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How to appeal a parking ticket and win

If there's anything more annoying than getting a parking ticket, it's getting one unfairly. Read on to find out how and when you can appeal against your fine.

parked cars in parking lot and a parking ticket

Credit: Scorsby, omzeal images - Shutterstock

There are a lot of aspects of driving which can be expensive, but parking fines are a cost we all want to avoid. Restricted parking does have its benefits, but people have been known to receive parking fines unfairly.

In these situations, you should always try to appeal a parking ticket. The success rate of appeals can vary massively depending on your local council, but if you think you have a strong case, it's well worth a shot.

Our guide will show you how.

This is a guide to appealing unfair parking fines. If you've stopped at the entrance to a fire station or parked in the middle of a red line without mitigating circumstances, we're afraid you need to pay up.

6 easy steps to appealing a parking ticket

Here's how to successfully appeal against a parking ticket:

  1. Find out what type of parking ticket you have

    parking tickets on windscreen

    The first stage of appealing your ticket is working out whether it's from official organisations, like your local council, or from private companies. Appealing against an official ticket and appealing against a private ticket involve different processes.

    This guide is for appealing official tickets.

    Private tickets can look almost identical to official tickets at first glance. Both look pretty much exactly like the photo above, but with one crucial difference: the wording on them. If your parking ticket is called any of the following, it's likely to be an official fine:

    • Penalty Charge Notice
    • Fixed Penalty Notice
    • Excess Charge Notice.

    Official tickets should also have the name of the issuing body on them, like the council or the police. If the ticket doesn't have this info and it doesn't match the exact wording of any of the above names, it's probably a private ticket.

  2. Consider the reasons you CAN appeal tickets

    Before appealing a parking ticket, make sure you have a valid reason to do so.

    Legitimate reasons to appeal a parking ticket

    • You were parking legally, including the 10-minute grace period after your ticket expired.
    • The parking signs were wrong or unclear.
    • You were overcharged. The exact costs should be available on your local council's website.
    • You've already paid the parking fine. If you paid the fine within the specified time frame, they shouldn't increase the charge. If they do, find evidence to show that you tried to pay on time (e.g. bank statements or chequebooks).
    • You didn't own the vehicle at the time (or it was stolen, so someone else had illegally parked it).
    • Traffic rules weren't properly implemented. When a new restriction is enforced, the council must follow the correct procedures or the Traffic Regulation Order (or Traffic Management Orders within London). Contact your council for more info or use the Traffic Penalty Tribunal search tool if you live outside of London.
    • The council incorrectly claimed that the warden was unable to give you a ticket at the time, and sent you one in the post.
    • The council made a mistake on the ticket or letter. See below what info's needed on your parking ticket.
    • Mitigating circumstances. While it's not guaranteed your mitigating circumstances will be enough to win an appeal, it's worth trying if there was a genuine exceptional circumstance that led you to park illegally. For example, if you took someone to the hospital in an emergency.
  3. Understand the reasons you CAN'T appeal parking tickets

    It's also important to know under what circumstances you can't appeal a parking ticket.

    Reasons you can't use to appeal tickets after parking illegally

    • There was nowhere else to park.
    • You only parked there for a few minutes.
    • You were going to get change to put in the meter. But note that if you were on the way to pay for the parking, you can appeal, but not if you were just off to get change – annoying, we know.
    • You disagree with the parking rules.

    Also remember that if you pay the parking fine before your appeal is rejected, you're essentially admitting guilt, so you will no longer be able to successfully appeal.

    Unable to make an appeal but struggling to afford the parking fine? Check out our guide to making money quickly.
  4. Decide if it's worth making an appeal

    couple calculating bills

    If you're thinking about appealing a parking ticket, you need to consider how unfair you feel the ticket is, and how strong a case you think you have.

    It is worth your time to do a bit of a cost-benefit analysis on the appeal. While you could end up not having to pay a penny, you could also miss out on the reduced fine that's on offer if you pay up within 14 days.

    If you're unsuccessful in making an informal appeal, you'll often still be able to pay at the reduced rate. As long as you're sure that you'll still be able to pay the discounted parking fine (check with your council if you're unsure!), it's worth making an informal appeal if you reckon the ticket was unfair.

    However, as soon as you decide to make a formal appeal, you're in the all-or-nothing territory – either you win the appeal, or you pay the full fine.

    Should you take it to the independent adjudicator and still fail, the consequences are no worse than failing at the formal appeal stage – you simply pay the full penalty.

    In many ways, if you submit a formal appeal and fail, then you may as well take it to the adjudicator since there's nothing more to lose (other than a bit of your time, of course).

  5. Find evidence to back up your claim

    Technically you don't need anything to appeal your penalty. But, if you want a strong case, you should have evidence.

    Photographs will be useful as, even if there's CCTV, it's unlikely to provide as clear an image (or from as many angles) as you can get using your phone. Take some pics that prove you've parked within the lines, that the signing was unclear, or even just to prove that you had bought a ticket.

    It'll also really helpful to get some witness statements to back you up. See if you can get anyone present at the time to give you their contact details. That way they can support your claim that you were parked legally, or confirm your excuse is a perfectly valid one.

    Keep a record of all conversations you have with people regarding the case.

    And, collect any other evidence you can. Whether it's a doctor's note confirming that you were taking someone to the hospital in an emergency, or a receipt from your recovery company to prove that your car had broken down. All these things can help your case.

  6. Make the right type of appeal

    When disputing a parking ticket, there are three types of appeal you could make: an informal one, a formal one and one to an independent adjudicator.

    How to make an informal appeal

    This stage only applies if you've had a PCN (Penalty Charge Notice) popped onto your windscreen. If your ticket has been issued by post, you'll need to jump to the formal stage.

    The reason these are known as 'informal appeals' is that there isn't really a set structure to how it should be done. You pretty much just need to get in touch with the local authority to explain your appeal, including your addressvehicle registration number and ticket number.

    On the back of your ticket, there should be details of where to send your appeal (usually a postal address, email address and even a fax number). Some councils also have an online form for informal appeals, so check their website.

    In case your informal appeal is unsuccessful (and you decide not to take it any further), you should try to submit it within 14 days. This is the time frame in which the reduced fine is applicable, and should your appeal fail, most councils will still let you pay the lower amount.

    If you've got evidence to support your argument, include it in your appeal – otherwise, your potentially strong case could fall at the first hurdle.

    How to make a formal appeal

    woman using a laptop

    Anyone whose ticket was issued by post, or anyone whose informal appeal failed, will need to submit a formal appeal if they want their penalty overturned. If you fit either of these descriptions, you should have been issued with a Notice to Owner (NTO) (and if it didn't contain all of the key info, you can appeal).

    Although your NTO will demand that you pay the full parking fine, it will also include a form that you can use to submit a formal appeal. All you need to do is fill out each section on the form and you're golden.

    If you're worried that the box to explain your grounds for appeal isn't quite big enough, you're perfectly entitled to attach a separate letter that outlines your points.

    Even if you submitted all your evidence at the informal stage, you should send it all again with your formal appeal. Councils are big organisations and there's no guarantee that the same person will deal with each of your appeals, so it's better to make sure they have all the information they need.

    Submit your formal appeal as quickly as possible. Get it in within 14 days, and you'll hopefully have the opportunity to pay the lower penalty.

    The council has a rather lengthy 56-day window to respond to your formal appeal. If they miss the deadline, you win by default! But we wouldn't bank on this happening.

    How to appeal to the independent adjudicator

    Have you been unsuccessful with a formal appeal, but still feel that you've got a case to argue? Time to take it to the independent adjudicator, who is appointed by the government – not the council.

    When a formal appeal fails, you'll be sent a Notice of Rejection of Representations letter, as well as a form called a Notice of Appeal.

    You'll need to fill out this form, attaching all your evidence (the adjudicator won't have seen any of your previous appeals), and you can still write a separate letter if the form doesn't give you enough space to explain your appeal.

    Although you have the option of a personal hearing to fight your corner, you can just as easily complete the process by phone, email or post.

    Unlike a court hearing, appealing to the independent adjudicator is also free. The only exception is if you've made a ridiculous appeal (e.g. you claimed you parked on a double yellow for an emergency, but the CCTV shows you sat in your car eating a Big Mac), you'll likely be made to pay the council's legal costs.

    If your formal appeal has failed, you have nothing to lose by taking it to the independent adjudicator. The worst that can happen is that you'll have to pay the full fine, which would still be the case even if you chose not to take your appeal any further.

Did you know you can rent out your driveway and even lend your car to earn yourself a tidy profit for doing absolutely nothing?

What should be included in a parking ticket notice?

man with sunglasses driving car

Credit: Velimir Isaevich – Shutterstock

As we mentioned earlier, if the council failed to include all the necessary information on the ticket or Notice to Owner letter, or supplied some incorrect details, you can appeal. A Notice to Owner letter will only be issued if your informal appeal fails.

Information needed on a Notice to Owner letter

A Notice to Owner letter must be sent within six months of the ticket being issued, and needs to include:

  • The name of the authority enforcing the ticket.
  • The date of the notice (the date on which the letter was posted), as well as the date on which the alleged offence was committed.
  • The amount of the fine.
  • The reason for issuing the ticket.
  • A note that the parking fine must be paid within 28 days, and that if it isn't, the amount can be increased. The letter must also specify how much it will increase to.
  • Confirmation that you can appeal, as well as how to do so.
  • A note to say that, if your formal appeal fails, you can take it to the adjudicator.

Information needed on a posted parking ticket

Posted parking tickets must be sent within 28 days of the alleged offence (or six months if the council asks the government for information on the vehicle or owner, but doesn't get it within 28 days). They must include the following information:

  • The name of the authority enforcing the ticket.
  • The date of the notice (the date on which it was posted), as well as the date and time of the alleged offence.
  • The vehicle registration (number plate).
  • The reason for issuing the ticket, plus why the ticket was issued by post (often because you've been caught by CCTV evidence, rather than anyone present at the time).
  • The amount of the fine, and how to pay it.
  • A note that the fine must be paid within 28 days, and that if it isn't (and no appeal is made), the amount can be increased. The letter must also specify how much it will increase to.
  • Confirmation that the parking fine will be reduced if you pay it within 14 days (21 days if it was issued as a result of CCTV evidence).
  • Information on how you can appeal within 28 days (including the details of where to send your appeal to), and the grounds for making an appeal.
  • A note to say that, if your formal appeal fails, you can take it to the adjudicator.
We've done our best to make sure this article is as accurate, informative and useful as possible, but we are not legal experts. If you decide to appeal against a parking ticket, you do so at your own risk. We can't accept any responsibility or liability if you incur any damages or loss.

Our guide to complaining and getting results can help with your appeal.

Tom Allingham

WRITTEN BY Tom Allingham

Tom joined Save the Student in 2017, initially heading up the editorial team before becoming Communications Director. He has appeared as a Student Finance expert on a range of TV and radio stations including the BBC, ITV and Sky, sharing his top tips for saving money and cutting student bills.
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