Parking on private land is based on contract, rather than they being any sort of law as is used on public property. This has several interesting implications one of which is related to what the signs say.
Firstly, let’s consider how contracts are made in private parking situations. The idea is that the land owner erects signage around the car park that states the terms and conditions. Typically these state things like charges, the rules. and ‘penalty’ charges for breaching the rules. It is usually accepted that by parking your car you accept the contract and you are therefore bound by it.
In law a contract has three parts – an offer, acceptance, and consideration. All three must be present for the contract to be binding. Applying that to the parking scenario, the offer is that displayed on the signage, the acceptance is the act of parking by the driver, and the consideration (the thing of value) is the parking itself.
Interestingly, an oddity occurs if the signage does not make an offer. For example a sign could state ‘No unauthorised parking’ and then go on to state a ‘penalty’ charge of £100 for failing to follow the rules. In plain English this makes sense – “don’t park here or I will ‘fine’ you £100”.
However, this does not make sense as a contract since there is arguably no offer capable of acceptance. If there is no offer, then there is no binding contract, and the rules of the contract for charges cannot be enforced.
Of course this could be avoided by re-wording the signage, but there are many instances where the contract forbids the driver of parking. As such, if you receive a parking charge you should review the signage and potentially include this in your defence.
This argument was upheld in the UK Parking Control Ltd Vs Masterson case in May 2016. The judgement is attached.