to report an abandoned vehicle. Note that the council will need to locate and give notice to the vehicle’s registered keeper, so the process may take some time to resolve.

Contact the DVLA
Along with the police and your local authority, the DVLA (Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency) can remove a vehicle from private land, but again there are strict conditions. Typically the DVLA will only act if the car is untaxed. By clicking here you can check if a vehicle is taxed, by entering its registration number online, and then report it directly to the DVLA if it isn’t.

What you SHOULD do…

Have a (polite) word
We appreciate this may be difficult under the circumstances, but often the best policy is to speak to the driver. Ask them to politely move their vehicle and refrain from parking without authorisation in the future. Explain that their misuse of your car park is denying genuine users a parking space. You may discover they didn’t even know they were doing anything wrong. If you’re unable to confront the driver, why not leave a short note on their windscreen? Just keep it polite and civil. You don’t want to create an issue that escalates beyond the initial parking problem.

Communicate your parking conditions
If you’d prefer a non-confrontational approach, think about the ways you could highlight your parking conditions. This could be simple signage in your car park, stating “Parking for customers only”, or similar. If you have a problem with people using your business briefly and then leaving their vehicle to go elsewhere, why not place a sign inside your premises in a prominent position? For example: “Onsite parking is limited – please do not abuse this provision.” If you have social media channels, or you’re part of an online local community group, you could also use these to remind people of your parking conditions.

Identify the registered keeper
If you have a repeat parking offender and you’re not able to speak to them, the next step is to determine the registered keeper of the vehicle. With this information you will at least be able to contact them formally and outline your concerns. You can request registered keeper details from the DVLA, but in order to do so you must be a member of a trade association (the British Parking Association or International Parking Community, for example).

Partner with a car park management company
If you’re looking for a permanent solution to the problems of unauthorised parking, we recommend working with an accredited car park management company. Typically they will use clever ANPR (Automatic Number Plate Recognition) cameras to capture the registration number of every vehicle that enters your site at any time, day or night. Genuine users can then claim free parking by entering their details, or alternatively pay to park. Anyone who breaches your parking terms will be automatically issued with a PCN (Parking Charge Notice), sent through the post, to deter future misuse. The main benefit of using a car park management company is that they’ll take care of everything – installing the equipment, erecting fully compliant signage and dealing with PCNs – so you can get on with the job of running your business rather than dealing with parking hassles.

Need a helping hand?

Creative Car Park is the UK’s leading car park management company for small-to-medium businesses, and we currently manage more than 1,800 car parks for businesses just like yours. We help them and now we want to help you.

If you would like more information about our ANPR parking management system and how it can permanently solve unauthorised parking problems, click here and leave your details and one of our regional managers will be in touch.