Dear Parking Ticket Geek,
Last Friday I paid for parking in an uncovered lot managed by LAZ Parking at the corner of Weed Street and North Fremont Street from 7:55 p.m. until 4 a.m. The machine asked me to type the last three characters of my license plate.
When the receipt printed, it did not have any written explanation of where to place it. In fact, it didn't even say to display it, and neither did the machine that printed the ticket. I assumed this must be why I had to key in my last three characters of my plate.
So I simply put the receipt in my wallet and headed off.
How wrong I was!
When I returned to the lot before 4 a.m., I found a ticket for $50. I contested this ticket with an email that included a photo of both my ticket and the receipt. They responded to my email in legalese saying I still have to pay the parking ticket, but they'll reduce it to $30.
Am I really liable?
After looking into this, I was as surprised as you were to find that private companies that operate parking garages or lots in Chicago are issuing so-called "parking tickets."
Of course, these are not the same as parking tickets issued by the City of Chicago and do not carry the same weight, legitimacy or potential danger as the ones the city writes.
Mika Stambaugh, spokeswoman for the Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection, said parking companies can issue these "parking tickets" as long as they post signs outlining company policies, rules and fees.
"These signs need to be posted in a conspicuous area, such as the point of entry or payment, to avoid deceptive charging," Stambaugh said.
At the LAZ parking lot you parked at, I was able to locate a small sign, approximately 1-foot-by-2-feet, on the side of the pay box that does list "No receipt on dashboard" as a $50 violation. There was also a large sign above the paybox that instructed drivers to place their receipt on the dash.
But it would seem like a bad business model to anger paying customers by trying to muscle another 50 bucks out of them after they make the simple mistake of not placing the receipt on their dashboard, right?
So not surprisingly, after making numerous attempts to contact LAZ Parking and Parking Revenue Recovery Services Inc., (the collection company LAZ uses to try get drivers to pay these "tickets") by phone and e-mail, no one wanted to talk to us about your situation.
But here's the good news.
I don't believe you or other motorists should ever pay these alleged "parking tickets."
According to Stambaugh, even though these parking lot owners can set their own rules and fees, there's nothing in Chicago's municipal code that specifically addresses whether these companies can issue these "tickets" or whether they are legally valid.
"There is no specific section in the municipal code that specifically addresses private tickets issued by parking companies on private lots," Stambaugh said.
Plus, there's no way, outside of the scare tactics of a "ticket" or a strongly worded letter or e-mail for a company like LAZ Parking to force you to pay.
What are they going to do? Spend hundreds if not thousands of dollars to hire an attorney to file a lawsuit against you over $50? I think not.
If you really want to play hardball, Stambaugh said, if you or other drivers feel a parking company is engaged in illegal activity, you should call 311 to report it and the city will open an investigation. Perhaps the threat of filing a complaint with the city will convince the company to back off and dismiss the "ticket."
Stambaugh points to a similar situation with another parking company that was just recently resolved by her department.
"The City of Chicago recently settled with a ABM Parking for $45,000 after investigating a deceptive parking-ticket scheme, which goes to show how important it is to report any potential fraudulent business practices, because [the department] will investigate," Stambaugh said.
So, at the very least, ignore this alleged "ticket" and in the future make sure you display your receipt on the dashboard or avoid patronizing parking lots or garages that employ these type of tactics.
The Parking Ticket Geek
We have been able to park our Toyota Tundra in East Rogers Park for many years with RV plates and a cap on the truck.
Today I got a ticket.
According to the ticket, RVs longer than 22 feet are not allowed to park on the street.
How can I fight this?
This should be a really easy ticket to beat, Nina.
According to Toyota Tundra specs, these trucks range from 17 to 19 feet in length, depending on the year.
Bring a printout of the specs, including the length, to the hearing, and tell the judge that your vehicle is less than 22 feet and therefore did not violate the law and therefore the ticket should be dismissed immediately.
Got a parking ticket question for The Parking Ticket Geek, email your query to: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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