Legal guide to UK motoring, sections for law enforcement, Driver licensing, learner and new drivers, buying and selling, speeding fines, owning a vehicle, wheel clamping, traffic information.
Wheel ClampingWhen your car can be clamped or towed away
It is illegal for your car to be clamped or towed away on any land, except in specific circumstances where the law allows it.
Your car could be clamped if it isnít roadworthy, if you havenít paid unpaid taxes,, fines or legal aid costs, or if you repeatedly park where you shouldnít and donít pay council parking tickets.
You canít be clamped just because you spend too long in a car park or park where you shouldnít have.You should only be issued with a parking ticket.
When councils can clamp
The Department for Transport has issued guidelines to local councils about when they should clamp or tow away vehicles. These are called:
Operational Guidance to Local Authorities: Parking Policy and Enforcement Traffic Management Act 2004
You can find these guidelines on the Department for Transport website at www.gov.uk
Where clamping is allowed
The council, police, bailiffs and Government agencies such as the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Authority (DVLA) and Vehicle and Operator Services Agency (VOSA) are allowed to clamp and tow away cars in some situations.This is called clamping with lawful authority. Private companies can carry out the clamping and towing on their behalf.
Councils and the police can clamp cars on roads if you keep breaking parking rules. Or they can tow your car away if itís causing an obstruction, if itís abandoned or part of an unauthorised travel encampment. Councils can also clamp cars on car parks they manage. The police also have the power to clamp cars on private land.
The DLVA can clamp cars without road tax and the Vehicle and Operator Services Agency can clamp and tow cars that arenít roadworthy.
You can also get clamped at railway stations and airport car parks, ports and harbours.
When bailiffs can clamp your car
Bailiffs can clamp your car and then later tow it away if they have a clamping order issued by the magistrates court for an unpaid fine or taxes. They may also clamp if they are acting on behalf of a council that has issued a warrant, if you donít pay a parking charge.
Clamping for not paying legal aid bills
From 30 July 2013, if legal aid fees are deliberately left unpaid, the Legal Aid Agency can apply for a Ďmotor vehicle orderí to get your car clamped. If the fee remains unpaid and youíve been convicted in the Crown Court, a Ďvehicle sale orderí can also be applied for. This gives permission to sell your car, This can only be done if the value of the car is likely to be more than half the money owed.
A collection and enforcement agency will do this work on behalf of the Legal Aid Agency.
If the car displays a disabled personís badge or itís believed that itís used to transport a disabled person, it canít be clamped or sold.
If you keep breaking parking rules in council car parks or on roads
Your car may get clamped if you are seen as having persistently broken parking rules. This happens if you have three unpaid Penalty Charge Notices issued by the council. You may have disputed or appealed against the penalty notice and had your reasons rejected, or not disputed it at all.
Often, someone in this position is not the registered vehicle keeper on the DVLA database or is not properly registered.
The council shouldnít treat you as persistently breaking the parking rules unless bailiffs have tried to recover the unpaid penalty notices and failed.
If the council wants to clamp or tow away a car, they should issue a Penalty Charge Notice first. They should only clamp or tow away once theyíve made sure you are someone whoís persistently broken the parking rules.
If your car is parked in a marked out parking space, the council must wait at least 15 minutes after issuing the penalty notice, before they clamp or tow away your car.
Getting your car back
If you need to go to a pound to collect your car, make sure you take your car tax or insurance documents, driving licence and proof of purchase to prove itís yours. If your vehicle has been towed away, dial 101 to contact your local police station or, in London, contact TRACE on 0845 206 8602.
Wheel-clamping on private land
Wheel-clampers are banned from clamping vehicles on private land under new legislation in England and Wales But landowners are supported by stronger laws on ticketing, which mean unpaid tickets can be claimed from the keeper of the vehicle, as well as the driver.
If you get a ticket
If you get a ticket on your windscreen or through the post, and you think that it is unfair, for example, you had a good reason for staying over the time you had paid for, then you should contact the parking operator, giving your reasons and asking them to withdraw the ticket. You could also approach the private company with an interest in the car park, for example, the supermarket whose car park you had parked in, and ask them to withdraw the ticket.
If you get a ticket and you donít think you should have to pay, you can decide not to pay and not to reply to the parking operator. It is possible that the parking operator will take enforcement action in order to recover the charge although in practice a threat of this nature may not be followed through as the amount of money being demanded is usually quite small. A parking operator has no power to recover a parking charge without first taking court action. The company may continue to send requests to pay and you can continue to ignore these unless they decide to take you to the small claims court. If the parking operator does take you to court, you may be able to defend the action, for example, on the grounds that you did not park in breach of the parking rules and/or that the fee being demanded is unreasonably high.
If the company keeps contacting you, you can ask them to stop harassing you. If the company behaves badly, you can also report to this to the landowner or to the British Parking Association if the company is a member.
If the company is a member of the British Parking Association, their procedures can be followed to complain against the parking ticket. Any member of the BPA should wait 28 days before sending a final demand.
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