You parked your car on private property like a mall parking
lot, and have come back to find a ticket under the windshield. It looks
official and carries a big fine.
Don’t panic. Take a close look at the ticket. Was it issued by
the city or a private company? If it’s the latter, the ticket may not be
enforceable or, in some cases, even legal.
Private parking companies often issue their own tickets, but
their legitimacy depends on city bylaws. In some areas, companies are
not officially licensed as a ticketing agency and can do little to
enforce their fines.
In Toronto and Edmonton for example, private companies need city authorization to issue tickets.
They sometimes demand exorbitant amounts in the hundreds of
dollars but “allow” you to pay a token amount like $25 or 10 per cent if
you pay within a few days.
In many cases, these companies have no official right to ticket
you and you may choose to ignore the fine. However, that can still
carry some risks.
The company itself will keep records of your licence plate, and
if you continue to park in its lots without paying previous fines, it
could tow your car. If that happens, you’ll then have to pay the
tickets and towing fines, which can be steep.
Also, lacking other enforcement, private companies will
typically threaten to send your bill to a collection agency, which could
have an adverse effect on your credit score. Canada’s major credit
reporting agencies, Transunion and Equifax, don’t count unpaid tickets
against your credit score, but a referral to a collection agency could
If you’re unsure about the legitimacy of a privately issued
ticket, you can contact your local police to ask. Also, look in to the
company itself; they typically offer an appeal mechanism and you may be
able to get the ticket dropped.