Skip to main content

Understanding parking penalties

  • By London Councils

This article concerns council-issued parking tickets (penalty charge notices, or PCNs). Different rules apply if you have received a police-issued fixed penalty notice (FPN).

PCNs are usually issued by a Civil Enforcement Officer (CEO) at the scene. They may also be sent to the owner of the vehicle by post, for example if the alleged contravention was observed using CCTV.

Do not ignore PCNs

They may carry extra penalties if not paid or contested promptly. In order to qualify for a discount, payment must be received by the council within 14 days (or 21 days for CCTV PCNs) A payment slip should accompany the PCN – if you wish to pay but have lost the payment slip contact the council.

The PCN will show the alleged contravention, plus the date, time and location. If you feel that it was incorrectly issued, or that there are special circumstances in your case, you should write to the council at the advised address. They may cancel the PCN or turn down your case and inform you of your rights to take the matter further. If you write to the council promptly, they will usually give you another opportunity to pay at the reduced rate if they turn down your case.

If you wish to preserve your right to appeal against the PCN you should not pay the penalty. Paying the penalty will result in the case being closed.

If the PCN was issued on the street by a CEO, and you are not the registered keeper of the vehicle, then the keeper will receive a Notice to Owner (NtO) demanding full payment of the penalty. Postal PCNs are automatically sent to the registered keeper so no NtO needs to be issued.

The CEO-issued PCN

car with ticket on it

Each council issues its own PCNs and all will differ slightly. Any challenges should be made to the council first. All CEO issued PCNs should contain the following information.

  • PCN number – please quote this on all correspondence
  • Vehicle details – please check that the vehicle registration is correct. Information on the vehicle make and model is not mandatory but will usually appear for clarification.
  • Contravention details – this will contain details of the nature of the alleged contravention, the description, the location and the date and time.
  • Full amount and discounted value of the PCN – you must ensure that the council receives payment within 14 days to qualify for the reduced charge.
  • How to pay – when making payment please follow the instructions on the PCN. Please return the payment slip if making payment by post.

The rear of the PCN will indicate how to challenge the alleged contravention and how to make formal representations upon receipt of the NtO (see over).

The Notice to Owner (NtO)

If a PCN that was issued on street by a CEO is not paid within 28 days a Notice to Owner (NtO) is sent to the keeper registered at DVLA (regardless who was driving). It must be served within six months of the issue of the PCN.

The NtO provides you with an opportunity to either pay the outstanding penalty or make formal representations against the issue of the PCN within 28 days.

Representations that are made outside of the 28 days may be disregarded by the council.

Remember that you are responsible. If the NtO is passed to another person and is not paid or challenged then you could be liable to an increased charge and lose the opportunity to appeal.

If you wish to challenge the PCN under one or more of the statutory grounds indicated, or you have any other compelling reasons that mean the PCN should be cancelled, please make representations.

Representations

Having considered your representations the council will either send you a ‘Notice of Acceptance of Formal Representations’ if they agree that you should not pay the penalty, or a ‘Notice of Rejection of Formal Representations’ if they feel that you should pay.

If you receive a ‘Notice of Rejection of Formal Representations’ you must either pay the penalty or appeal to London Tribunals within 28 days using the appeal form provided with the Notice of Rejection. Failure to do either of these things will result in continuing enforcement and additional charges.

Statutory grounds to challenge a PCN or NtO

papers

  • The alleged contravention did not occur - This will include cases where a vehicle was loading and unloading in accordance with a Traffic Management Order (TMO), where a PCN was issued too early by the CEO, or where the vehicle was displaying a valid permit, ticket badge or voucher. If you can you should provide evidence to support your claim, for example if you are claiming that you stopped to unload goods you should send a copy of the delivery note.
  • The recipient was never the owner of the vehicle in question; had ceased to be the owner before the date on which the alleged contravention occurred; or became the owner after that date. - You should submit evidence to support your claim, for example a letter from DVLA. If you are making representations under the second or third circumstances outlined, you are legally obliged to provide the name and address of the person to whom the vehicle was disposed of or acquired from if you have this information.
  • The vehicle had been permitted to remain at rest in the place in question by a person who was in control of the vehicle without consent of the owner. - This covers stolen vehicles and vehicles which have not been stolen but were used without the owner’s consent. If you can you should submit evidence to support your claim, for example a crime reference number or insurance claim.
  • The recipient is a vehicle hire firm and: the vehicle in question was at the time hired from that firm under a vehicle hiring agreement; and the person hiring it had signed a signed a statement of liability acknowledging his liability in respect of any PCN served during the period of the hire agreement. - This only applies to hire companies where the hirer has signed a suitable agreement accepting liability for penalty charges.
  • The penalty charge exceeded the amount applicable in the circumstances of the case. - For example you are being asked to pay the wrong amount; the PCN was not correctly issued; the council believes that you paid less (or later) than you did.
  • There has been a procedural impropriety on the part of the enforcement authority. - This means a failure by the council to observe any requirement imposed on it by the Traffic Management Act 2004, or the relevant regulations made under that act in respect of the civil enforcement of parking contraventions. An example of this would be that the NtO was served out of time.
  • The traffic order (except where it was made under Schedule 9 of the Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984) is invalid. - This applies if the TMO is defective. Details of why you believe that the order is invalid should be provided.
  • The CEO was not prevented from serving the original PCN by affixing it to the windscreen or handing it to the owner or person in charge of the vehicle. - This applies when the council sent the PCN to you by post because it claims the CEO was prevented by someone from issuing at the scene.
  • The NtO should not have been served as the penalty charge had already been paid in full or had been paid within the specified period at the reduced amount. - This means that correct amount of penalty was paid during the prescribed time period before the NtO was issued. Evidence of the payment method, date and amount should be provided.

You may also make representations if there are any other compelling reasons why you believe that you should not pay the penalty charge.

Making a false statement or presenting false evidence to a council or an adjudicator when making a representation or an appeal is a criminal offence carrying a possible fine of up to £5,000.

Your right to appeal

papers

You may only appeal to the London Tribunals - Environment and Traffic Adjudicators after your representations to the council have been rejected.

You are also able to appeal online.

The adjudicators act as a tribunal – their decision is final (subject to an adjudicator’s review) and binding on you and the council. There is no opportunity to challenge your liability to pay the PCN in court.

There is no charge for appealing and the penalty will not increase while your case is considered.

Parking appeals are dealt with in person or by post. Personal hearings take place in Chancery Exchange EC4 and are normally held between 8am and 8pm Monday to Friday, 8:00am and 1:00pm Saturdays. Postal decisions are available if you do not want to attend the hearing.

Make sure you read the council’s rejection letter before submitting your appeal as this will give their reasons for not cancelling the penalty. The main evidence against you is the PCN itself. There may also be CEO notes made at the time as well as photographs. If the council submits new evidence they will send you details before the hearing date.

When submitting your appeal you should send in copies of any supporting evidence even if you are unsure of its relevance – the adjudicator may find it important.

You must appeal within 28 days from receipt of the ‘Notice of Rejection of Formal Representations’ or your appeal may not be considered. If you are submitting a late appeal you will need to explain why, so that the adjudicator can decide whether to accept it.

If you have any questions regarding appealing contact either the Parking and Traffic Appeals Service or the council that issued the PCN. 

The Charge Certificate

form

The council may issue a Charge Certificate 28 days after:

  • a ‘Notice to Owner’ has been served and the council receives no payment or representation
  • representations have been made and rejected and no payment has been received and no appeal has been made
  • an appeal to the adjudicator has been refused and no payment has been made.

The council may issue a Charge Certificate after 14 days where an appeal to the adjudicator has been withdrawn.

The Charge Certificate tells the vehicle owner that the penalty charge has increased by 50 per cent and that action will be taken to recover the amount due through the County Court if it is not paid within 14 days. 

The registration of debt

form

If the penalty charge has not been paid 14 days after the Charge Certificate has been issued, the council may apply to the Traffic Enforcement Centre at Northampton County Court to recover the charge as if it were payable under a county court order. Once this has been registered, the council will send you an Order for Recovery of the unpaid penalty charge and will enclose a Witness Statement form. Court costs, (£8) are added to the outstanding costs at this stage. 

Witness Statement

form

Once the Order for Recovery has been received you will have 21 days to either pay the outstanding amount in full or send a Witness Statement to the Traffic Enforcement Centre detailing why the penalty charge should not be paid, and that the registration of the unpaid penalty charge should be revoked.

The Witness Statement can only be made on the following grounds:

  • you did not receive the NtO in question
  • you made formal representations to the council regarding the penalty charge but did not receive a Notice of Rejection
  • you appealed to the parking adjudicator against the council’s decision to reject your representations but had no response to your appeal
  • you have paid in full the penalty charge to which the order relates. 

Warrant of Execution

form

If you do not pay the penalty charge after the Order for Recovery has been issued, or you have failed to complete the Witness Statement within 21 days, the council may apply to the Traffic Enforcement Centre for authority to prepare a Warrant of Execution. This authorises the council to recover unpaid parking penalties using bailiffs.

  • when making payment please follow the instructions on the PCN. Please return the payment slip if making payment by post.
  • The rear of the PCN will indicate how to challenge the alleged contravention and how to make formal representations upon receipt of the NtO (see over).
  • you must ensure that the council receives payment within 14 days to qualify for the reduced charge.
  • this will contain details of the nature of the alleged contravention, the description, the location and the date and time.
  • please check that the vehicle registration is correct. Vehicle make and tax disc information is not mandatory but will usually appear for clarification.
  • please quote this on all correspondence