How to appeal a parking ticket
If there's anything more annoying than getting a parking ticket, it's getting one unfairly. Read our guide to find out how and when you can appeal against your fine.
Generally speaking, restricted parking is beneficial to the majority of the public. It may not always seem to be the case, but without it, traffic would move slower, streets would be blocked, and the roads would descend into bedlam within days.
That said, it's not unheard of for people to be unfairly fined for what was perceived to be illegal parking. In these situations, you should always try to appeal your ticket. The success rate of appeals varies massively (from less than 10% to over 90%) depending on your local council, but if you think you have a strong case, it's worth a shot.
Ok, let's find out how to fight for justice!
Now, before we get started, we cannot stress enough that this is a guide to appealing unfair parking fines. If you've stopped in the entrance to a fire station, or parked slap-bang in the middle of a red line, then unfortunately you need to pay up. We're not here to help you break the law.
You should also remember that this is only a guide to appealing against tickets handed out by official bodies, like the police or your local council. If you've been given a ticket on private land, the process for appealing is very different!
What’s on this page?
Types of parking fine appeal
There are three stages to the appeal process. We'll go through each one in more detail later, but for the moment just be aware of what they are.
Pretty simple really – the informal appeal is where you'll start the process if you had a Penalty Charge Notice (PCN) put on your windscreen. It is possible that you'll be successful at this stage, but it's far from certain.
If your informal appeal fails, or your ticket has been issued in the post (usually because you've been caught by CCTV), your next option is to submit a formal appeal.
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!
When can you appeal against a parking ticket?
It turns out that there's actually quite a few valid reasons to appeal against a parking ticket. We'll start with the clear official grounds for appeal, as these should give you the best chance of success:
The signs were wrong or unclear
This is one of the most common reasons for wanting to appeal a parking ticket. If the signs weren't clearly displayed, gave confusing information, or were just straight up wrong, you can appeal.
You simply shouldn't have been given a ticket
People make mistakes – that's why they put erasers on pencils. If you've been given a ticket when you shouldn't have (e.g. you were clearly parked outside of the restricted zone, or you had a blue badge showing), you can appeal.
You may also be able to benefit from the 10 minute grace period. In 2015 the law changed to allow you to park for 10 minutes after your ticket expires, so if you were issued a ticket before this time was up, appeal!
You didn't own the vehicle at the time, or it was stolen
If you didn't own the vehicle at the time of the offence, or it was stolen, then you can appeal. On the bright side, if your car was stolen, at least you'll have a good idea of where it is!
You've been overcharged
The cost of a parking ticket will vary depending on where you live and the system being used, but the exact costs should be available on your local authority's website. Double check the amounts, and if you've been overcharged, appeal!
You've already paid the parking fine
If you've paid the fine within the specified time frame, they shouldn't increase the charge. If they do, dig out some evidence to show that you attempted to pay on time (bank statements or cheque books will do just fine).
The traffic rules are wrong, or weren't properly implemented
This one is a little more complicated, but when a new restriction is enforced the council must follow the correct procedures or the Traffic Regulation Order (often known as Traffic Management Orders within London).
Again, details of these can be found by contacting your council, or by using this handy search tool if you live outside of London. TROs are a tough read, so be prepared for a bit of a struggle if you're looking to catch them out.
The council incorrectly claim that the warden was unable to give a ticket
In the words of Beverley Knight – shoulda, woulda, coulda! If a parking warden had the chance to give you a ticket at the time, but didn't, the local authority isn't allowed to send one in the post – even if you were in the wrong!
Just consider yourself lucky that they missed their chance, and don't park illegally again.
The council made a mistake on the ticket or letter
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.
Aside from having to be sent within six months of the ticket being issued, a Notice to Owner letter must 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
- And finally, that if your formal appeal fails, you can take it to the adjudicator.
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), and 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
- 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)
- That you can appeal within 28 days, as well as how to do so (including the details of where to send your appeal to), and the grounds for making an appeal
- And finally, that if your formal appeal fails, you can take it to the adjudicator.
The official grounds for complaint can’t cover every eventuality. Mitigating circumstances applies to any situation that isn’t covered above, but you still feel is a valid excuse for committing the offence.
Note that by using the mitigating circumstances argument, you’re usually admitting that you did park illegally, but that you had a very good reason for doing so. Good examples of mitigating circumstances include:
- One of your family members or close friends has recently passed away
- You were taking somebody to hospital in an emergency
- Your car had broken down
- You were too ill to move your car
- There was an emergency or an obstruction in the road, and you were helping to resolve the situation.
As mitigating circumstances is such a vague term, it’s hard to say whether or not an appeal on these grounds would be successful. Here are some examples that may be less successful, but are still worth a go:
- You’d bought a ticket, but it wasn’t visible to the warden. It’s technically your responsibility to ensure your ticket is displayed clearly, so you may get knocked back on this one!
- It was the first time you’d ever broken the law, did it completely by accident, and are now aware of the rules. Again, this isn’t officially a recognised reason, but if you don’t ask, you don’t get.
When can’t you appeal against a parking ticket?
Despite seeming like perfectly good excuses, there are some arguments that won’t even get you through the door of the complaints office (there isn’t actually an office – it’s a metaphor). If you parked illegally for any of the following reasons, you’re all outta luck:
- 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. NOTE: if you were on the way to pay for the parking, you can appeal, but not if you were just off to get change. Yep. We don’t make the rules, we just report ’em
- You disagree with the parking rules (shock – the “I don’t agree with your law” argument doesn’t get you anywhere).
There are also a couple of things that, should you do them, you’ll essentially be admitting guilt and leaving yourself unable to appeal:
- Paying the fine
- Agreeing that your vehicle was blocking the road or footpath.
Is it worth appealing against a parking ticket?
Unfortunately we can’t really answer this one for you – it’s really down to how unfair you feel the ticket is and how strong a case you think you’ll be able to present.
However, 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 on offer for paying 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 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 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).
What do you need to appeal against a parking ticket?
Technically you don’t need anything, but if you want a strong case, you should have evidence. If you see a parking ticket on your car and have even the tiniest urge to appeal against it, collect as much evidence as you can from the scene. Go full-on CSI (don’t).
Photographs will be massively 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.
Get some snaps that prove you’ve parked within the lines, that the signing was unclear (or not there at all), or even just to prove that you had bought a ticket.
You’ll do yourself a massive favour if you can get some witness statements to back you up.
See if you can get anyone present at the time to give you their contact details so that they can support your claim that you were parking legally, or that your excuse is a perfectly valid one.
All relevant correspondence
This one doesn’t need as much work at the scene of the ‘crime’, but it’s just as important. If you’ve been in touch with anyone regarding the case, keep a record of all conversations.
Any other proof
We trust you. We really do. But if your appeal is based purely on you saying that you’re innocent, you’ll be doing yourself a real disservice.
Anything from a doctor’s note confirming that you were taking someone to hospital in an emergency, to a receipt from your recovery company to prove that your car had broken down – it’ll all help your case.
How to appeal against a parking ticket
Making 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.
Credit: Ashley Coates – Flickr
The reason these are known as ‘informal appeals’ is that there isn’t really a set structure to how you should appeal. You pretty much just need to get in touch with the local authority to explain your appeal, and include the following details:
- Your address
- Your vehicle registration number
- The 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, because apparently this is 1998). Some councils also have an online form for informal appeals, so check their website if you want it made as easy as possible.
Just 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.
Finally, there’s no point in withholding any silver bullets you might have. If you’ve got evidence to support your argument, include it in your formal appeal – otherwise your potentially strong case could fall at the first hurdle.
Making a formal appeal
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. Remember that if you fit either of these descriptions, you should have been issued with a Notice to Owner (NTO).
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.
Just as you should submit an informal appeal ASAP to give yourself a chance of only having to pay the reduced fine, if your ticket was issued by post, you should also appeal quickly. Get it in within 14 days (or 21 if you were caught on CCTV), and you’ll hopefully have the opportunity to pay the lower penalty.
The council has a rather lengthy 56-day window in which it must respond to your formal appeal. Should they miss the deadline, you win by default! But we wouldn’t bank on this happening, unfortunately.
Appealing to the independent adjudicator
As far as we know, these aren’t the same independent adjudicators that stand there all suited-and-booted when the lottery numbers are drawn. Then again, they totally could be. What we do know is that the adjudicator is independent and 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. Clearly local councils haven’t got the memo that the planet is dying and we need to stop using so much paper.
The Notice of Appeal form is very similar to the formal appeal form, in that it gives you a load of boxes and all you need to do is fill it out. However, you should attach 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.
Going to an independent adjudicator sounds scary, but in reality it’s not that different to a formal 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 line for an emergency, but the CCTV footage shows you sat in your car eating a Big Mac), in which case you’ll be made to pay the council’s legal costs.
Oh, and just a final reminder – 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 be the case even if you didn’t take your appeal any further.