Multiple vehicles were improperly parked in a privately owned parking lot. An opinion was requested of the California Attorney General on whether:
- an owner of a private parking lot can issue parking citations requiring money to be paid by the vehicle owner;
- an owner of a private parking lot can acquire the right to issue citations requiring monetary payment if his citation policy is visibly present on signage or other documentation provided to the driver;
- a third-party who has towed or impounded an improperly parked vehicle in a private parking lot may require payment of the citation levied by the parking lot owner;
- rights and remedies are available to a vehicle owner who has been improperly issued a parking citation demanding payment by the owner of a private parking lot.
The Attorney General concluded:
- an owner of a private parking lot is not authorized to issue parking citations demanding monetary payment from the vehicle owner, as this role is reserved for public employees and no law grants an owner this right;
- an owner of a private parking lot may not acquire the right to collect money from a vehicle owner even if the owner’s citation policy is disclosed, unless the property owner has special statutory authorization, since doing so would violate consumer protection laws;
- a third-party who has towed or impounded a vehicle may not require a person whose vehicle has been towed or impounded to pay a citation issued by the private parking lot owner; the third-party may only charge fees related to towing and impounding the vehicle; and
- a vehicle owner who has been issued a citation demanding monetary payment does not have specific rights or remedies as the citations are uncollectable; however, the vehicle owner may pursue the parking lot owner for losses inflicted by the parking lot owner’s reporting non-payment of the unenforceable parking citation to the credit reporting agencies. [_Ops.Cal.Atty.Gen._(December 22, 2011)]
Editor’s note –While a private property owner is not authorized to impose monetary citations on a vehicle owner who improperly parks on his property, the property owner is authorized to tow the vehicle if signs are posted against parking on the property or if the vehicle has been issued a parking violation notice by an owner of a private parking lot or governmental entity for at least 96 hours.