New to Off Street Enforcement
I run a small private parking operation and have added a new parking lot as our first enforcement location. Do you have any recommendations for someone new to the enforcement portion of the parking operator business?
Eager in New England
Welcome to the enforcement world! I think you will find it is slightly different than operating parking garages, but still quite profitable. While the topic of parking enforcement is broad, I will pass along a few points that might not be as obvious as others as you learn the business.
First is the importance of correct enforcement signage. Similar to the need to communicate parker rights and limitations in a gated garage (often printed on the back of the parking ticket), legal information needs to be included on signs placed clearly on your lot, which forms the terms and conditions of their use of your parking location.
Place signs near payment locations and other visible areas of the lot. Along with any needed local and state rules (you should consult with a lawyer with parking experience for the text of this entire sign), these signs should state that the lot is a private, paid parking location. Clearly list the maximum amount due if they choose not to pay for parking, any limitations of liability, and your ability to immobilize or tow a vehicle from your location.
Print this text large enough for the parker to read it easily. The goal here is to ensure the parker sees the sign (or should have seen it) and that they have the opportunity to leave the lot if they disagree with the stipulations.
Next, find a partner that can do vehicle owner lookup for private operators and mail out letters to those who receive a parking notice and choose not to pay or dispute (appeal) the violation after a set amount of time (generally, at least five days.)
These letters will increase your notice payment rates. When combined with responsible collection and scofflaw (parkers who have an excessive number of unpaid notices) practices, the notice payment rates should stay at quite acceptable levels. However, it is critical to use a registered owner lookup service set up to obtain vehicle owner data for privately issued notices.
In most cases, you cannot legally get owner information in the same manner (or price) as governmental entities.
Finally, focus on the layout and text of the printed notice placed on the vehicle (it should be configurable). Ensure the design and wording do not look similar to the local city or county parking tickets.
You do not want to be accused of leading parkers to assume you are giving them government-issued tickets. Avoid using “citation” or “infraction” on your ticket and instead, use “notice” or “violation.”
Give parkers a straightforward way to pay for or dispute the notice and indicate how they can contact you. Additional legal terms and information are often printed on the back of the notice paper, but can be added to the bottom of the notice.
Overall, remember, your goal should be initial payment compliance and not look to parking violations as your primary source of revenue. Make it as easy as you can for people to pay, and then you have more ability to go after those who choose not to pay.
Good luck on your new enforcement adventure! Thanks for the question.
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