What are your rights parking in a private parking lot?
OKLAHOMA CITY (KOKH) —
Oklahoma City's entertainment areas are growing, but finding a place to park can sometimes be a challenge. There are private lots and now private parking on public streets. Along with those private parking options come private companies writing tickets to people who don't pay.
On any given evening you're likely to find a crowd at Fassler Hall, one of the newer additions to Midtown, but while you have to take a public street to get there the parking along that public street is private.
“It is an uncommon situation,” said Kristy Yager, Oklahoma City’s public information officer. “But it is a situation where our public works department worked with the developer we knew that there was a lack of park and he really wanted to rectify that problem.”
The developers, Midtown Renaissance, needed parking in order to guarantee financing of the development project. The city gave them control over the right-of-way of the public street for parking.
There are signs warning customers to pay at the meter, however the meters are only monitored after 3:00 in the afternoon, unlike city meters which are not monitored in the evenings.
For drivers who don't display a sticker, there's a neon envelope awaiting their return. The initial fine is $25, which goes up to $75 if it is not paid right away. The ticket includes a warning that the violator could end up in court if the ticket is not paid.
“If you get a ticket from a private entity it will not show up in our court system,” Yager told FOX 25. “I'm not saying you shouldn't pay that ticket, but it is not going to be in our court system.”
Not paying a private parking ticket could be a civil action and end up in court. However someone would have to pay at least $58 dollars just to file the civil case.
The ticket also warns your vehicle could be impounded for failure to pay.
State law does allow for private property owners to have vehicles towed, however Oklahoma City ordinances say to get a vehicle towed a complaint must first be filed with police.
The city has taken measures to reign in private parking operators in recent years. The city banned private parking operators from putting a “boot” on cars to immobilize them in order to force payment.
We tried to contact Nationwide Parking, the company contracted by the property owners to monitor the spots and issue tickets. Nationwide is headquartered in Tulsa.
When you call the number listed on the Nationwide’s website, the call is answered by American Parking.
We left a message asking about enforcement policies, but were never called back.
Other states have taken more direct efforts at private parking tickets. The California attorney general has ruled private lot operators have no authority to issue tickets.
According to Oklahoma state law, only cities have the power to regulate parking, which would include the ability to issue citations.
However, our state has not made any final legal rulings on private parking tickets.
It is important to consider parking often takes up prime real estate. At Fassler Hall, while the private parking meters are unique to that area, the developer tells us they've given back to customers and the city by paving the entire public street and two blocks away. Midtown Renaissance said they used their own money to redesign public street parking which added many more free spaces.
You could consider paying to park part of the growing pains associated with being part of an ever expanding city.
“I think the days of free parking are long gone downtown and it is disappearing as we move out of downtown,” Yager said.
The Oklahoma City Police Department also says they will not enforce private parking tickets. That means police do not have access to unpaid tickets and you won’t end up in jail for failing to pay a private parking ticket.