Dear PoPville – Where does your moral sense of right and wrong fall on this issue?

by Prince Of Petworth — June 11, 2013 at 1:30 pm 60 Comments

Photo by PoPville flickr user Island_DC

Dear PoPville,

This is an actual situation at our condo building, and the owner of the parking spot has recently asked the board to impose a fine for anyone using the spot. Anyone else who has had this situation at their condo and dealt with it effectively is also welcome to provide input.

Example: A small condo building (6 units) has one parking spot. This spot was purchased by a single owner and is legally deeded to her. She pays and additional monthly condo fee assessment on it and is responsible for the taxes on it annually herself. It is not a common element in any way. In an effort to be a good neighbor, she has made it clear to the other owners that she is open to allowing it to be used short term for unloading groceries or washing a car, etc, IF she is asked about it first to ensure she is not in need of the parking spot at that given time.

Even though this has been made clear to the other unit owners multiple times, there are still those that don’t respect that offer. Many park when they want to without asking, have their cleaning lady or their plumber park in the spot etc. The owner of the spot has many times had to track down the owner of the vehicle and have it moved so she can get into her own spot. There have been times when she had guests on the way over to visit and park in the spot, but when they arrive someone else in the building was already in it.

Where does your moral sense of right and wrong fall on this issue?

Category 1: What’s the big deal? Sure she paid for it., I am not costing her any money by using it from time to time. I am too busy to send a text every time I want to park in that spot, it is empty anyway.

Category 2: Clearly a rude sense of entitlement is being shown by those other owners who park without asking. They should be fined for it just the same as if they were parking illegally on the street.

Category 3: Somewhere in the middle / Can’t we all just get along / Explain

  • anon

    Just sign an agreement with a towing company for the owner to use as she so desires. Isn’t this a “duh?” or am I missing something weird about DC? Alternatively (or in addition to towing), purchase large warning stickers so she can get the satisfaction of watching the illegal users waste 15 mins of their life scraping the thing off their windshield.

    • Anonymous

      I suspect the OP is the owner of the parking spot and posted this because she knew the responses would further validate her point.

      • anon


      • A

        “Category 1” is written in such a way that no one could possibly agree with it. I agree that the OP has to be the owner and is just looking for validation. … Kinda weird, but looks like PoPville has given it to her. I hope she feels better.

      • Anonymous

        But her point IS valid! Yes, it’s kind of a waste of space to post it, and yes she is after personal satisfaction, but not so much more so than many people who post silly obvious questions here. It isn’t even an issue – especially with only 6 units. You simply send everyone a note saying parking is no longer allowed etc. then let the air out of the tires of any car parked there and tow them.

        • molly

          i imagine it’s harder to tow cars after you’ve let the air out of the tires. perhaps just the front tires?

  • StubsDC

    It is her private property and they are trespassing. She has been very generous and is now being taken advantage of. Rather than track them down, she should have them towed. They would get the idea pretty quickly. Then, perhaps only those that follow the rules would be allowed to use the space as she has designated.

    • Tollbooth Willy

      I agree. Either that or a Louisville Slugger to the windshield. All seriousness though, she also has to live in the same condo building as these people.

    • Anonymous

      In order to get a car towed, it has to be ticketed first. It could take hours to have DDOT or MPD to come out just for a ticket and then a tow truck. Happened once to me when some random ahole parked in my driveway. After 45 min of waiting for MPD, they’d already left.

      • epric002

        DDOT or MPD have to ticket on private property? i am admittedly not familiar with the DC laws on this, but in most other jurisdictions if you park on private property the owner of the spot can call and get you towed.

    • ah

      +1. OP appears to have been generous with her condo-mates. They have abused her generosity. This is why they should not get nice things.

  • Duponter

    She should have the towed each and every time this happens. Then the problem will stop. This isn’t a moral issue. She owns the spot. They have zero right to use it without her permission.

  • Anonymous

    The other people are really entitled, especially if all it takes is a simple text message to confirm with her.

    I think the best solution to this is to send another message to the owners and state that going forward all individuals who do not notify her ahead of time will have their car towed. No warnings and the violating car owner will be liable for the towing fees. Private towing companies are more than happy to get there quickly in order to make some easy money.

    Good luck getting “penalty” fees out of people. They’ll fight tooth and nail and it will create a bitter atmosphere among the owners.

  • Anonymous

    Exactly. I really don’t get how this is a moral issue. She owns the spot and they have no right to use it. If someone opened my driveway gate and parked their car in my backyard, you better believe they’d be towed. Just because her parking spot isn’t fenced in doesn’t make it any less hers.

  • anon

    Category 2. no question about it. she has gone out of her way to provide a neighborly gesture… don’t abuse that. Those that do are being the bad neighbor.

  • Anonymous

    Is this even a question? It doesn’t sound like she’s being a nutcase about it, from the description – in fact, the poster makes it sound like the owner has taken a lot of crap for a long time. What don’t other people understand about a private parking space?

  • Anonymous

    whoever posted this needs a good moral slap. pay for your own spot and stop complaining

  • Anonymous

    Category 2. I don’t see a lot of moral (or other) ambiguity here based on the information provided above.

  • Mr. Greenline

    This is simple – she owns the spot, it is her spot 24-7, she has no responsibility to even offer it up for loading/unloading or washing vehicles. No contractor or cleaning service should ever park in that space and the other owners need to make it clear to their contractors and cleaning services that the spot is not for their use. If I was on the Condo board I would vote in favor of a fine that is mandatory and would contract a towing company to tow any vehicles that are not the space owners vehicle.

  • DC resident

    Seriously – people don’t know how to address a moral dilemma like this?

    If you park there without asking, you’re in the wrong. It’s hers. period. Time is money, and you just wasted hers.

    If I were her – I’d have a deal with a towing company, pronto.

  • H St Resident

    How is this even a question? It is her spot and if she lets you use it from time to time, great. Otherwise, she should be towing those cars every single time. I wouldn’t think twice about towing those cars – I surely wouldn’t waste my time trying to track down another tenant!

  • Anonymous

    Stop allowing anyone from the building or their guests or contractors to park there. Tell the condo board the owners in the building abused it and now no one can park there.

    BTW– I don’t think you can just have a car towed from your private property. I believe you have to have the car ticketed by MPD, which could take hours, before a towing company will remove the car.

    • HillGal

      “Stop allowing anyone from the building or their guests or contractors to park there. Tell the condo board the owners in the building abused it and now no one can park there.” This.

      Sorry, charlie!

  • Anonymous

    Category 2 – without a doubt. She’s doing YOU a favor, not the other way around, right?

  • anonymouse

    You are not a bad person for enforcing boundaries on your person and your property. Repeat to yourself as necessary.

  • Annonny

    Rather than towing anyone she should just get a fold-down barricade and have it installed so others can’t park there when she’s away. End of sharing since people can’t respect her rules for using her property. She tried to be nice and got taken advantage of. Now everybody loses.


    PS – the towing is just going to piss off her neighbors and won’t be worth it in the end. having dealt with neighbors who think the world belongs to them, I know of what I speak.

  • andy

    THIS is the situation where someone should be putting chairs/pots/spike strips in their parking lot. Because it is actually hers. Not just nearby, or where she’d like to park. Hers.

    When I’m working nobody’s at my house. Raise your hand if you’re OK with some uninvited neighbor hanging out on your porch while you’re not there.

    I think this question is going to get a near-unanimous answer.

  • ps

    p.s. I’d like to add though that imposing a fine doesn’t seem like the easiest / most expedient solution. Especially in light of the fact that you have to get the condo board to approve it.

    If I were you, I would just have the vehicle towed. Here’s a helpful article

    “The District’s towing law applies to all private properties. The police must be called and — if applicable — issue a parking ticket. Once that is done, either the police or the private property owner can arrange for a private towing company.

    However, before the vehicle is removed, the towing company must provide a lot of information to the District Department of Public Works (DPW), including the name of the tow truck operator; details about the vehicle to be towed; the name and address of the person requesting the tow; the reason for the tow and the parking ticket number; as well as the address where the vehicle can be reclaimed. DPW will then issue a towing control number for each individual tow.”

    • Fonzy

      I agree, a passive deterrent device (the fold down post) will work much better than actively calling a tow service, when it comes to maintaining copasetic neighbor relations. Go for it!

    • justinbc

      Another FYI, since it’s not mentioned in this post, is that the ticket for this from MPD is $250. That alone should be enough to discourage people from doing it, without even having to pay the additional towing company charges.

  • anongardener

    I so wanted this to be “my neighbor is parking her horse in the alley and not scooping the manure – do I call 311 or Animal Control?”

  • Anonymous


  • Anonymous

    Yeah, anyone who thinks #1 is ok…are they “too busy” to stop by the cash register every time they grab an item off the shelves at CVS or Giant or whatnot? Because this is basically the same as taking something that doesn’t belong to you. And it’s not as if the person has said they’re going to be out of the country/state for X weeks or whatever; at any point in time, they could come back and need the space, even if it’s unoccupied at one particular point in time. But it sounds like no one here thinks #1 is acceptable, anyway. And it’s a crappy situation for the parking space owner, who will likely be perceived as a jerk by her neighbors (even though they’re in the wrong and she’s in the right) if she starts towing.

  • Wait a minute, is this a car parking spot, or horse parking?

  • mpdpop

    So, as a DC resident, I say, you’ve tried your best, but people are taking advantage of you. You paid good money, and continue to do so though condo fees. Ticket and tow.

    As a DC police officer, I can tell you: Call 311, have an officer respond and ticket the car (Car parked on private property w/o owner’s consent is $250 for the first violation, $500 for the second, $1000 for the third). Once you have a ticket on the windshield, you can call a private tow company of your choice and have them take the car to their private lot.

    If you want to be “somewhere in the middle/ can’t we all just get along,” be nice and tell your condo association that you plan on having cars ticketed and towed, and post a small sign with the tow company’s number so the owners can easily find their vehicles.

    • justinbc


  • anon

    Clearly this is not an acceptable situation. I think that it’s time to declare that no one else is permitted to park there, period. It’s too fuzzy of a boundary. Good fences make good neighbors, no? And, yes, it’s time for some kind of a barrier such as those suggested above.

  • manimal

    category 2.
    it’s not close to a dilema for me.

  • manimal

    also, isn’t this what flower planters are for?

  • Gladys Kravitz

    park behind them – block them in

  • pulliam376

    No good deed goes unpunished. She should have the car ticketed and towed. To do this, she needs to post a sign saying it is a private parking spot. The police will then ticket it ($250) and then it can be towed (another $250).

  • scott

    I own a parking spot or two in alexandria and georgetown so this might hit a little close to home with me. I have signs in three different languages that say no parking, will tow, etc. From my understanding talking to the police and my lawyer you can’t just call a tow truck to tow a car that’s not yours in DC. You must call the police first to issue a ticket to the car and then AFTER the ticket has been issued you may call the tow truck to remove the car. DC police have much bigger issues then to defend my property at a moments notice and I can live with that. When I do call the police to have the offending cars ticketed (only repeat offenders that I have told not to park there) they will show up on average two hours later. The police really don’t want to write a ticket sometimes and ask if I know where the person is etc.. Usually the offending party will come running out and tell the police that they were only running an errand and that’s it’s not that big of a deal and the police consider the matter solved. The next time they need a space guess where they park because there are ZERO repercussions to parking in my spaces as long as they want. I used to be a nice guy and let people park in the one or two free spaces I have from time to time but that created a deluge of people who thought their friend or employer owned the spot and I was just a crazy guy who was misinformed when I tried parking in my own spot. I rent some spots to people and I can imagine their happiness when they go to park in a parking space that they paid allot of money for and some guy who is getting his morning coffee is making them late for work. I used to block the spaces in georgetown with a chain but that created another problem of people hitting the chain with their car and my insurance finally told me to take the chain down because they were tired of dealing with it. The only solution I have found is putting something heavy or a trashcan that cannot be run over in the spot. Self entitled will not move trash or something heavy. I used boxes and cones for a while but people would just run over them. The DC ABC still uses the spot as free parking to eat lunch at the restaurant across the way and when I confronted them about it they threatened to have me arrested for interfering in the operation of a government official. So in closing the only person that cares about your personal property is yourself and anything you can do to make it uncomfortable for someone to park where they know they are not wanted you need to do.

    • gotryit

      “The DC ABC… threatened to have me arrested for interfering in the operation of a government official.”

      I hate bullying. I hope you got someone fired over that.

      • scott

        I have a picture of the car but as much as I would like someone to fry over it I doubt my time would be well spent. I was going to raise hell but I am affiliated with a business that deals with the ABC and I love to fly under the radar. I doubt he’d loose his job and I or someone I financially count on might suffer. That time he had three people with him who without a doubt would offer a different story. In my short time on this earth I have learned to pick my battles and that was not even close to something I want to devote time to when I can just go home have a beer and forget about it.

    • yup

      this has been the experience of my neighbors. They have a parking pad with space for 3 cars, and every once in awhile, an asshole blocks all of their cars in. When they call the cops, the cops often don’t show up. It’s annoying as hell, but if I were you, I’d keep calling the cops, take pictures of offending vehicles, and write a letter to your city council member. The squeaky wheel gets the grease.

      Man, wish you had taken down the name of the ABC people and took a picture of them parked in your spot. Those bullies deserve to lose their jobs for that bullshit.

  • Anonymous

    Find a cheap, sturdy paring knife and stick it into a tire or two. You won’t get your spot back for a while, but you will have the satisfaction of inconveniencing some self-entitled lout who obviously doesn’t give sniffs about you or your property. Repeat as needed, and they’ll eventually get the point. (See what I did there?)

    • justinbc

      Except they are neighbors… The repercussions of doing such a thing are very likely not worth the initial glee.

      • Anonymous

        But Crisco smeared all over the windows is harmless, though it takes a lot of work to clean off.

  • Anonymous

    Buy a parking boot and lock their tire. Wait for police to arrive to issue the ticket. That should be good enough to dissuade them from doing it again.

  • 17th St

    Leave the condo assn out of it. The parking is her property and she she should tell her neighbors that she no longer is willing to share it, ever. She should devise a way to block the space when she is not using it, to prevent others from using it. She should arrange for towing services and use them. If this were a deck, would she allow others to use it indiscriminately? She should also be concerned that there might be some liability if some thing should happen to someone while using her property with her passive permission.

  • anon

    Install one of these on her space.

    She has the key and can put the bollard down when she wants to use her space, but it will prevent other people from using it.

  • Los

    I own a parking spot in a building with a huge shortage of spots in a very congested NW area, and I call the towing company the instant I see anybody on my spot.

    I don’t have a car, but I do get a lot of enjoyment seeing my spot empty and getting some sun.

    This is America and we are not a communist country.

    • Anonymous

      Yeah, I lived in a group house once, too.

  • anon

    Agree that it is your spot and you need to stop people from parking in it. Just remember that these folks are also the people who vote on condo dues and you are outnumbered. They could raise the dues on the spot if you do anything they find really obnoxious. Unless your condo docs (really, the bylaws, which are typically harder to change) specifically say that the dues are by square footage, start by taking the friendliest approach. Only if those don’t work do you ramp up to towing.

    • zcf

      Changing the bylaws are harder than that. You have to get the first trust (the mortgage lender) to agree to the changes as well.

    • Anonymous

      I think 100% of condos base dues on square footage. And bylaws are extremely hard to change.

    • anon

      Right, that is why I said unless the condo docs specify it is by square footage. My last condo building it was not by square footage for the parking spaces. The units were, but the parking spaces were on some other system, so the parking often went up more than the condos did. It stunk. Just wanted to raise the issues so she’s aware in case it is an issue.

  • ShawGuy

    I have an off-street space that had a similar problem. The previous owner didn’t use it during the day and told neighbors to park there if they needed to. I didn’t really mind continuing that neighborly gesture, but quickly found out that three or four nights a week, there was someone random in my spot when I got home in the evenings and there was no parking on the street. I tried leaving my car blocking in the space with my number in the dash saying they should call me when they come out and I will move my car and take my spot back, and then *I* got a $50 ticket for blocking the alley.

    I had a sign made that said Private Parking ONLY 3:00pm-11:00am, and it didn’t do any good. So then I just sent a notice to the neighbors saying that nobody was allowed to park there ever, even for a minute, except for me. That helped, but did not solve the problem, so then I put up a chain, which stopped most cars from parking there (and really screwed up the hoods of the cars that didn’t notice it and tried to pull in anyway), but every now and again a big SUV or a truck would just plow into it and break the chain.

    Then I finally gave in and bought a gate, and a lock for said gate. Ultimately, it has the added benefit for me of knowing the car is pretty secure when I travel and I lock it in the space, and nobody has actually opened the gate to pull into my private spot (yet) and park illegally. But it wasn’t worth waiting a half hour to an hour (I guess I had quicker response times than most) for the cops to ticket and then ANOTHER hour to three hours for a tow truck to show up anymore. An ounce of prevention has been well worth the metric sh*t-ton of cure in my case.

  • textdoc

    Seems pretty clear-cut to me… the neighbors abused the generosity of the parking space’s owner.

    The parking space’s owner should post signs in the building saying that cars parked in that space will be ticketed and towed effective 6/__/13. (If she wants, she could add some wording beforehand along the lines of “Regrettably, the earlier permission-based system has not been working.”)

    For what it’s worth… the one time someone parked in the parking space behind my house without my permission, MPD arrived about 45 minutes after I called. They ticketed the car. I went out for the evening and when I came back, the car was gone.

    After that happened, I got the gate repaired so that no one could get in without a key.

    The owner of the parking space would probably need permission from the condo association to add the fold-down skinny bollards that some posters were recommending. It might make sense to start with the signs and with ticketing and towing, and to proceed to fold-down bollards only if the other methods aren’t sufficient.

    • textdoc

      Gahh, I forgot that line breaks don’t show up here the way they used to. Testing…




Subscribe to our mailing list