What happens if you don’t pay your parking tickets?

Saturday, February 28th, 2009

Chad Skelton

Most people who get a parking ticket in Vancouver — 73 per cent, in fact — pay it, usually early to take advantage of the lower fine.

Others decide to fight their tickets in court, convinced either that they’re not guilty or that they have the perfect excuse that will get them off.

But every year, thousands of people decide to take another approach to their parking tickets: Ignoring them.

In fact, about 75,000 Vancouver parking tickets a year — one in every five — are unpaid.

So what happens if you don’t pay your parking ticket?

The city has a few options at its disposal.

If you don’t pay your ticket — or arrange to dispute it in court — the city will eventually send someone out to hand-deliver you a court summons.

If you then don’t show up in court, it’s technically possible that a warrant could be issued for your arrest.

More likely, however, is that the judicial justice of the peace will hold the trial in your absence, usually resulting in a guilty verdict.

The city will then send you a demand letter, warning you of legal action if you don’t pay your fine. This letter alone is enough to make nearly half of people pay up.

If you still won’t pay, however, the city files a case in small-claims court, which can affect your credit rating and lead to things like having your assets seized or your paycheque garnisheed.

When it comes to legal action, the city said repeat offenders are its first priority. But it said it also goes after people for only a few unpaid tickets, or bundles together a number of unpaid fines into a single legal action.

By the time all these measures are taken, the city gets paid in about 70 per cent of cases.

According to the city, one of the worst cases of unpaid fines involved a resident with 223 tickets totalling more than $16,000 in unpaid fines.

After going to small-claims court, the city eventually garnisheed his wages and seized his vehicle, eventually recouping 100 per cent of the fines owing, plus interest and court costs.

In addition to legal action, the city has one other weapon it can use against scofflaws: towing.

The city can’t tow your car away for simply not paying your tickets.

But parking officers have the discretion to order a tow for any violation they wish.

And if you’ve got a ton of unpaid tickets — something the officers know as soon as they punch your plate into their hand-held computers — chances are you’re getting towed away.

That means $59 to get your car out of the impound lot and, if you’ve been avoiding getting served with your court summons, parking enforcement now knows where to find you.

One enforcement weapon the city doesn’t have at its disposal is the Insurance Corp. of B.C.

Unlike speeding tickets, which ICBC makes you deal with before getting your licence renewed, you can renew your licence no matter how many unpaid parking tickets you have.

Last year, Vancouver‘s Civil City report recommended ICBC start enforcing municipal bylaw fines as well.

However, ICBC poured cold water on the idea, saying it had no interest in becoming the city’s collection agency.

Despite the number of unpaid tickets on the books, the city still rakes in a healthy $12 million a year from parking ticket revenue, about twice the $6 million it spends on parking enforcement.

© Copyright (c) The Vancouver Sun

One Response to “What happens if you don’t pay your parking tickets?”

  1. Greg Woods says:

    People need to stand up and ignore stupid laws. I parked my car and paid the machine but still god a parking ticket because the cap was blue and that means it’s for handicaps. There was no clear sign stating that this was a handicap parking. The government just steals from the people.