Dear PoPville – I got a $250 ticket and tow sticker for parking next to my own apt building


Photo by PoPville flickr user Sanjay Suchak

Dear PoPville,

I live on the 800 block of Rock Creek Church Rd NW, near the Petworth metro. It’s a small 3 story building with a patch of gravel along the side big enough for a few cars to park there. Along the side of the building there are signs that say “no parking, private property, violators towed.” My boyfriend, who lives with me, has been parking his car out there for months because we got the approval of one of our neighbors who is also the “groundskeeper” so to speak. She takes care of the building – cleans it, keeps it in order, etc.

When I came home from work today, she left a note on my door saying that the landlord came by and said we couldn’t park there unless we paid a fee (first time hearing about this fee). I looked out the window and my boyfriend’s car and not only a huge tow sticker on the window but also a $250 ticket!! The violation states: P344 Veh Pri/Pub Prop w/o Consent – but we got consent from our unofficial building manager.

One thing I don’t get is that our landlord came to our place this morning (11am) to leave this note, but did not call either me nor my boyfriend to warn us. Instead he must have called in the car to the police because by the time I got home from work (2pm) the sticker and ticket was already on the car. Is this allowed??

Do we need official consent or is word of mouth from the building keeper enough? Shouldn’t the landlord have called us first instead of reporting our car? In addition, there were three cars out there – one only got a tow sticker and no ticket, and the other car didn’t get anything!! Is this personal?? We’ve been great tenants, I don’t understand. Thanks for any input/advice you have to offer.

50 Comment

  • Talk to the landlord – not the groundskeeper- and find out how much he is charging for the parking space. Get it in writing. If you choose to rent a space, get that in writing too, with his signature; make sure the fee, the actual location of the parking spot, and any other details are very clearly detailed in writing. Pay the parking ticket – nothing the landlord can do about that, so pay it before it doubles. You could ask if he’d credit the cost of the ticket to the parking fees, but don’t be surprised if he says ‘no’. Don’t take it personally. Chalk it all up to ‘lesson learned’.

  • Of course it’s allowed. The sign said no parking, that was you warning. An “unofficial” building manager is just that. Would it have be nice for the landlord to call you or give you a written warning? Sure. But he chose not to. I would suggest that you pay the ticket and find another place to park.

    • I completely agree with Stacys. If you want to take your landlord’s actions personally, I might change the last part to “find another place to live.”

      But really? Let it go.

  • Does the landlord know this is your car? Have you spoken to the landlord? And I agree with anonymous, you basically answered your own question. In what universe would word of mouth from someone not officially affiliated with the landlord be enough? You could talk to the landlord and explain the confusion and see if he’ll let you park there from now on, but he’s in no way obligated to.

  • So Carl Spackler gives you permission to park, but you dont have the consent of the landlord (the authorized representative) and you are shocked that you got a ticket? Is that, is that the story?

    If I were you, I would delete this post, pay the fine and never mention the incident in public again lest the judgement rain down upon you. But that’s me…

    • A looper, you know, a caddy, a looper, a jock. So, I tell them I’m a pro jock, and who do you think they give me? The Dalai Lama, himself. Twelfth son of the Lama. The flowing robes, the grace, bald… striking. So, I’m on the first tee with him. I give him the driver. He hauls off and whacks one – big hitter, the Lama – long, into a ten-thousand foot crevasse, right at the base of this glacier. Do you know what the Lama says? Gunga galunga… gunga, gunga-lagunga. So we finish the eighteenth and he’s gonna stiff me. And I say, “Hey, Lama, hey, how about a little something, you know, for the effort, you know.” And he says, “Oh, uh, there won’t be any money, but when you die, on your deathbed, you will receive total consciousness.” So I got that goin’ for me, which is nice.

  • Yeah, this is a tough lesson to learn but if you want to park on private property you need to get official permission from the owner or someone who officially speaks for the owner.

    As for resolving it, rather than writing to a blog you should probably talk to the landlord and explain what happened. I doubt the landlord has any authority to revoke the ticket but at least you can explain yourself so there are no hard feelings; if you’re really lucky then landlord might cut you a break on rent to defray your cost.

    But I agree with Sorry, this sounds like a ‘lesson learned’ moment.

  • Sounds like your landlord is a prick for not giving you a warning. If Groundskeeper Willie fessed up that he gave you permission, then the landlord is even worse.

  • Lest we not forget that the boyfriend (Car owner) is also not on the lease…

    • How do you know this? I assumed he was since he lives there and the landlord is referred to as “our landlord.” It also seems the landlord has contact info for both the OP and the boyfriend.

  • A judge would never believe you unless the unofficial groundskeeper spoke in your favor in court, which I doubt he would do if he wants to keep his job. :-(

  • Not quite sure I get this post. Your landlord has every right to call and get cars illegally parked on his/her property ticketed and towed. I don’t think you are being personally targeted. I imagine your landlord just saw the parked cars and called to get them ticketed without even wondering who owned them or why they were parked there. The fact is, it says no parking and you parked anyway. Be glad you noticed before you got towed!

  • Stinks that you got a ticket, but come on. You gotta CYA.

  • Think of the 250 as paying for 6 months of parking (or however long he parked there for)

    • I agree–$250 for 6 months is a great deal. And if you don’t want to pay for another spot, just register your car in DC and park on the street like the rest of us.

  • Sorry, but your first mistake was taking permissions from the groundskeeper. Suck it up and learn from it – my advice.

  • Some advice:
    - Whenever you are dealing with a landlord get it in writing
    - Unofficial building manager does not equal landlord
    - Wouldn’t assume its “personal” when any number of more probable things could have happened (the other cars weren’t there when the officer was there, the officer got called away before writing the other tickets, etc)
    - The only things your landlord “has” to do is in your lease/tenant laws (if your lease doesn’t say to notify you prior to having your boyfriend’s illegally parked car ticketed, then the landlord doesn’t have to do it) – would it be better if they were nice, of course but sometimes thats not the way it works.

    Also you probably haven’t heard anything about renting those spaces because you haven’t asked the landlord about those spaces.

  • I’m confused– in paragraph 2 you say the unofficial groundskeeper left the note, but in paragraph 3 you say the landlord himself did it. Which one was it?

  • There’s some major pwn4g3 in this thread.

  • seriously what Naive world do you live in?
    …on the flipside, you can prob go to court to argue consent. if the landlord, doesn’t show up you will win.

  • I think you should have been able to park there, but I have the same authority as the “groundskeeper, so to say.” I am afraid you are out of luck.

  • Go to the Landlord, they can write a letter to get you out of the ticket. The DC ticket enforcement works hand in hand with many leasing offices. If the street or section that you parked on is owned by the landlord then you need to square up with them. Chances are they don’t own wherever you are parking, unless its a parking lot or garage though. Contact the landlord and put down the keyboard.

    ~ A landlord

  • The car that didn’t get a ticket may be paying for the spot. My building has a similar area and the people who park in those spots don’t have an official parking sticker (b/c why would you print those up for 2 cars?) but have clearly worked out a deal with the landlord to use those spots.

    Sounds like the landlord called for the ticketing and your neighbor/groundskeeper did you a favor to let you know about it. I’m not sure why you would expect the landlord to give you a courtesy call, how would your landlord even know that was your car?

  • Total Dick move on your landlords part, but yeah of course he’s allowed to do it.

  • If this “unofficial” groundskeeper has ever acted as an agent for the landlord before with permission from the landlord, then you have grounds for getting the ticket deducted from your rent and for fighting the ticket. The landlord cannot use this guy “sometimes” then stick you with fines and tickets when you rely on the word of this guy….

  • You’ll be able to beat this ticket. It is a parking ticket, so you can request a write-in hearing through the Bureau of Traffic Adjudications. You’ll need to write a statement to BTA saying that you were given permission from the groundskeeper, who you reasonably believed had authority to give you this permission. It will help greatly if you get the groundskeeper to write a letter to include in this statement. If you present it as miscommunication between two levels of management on the property you’ll have a good chance of getting it dismissed. Under no circumstances should you say you did anything wrong, or suggest that you didn’t know the rules. Ignorance of the law is not an excuse, and frequently, people get into trouble at BTA because they’ll accidentally admit they broke the law without knowing it was illegal.

    Remember, with a write-in hearing, its your burden to prove you didn’t do anything wrong. Neither the landlord, nor the officer who wrote the ticket, have any input further than what is written on the ticket. With that in mind, also, go over the ticket with a fine-tooth comb and make sure there are no mistakes you could use to ask the ticket be dismissed.

  • Yes, the owner of private property is allowed to call the police and have them ticket and tow a car parked on that private property without permission if there is a sign warning potential parkers that they will be parking on private property and they are subject to being ticketed and towed.

    Yes, believe it or not, “official” consent is better than “unofficial” consent.

    Yes, in a perfect more civil world, the landlord would have given you a heads up before calling the cops on you, especially since he got the scoop on your car from the groundskeeper. But maybe the groundskeeper told him or her that the car had been parking there for months without permission from him or her and he or she decided to teach the owner of the car an expensive lesson. Maybe he or she thought the groundskeeper was “unofficially” renting the space out.

    Yes, it was personal. for whatever reason, the landlord had a problem with your boyfriend’s car, not anyone else’s.

    If the bridge hasn’t been burned with your landlord, ask to rent the space going forward and to get a letter stating that you have permission to park there. Mark the back of the ticket “not guilty”, mail it back to the City, and bring that letter from the landlord with you to the adjudication hearing. There may be some minimum fine you’ll have to pay for the cops coming out there at the landlord’s behest but it will hopefully be much less than $250.

  • Sometimes I think PoP posts these stories just to get a kick out of how we respond (sympathetic? or blame the victim? etc) But he’s probably also doing many people a public service by posting stories of other people who do not understand that unless something is gauranteed by your lease, you are not entitled to it (unless you have something in writing outside of your lease). To answer the OP, unless you have some unstated reason to believe this is personal than no, it’s not personal, it’s about money. I’m going to venture that the people who park in the spots where your boyfriend had been parking in actually pay for privilege, while you did not. I’m not clear where your subsequent confusion lies because the person who is the “unofficial building manager” is clearly not the same person as the owner of the building (or your landlord, if they are not the same person). It’s too bad that the building manager gave you bad/incomplete information, and that your landlord was a jerk and had you towed instead of giving you a warning, but since there’s no way to recoup the $ on the ticket, I would just consider it a lesson learned.

  • I would argue that a legal precedent was set by your landlord. How many “months” has he (our boyfriend) been parking there? If he has been parking there for six months, the landlord can’t just have your car ticketed and towed because the precedent has been set that he was allowed. The landlord needed to contact you directly. Is the landlord from out of town/only stops by every so many months?

    A neighbor doesn’t equal a unofficial building manager. That’s just silly talk.

    • I don’t see that “precedent” is applicable here. If you got caught speeding, would you be able to get away with it on the grounds that you’d been speeding for months and months and had never been busted?

      Private property is private property. The OP is lucky that the car was able to park there for so long without repercussions, but she (?) needs to make any future parking arrangements with the landlord.

      • You’re example about speeding is not even in the same ballpark. Precedent is not set for speeding because 1)people are pulled over every day for speeding 2) there is no agreement or implied agreement between you and the local jurisdiction that it is okay for you to speed. The precedent I am talking about is more about people having a perceived agreement because of lack of enforcement. Specifically contract law. If you don’t enforce a clause in the contract for a year (just an example time period) and then turn around try to enforce the clause out of nowhere, you will have issues because you have set a precedent.

    • Now are you saying this based on a knowledge of the law, or are you saying this based on your notion of how things would be if you were in charge? I’m no lawyer but your argument sounds completely bogus to me.

      • Not sure why this didn’t show up:

        I am speaking more to contract law. Precedent can have different meanings under different types of law. In the end, the lease is a contract. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Precedent

        My point is that the landlord established a precedence of allowing the tenant to park freely. I did condition my statement by asking how long this had been going on. The “several months” she states could be only three (people exaggerate) and would likely not be a precedent.

        If this case went to small claims court, the defendant (tenant) would likely win, again depending on the actual time they were allowed to park and mood of the judge. Especially courts in DC, which tend to be more liberal and pro-small guy.

        My real world opinion is to pay the ticket an move on.

  • JHC, some of you sound like supporters of a retirement community in Florida. Moved down there to pretend it’s not hot, and by all means, ENFORCE THOSE RULES! We’re you RA’s in College? Do you not think before you act, and realize that it won’t kill you to extend someone some common courtesy for a change? DC might be a far better place, if that was the case.

    A $250 ticket AND towing? WTF, how is that even possible? It should be an ‘or’ situation, at worst. Not to mention, apparently there are a number of people in this city that have zero problem just throwing away $250 in “disposable income,” because your Landlord is an asshole. They let it go for 6 months, and then just happened to pop by and all hell broke loose.?

    And good luck to the “ticket adjudicators” out there. Those asshats at the Parking Authority won’t dismiss ANYTHING if they see a way to still get their money. They ticketed me, and wrote the wrong side of the street, which is 100% their fault. Did they dismiss it? Hell no they didn’t.

    If this “groundskeeper” is cleaning the building, it’s probable they have equity in it, and aren’t just doing it out of the kindness of their heart! Ask the Landlord why they aren’t cleaning the building themselves, if this “groundskeeper” has zero authority, isn’t on a payroll, receiving reduced rent in exchange for, etc. If they want to charge you for the space, just less the $250 from it, and call it good. Whether they had the “legal right” to do it or not, it was a dickhead move, and I’d let them know I didn’t appreciate it one bit. They tried to get your car towed AND cost you money, the result of which is now, you are possibly a hostile tenant. You can also look for things around the building that aren’t up to code, and cost your Landlord money, if you wanted to go that route.

    DC has some of the best tenant laws in the country, so the “legality” of certain issues is usually a very grey area. Use that to your advantage and good luck.

    The rest of you, lighten up for a change. How about giving someone the benefit of the doubt just once? It’s not like we’re talking about capital murder.

    • But the landlord never gave them permission to park there, the OP clearly states that only the “unofficial groundskeeper” said it was ok.

    • I say welcome to being a responsible adult. Don’t expect people to cut you slack because you’re too careless or whatever to do the right thing. Doesn’t matter that you don’t think it’s a big deal; to someone else it might be, and it’s you who fails to show courtesy by assuming it’s not.

      As for lightening up, this isn’t a support group or a self-esteem club. If you don’t really want to know what people think, don’t throw it out to a group of strangers on the internet.

      Finally, get off my lawn. And Happy Thanksgiving.

  • I think your last recourse for satisfaction is to research carefully whether your landlord’s gravel patch is actually legal parking. On the slim chance that it isn’t, you could cost him a lot more than $250.

  • What did the sign say? Exactly.

  • I just assume everyone in this town is a lawyer, but I guess not. Having someone, not in writing nor with the capacity to do so, telling you can park somewhere is definitely not a tight legal instrument.

  • welcome to the adult world

    • If the $250 is manageable, the easiest course is to let it go.

      Otherwise, try writing a letter to the landlord, and then follow up by phone.

      “Dear Mr. Landlord,

      “I have been a tenant at your property at [address] for [] years. I understood from talking to a long term resident that it was okay for tenants to park on the gravel alongside the building. Yesterday, my car was towed and stickered, and I received a $250 fine.

      “If residents are not permitted to park there, I will not do so in the future [OR I would like to talk to you about renting the space]. However, $250 is a lot of money, and I would like to contest the ticket since I did think I could park there. Would you be willing to write a short letter for me to send to the DMV Adjudication Services saying that you are the owner of the building, I am a tenant of the building, that there was some confusion that has now been cleared up about where parking is allowed, and asking them to dismiss the ticket? I would very much appreciate it.”

  • You are probably screwed and will have the pay the ticket. Something like this happen to my gf. We had permission from a neighbor that we could use his parking space since he didn’t have a car. A month later we got a $250 ticket and it was supposedly “ordered” by the landlord. The sad thing is there was plenty of parking available and we had never ever received a written or verbal warning.

    • Something like this happens to everyone that owns a car, eventually. I remember the first time I got a ticket for parking in a place where I honestly thought I could. I cried my eyes out over the injustice of having to pay a fine I didn’t deserve. Then I paid the fine and got over it. It’s less stressful to think of it as an unexpected expense that you have no control over and just need to take care of. Don’t obsess over all the things you could be spending the money on if you didn’t have to pay the stupid ticket. Just pay the stupid ticket and put it out of your mind.

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