Nuisance Parking

Phillip Byers-Nolan, Paralegal in our Litigation team, recently reviewed nuisance parking and recent debates being held in the parliament of Jersey.

In my role at BW Legal, I work for clients in the private parking sector who are continually challenged and faced with threats of being “exposed” to the media and MPs, for simply providing a paid parking service. This Jersey article is interesting, as it provides food for thought regarding a hugely contentious area of the law – the rights of private landowners.

The law surrounding parking on private land is the subject of constant scrutiny, from ministers and motorists alike. This area of debate is no different and focusses on “nuisance parking” and the removal of vehicles parked on private land.

Ministers in Jersey are due to debate a draft law in November which could see such parking become a thing of the past, with their Minister for Home Affairs stating that:

“The introduction of this law will make it easier for private landowners to deal with vehicles that have been abandoned on their land or that are causing a nuisance, obstruction, or potential hazard to the emergency services.”

This confident statement makes a bold promise, however on reading the draft law, the one question immediately jumps out: what is “nuisance parking”? Under the draft Motor Vehicles (Removal from Private Land) (Jersey) Law, if passed as it stands, this would continue to have no definition.

What the draft law does provide for, however, is a clear infrastructure for those landowners who feel that the way in which a vehicle has been parked is a “nuisance” or “persistent nuisance”. Landowners would be able to obtain the registered keeper’s details, and ultimately take steps to obtain a Court order directing the desisting of nuisance behaviour and/or removal of the vehicle from their land.

In its simplest form, this seems to be giving power to the people by providing a recourse for aggrieved landowners. The ambiguity of the term “nuisance” however raises concerns from my standpoint and could potentially be open to abuse, as it is entirely subjective. Personally, I am often unable to park in front of my own house – a nuisance to me – but would this be deemed as behaviour which is a “persistent nuisance” to a Court? Arguably, the answer is no, and there would need to be a clear distinction between behaviour that caused nuisance and an inconvenience.

The draft law does not just intend to deal with nuisance parking for homeowners though. In an overhaul, that would be entirely relevant to private parking operators, the draft law also makes provision for the removal of vehicles from private land where signage is displayed.

If the draft law is put into effect in its current form, a private landowner would be permitted to immediately move or remove a vehicle that is not authorised to be on that land – all at the expense of the vehicle owner.

Given the misguided belief to “ignore private parking companies”, I would class this as a welcome change to the law, and certainly lay to rest any fallacies regarding private parking companies having no authority. Undoubtedly, if a possible consequence of failing to adhere to the terms and conditions of parking would be having your vehicle removed, at your expense, it would provide an even greater deterrent than the risk of a financial consequence.

As this is only being debated in Jersey at the moment, there is no definitive answer whether this will even come into effect in Jersey, or whether our Government would actually adopt the same approach. If this does come into effect, un-amended, it will certainly be interesting to watch the effect it has, and whether unauthorised parking reduces due to the greater powers available.

Unlike the Protection of Freedoms Act 2012, I think that this draft law strikes an even balance between the rights of motorists and private landowners. The Protection of Freedoms Act 2012 went some way to protecting the interests of both motorists and private parking companies, but was not exactly the comprehensive legislation that the parking world needed.

The principles behind parking on private land – be it a home owner or a private company – are the same. Nobody wants a vehicle obstructing their property without consent, so why should a motorist be allowed to park at a car park without the landowner’s consent? The answer is simple – they shouldn’t unless there is an agreement with the landowner or parking operator, set out in displayed terms and conditions to pay. And it’s great to see that Jersey are recognising the importance of private landowners being able to manage parking on their land – let’s hope that our Government take heed.

The draft Motor Vehicles (Removal From Private Land) (Jersey) Law can be found at this link https://statesassembly.gov.je/AssemblyPropositions/2018/P.112-2018%20with%20landscape%20flowchart.pdf

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