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“Parking Wars Question – Any advice to keep this from escalating?”

by Prince Of Petworth March 29, 2017 at 3:30 pm 54 Comments

no parking

“Dear PoPville,

I have a question about private parking experiences for other readers. I recently bought a condo in SW and learned after closing that I also own a spot. I confirmed this all with my management company, had my key fob programmed, and was shown my spot. However, another unit is claiming she owns my spot, and has threatened to tow me every time I park in the spot. This morning I found a $250 ticket issued from MPD for parking in a private spot. The property manager continues to assure me that it’s mine. But what do I do when I have my car ticketed and towed (in my own parking spot)? The other owner has apparently called the property manager and screamed at her, so I don’t doubt that this could get ugly real quick. Has anyone had similar experiences? Any advice to keep this from escalating?”

  • LCinDC

    Is the parking spot not separately deeded/taxed/recorded via public records? (I assume not if you didn’t know…) I guess the real matter is what do you have in writing that makes you think it is yours and what does she have in writing that makes her think it is hers?

    • Anonymous

      This is my thought. Verbal confirmation from management and a programmed key fob isn’t proof of ownership. If the spot really is “yours” (or “hers”, for that matter) then it will be in writing somewhere. I would be surprised if you made it all the way through closing without knowing that you were also purchasing a parking spot, but I suppose it could happen. In any case, if it’s not in writing somewhere then I dare say you don’t own it. If it is in writing, then you have your proof.

  • quincycyclist

    You and the property manager and the other unit person need to get in a room together and attempt to hash this out without escalating it further.

    You “learned” you have a spot. What documentation do you have that you own that parking spot? Bring it.

    • FridayGirl

      I agree with your first sentence entirely. Even if OP doesn’t have written proof, it may turn out the other unit owner doesn’t have it either, and was just let to believe that it was hers. There may be a compromise that could be made there.

      • JoDa

        This may well be true. I sold a place years ago where I had a deeded parking spot, but, because I didn’t own a car, let the neighboring unit owner use it for a second car. Then, when he rented his place out, he directed his tenants to ask me if I’d let them use the spot for the same, and I agreed. And such it went over and over again. At some point, it became an “assumption” that neighbors could use my spot, to the point that I had to do some “clean up” when I sold the place to someone who planned to park a car in the assigned spot regularly. It wasn’t a *big* deal, but I did have to show up at the door of, like, a 5th generation tenant and say “sorry, not sorry…but I’m taking back my parking spot. Here’s the deed, so please have your car out of it by X date at Y time.” They weren’t pleased, but I had the paperwork, so they had to comply. Your deed paperwork should show if/whether you own the spot.

      • James W.

        I mean, someone owns it. And the absence of proof of ownership (aka a deed) by the neighbor, doesn’t make it OP’s spot by default. As mentioned, all private property is owned via a deed. Find out who has the deed, and it’s their spot.

  • Sarah

    Wouldn’t the deed indicate if the spot is yours?

  • Apollo

    I would speak to the person who also claims to own the post, and go see the property manager together. You both got clearly told the same thing. If the spot is not deeded to you on your paperwork, then it is NOT yours. A verbal assurance by anybody is worth nothing.

    • It’s just me

      Unfortunately, I learned in looking at condos that not all parking spots are deeded. There was one building where parking spots were limited common elements, and certain parking spots were aloted to specific units. I actually backed out of a purchase because of this on a condo in southeast because I didn’t have anything in writing that the space was mine.

      • A. Nony Mouse

        So basically it was yours at the pleasure of the condo assoc. Good call backing out.

      • dcd

        This is how my parking spot was allocated at my old condo. It initially gave me pause, but then I realized (i) the condo documents were quite clear on who had exclusive access to the space, (ii) it was a 2-unit condo, so the condo docs couldn’t be changed without my consent, and (iii) my downstairs neighbor was subsidizing my taxes.
        When there were discussion of merging associations with the unit next door (which was done by the same developer at the same time, and really should have been one association from the get-go), I did drag my feet a bit because I didnt want my veto rights to go away.

    • Anonymous

      I would suggest–to limit escalation–that you have the property manager do the work of scheduling the meeting, rather than going to your neighbor first and going to the property manager together.
      I would also suggest you get *all* possible information, including all documentation, showing this spot is yours (even if not deeded), particularly from the property matter and anything your realtor can do for you, so there are as few surprises as possible at such a meeting. You might not get too many chances.
      Finally, even if everything turns out on your side, put away your justified annoyance at being ticketed, and be as calm as possible before and at this meeting.

  • Anonymous

    Ask for meeting with property manager and your neighbor and settle this once and for all.

  • Melbot87

    Shouldn’t ownership of the parking space be outlined in your Condo docs?

  • Anon Spock

    Your closing docs should have the space number included. Ask her to show you proof of ownership, end you should gather similar proof to show her. She could easily have been using the wrong space this whole time; however, it seems strange your listing didn’t mention the space at all.

    • Tsar of Truxton

      Yeah, how does one close on a condo without knowing they own a parking spot? This is very bizarre. When selling a unit, having parking is a positive, so there is no reason to hide it. I wonder if the old owner “sold it” to this woman, but never changed the deed or whatever. Something is very fishy…

      • Anon Spock

        Exactly my thinking. I’d have gotten the ducks in a row as soon as she claimed it was hers.

      • dcd

        ” I wonder if the old owner “sold it” to this woman, but never changed the deed or whatever.”
        This is an excellent point. “I’ll sell you My parkign spot for $10,000.” “Here’s a check.” “Great, it’s all yours.”
        The good news in all this is that there absolutely is a document somewhere that sets forth who owns the spot.

  • PetworthGuy

    It will all be outlined on public record. Either it was included in deed of condo (look in the metes and bounds section), or it was deeded separately. I would call DC Assessor’s office/search online. Or ask the prop manger to provide the paperwork as she is so positive the spot is yours. As a condo developer consultant, I can say that this happens more frequently than you would think. Parking is a hot commodity and ownership varies.

  • Anon NS

    Agree that answer is what docs say. It’s possible that someone sold the same spot to two people (or someone sold a spot they didn’t own) at some point, in which case things could get complicated. May be worth your while to consult with a real estate attorney.

    • Tsar of Truxton

      Eh, I would call my title insurance company before spending money on an attorney. That is why you buy the insurance in the first place.

      • Anon NS

        If it’s part of the deed – but it sounds like OP doesn’t know. A 30 min consult with an attorney could clear this up – even if it’s to tell OP: look dude you’re gonna lose so stop racking up tickets.
        (Full disclosure: I’m a lawyer (not real estate) so I’m probably biased about my value!!)

  • MSinDC

    Would MPD not request proof of ownership of the parking spot before issueing a ticket to the violator? Or do they just take the word of whoever calls them to the scene?

    • PM

      I’d also like to know the answer to this. And why wouldn’t the car be towed instead of ticketed? Neither are very neighborly outcomes, but it seems like towing is the most logical.

      • FridayGirl

        It has to be ticketed before it can be towed.

      • saf

        You have to have the car ticketed before you can have it towed, and you can choose if you want to have it towed. If you want to have a car towed from private property, YOU have to call for a tow.

    • Former Parking Lot Security Officer

      No they don’t — they will ticket just about anyone if you flag them down.

      Now, if you are the owner of the spot you can pretty easily beat the ticket.

    • GBinCH

      I’ve called MPD about someone parking in my spot before. In that situation, I had to show them my deed. My situation was a little different as I have a tandem spot and someone was blocking my, so I was trying to get them towed.

    • Nope. Definitely not. I was in a similar-ish situation several years ago. (My boyfriend had a friend/next door neighbor, who was renting the upper apartment in a townhouse. This friend in the upper unit didnt have a car, so his downstairs neighbor was in the habit of using the parking spot (the downstairs neighbor didnt really ask about it, he just used it, but for the most part, this wasnt an issue and the upstairs neighbor didnt say anything). But, when I moved in with my boyfriend, our friend offered to let me use his parking spot. The downstairs neighbor thought that I was some random person, and so, rather than calling the owner of the spot, he had the car ticketed and towed, and represented himself to the cops as the owner of the space. I had to pay the ticket and towing fine, but ultimately, got the downstairs neighbor to pay me back.

      • Oh, actually – I paid the towing fine, and went to traffic court with regards to the ticket. I asked the guy who caused the mess to show up, but, big surprise, he declined. But when they called my ticket number, and asked me to explain, the judge (or judge-type-person) said something to the effect of ‘He knew better than to show up here!’ and threw out the ticket.

    • Caphill

      Nope. I had like 12-15 cars towed from my apt spot in sw. Not once did they even ask for ID.

    • Kevin

      Nope. I’ve 311’d plenty of time for jerks who park in my alley and block my back entrance. I’ve never once been asked to prove that I live there.

  • Rich

    DC’s policy is to separately deed the parking space and it also will turn up with its own property tax record. In other words, it should appear in your closing and it will have its own address designation.

    You should search what’s been filed with the District for the other owner. Clearly, the property management company is not helping. I’d do a search of the property records and then get a lawyer. Without direct knowledge of the other owner’s property you have no case for contesting the tow & ticket.

    The property management company is not helping. I would engage your Board and let them know about the situation. I’d also suggest that your Board President be made aware that you will expect the Condo Association to pay any legal bills and the ticket. that should get you more action with the management company than expecting them to do anything on their own.

    • Anon Spock

      Yea not true across the board. All spaces at my bldg are included with the unit not deeded separately.

      • ted

        Bingo. There’s a difference between a parking spot that’s deeded separately (i.e., owned by a specific unit owner) and a parking spot that’s owned by the condo association as a common element and “assigned” to or “reserved” for a specific unit owner. If it’s separately deeded, then it’s your property without question, and not really a matter for the condo association. If it’s simply assigned to you, then the condo association should have the answer on the specific parking spaces that each owner is assigned.

      • Anon PM

        This is correct. Some condos, especially older ones, have the parking spaces assigned as Limited Common Elements, rather than as separately deeded units. In those instances, the governing docs for the condo will also typically include a provision outlining how a unit owner may reassign their space. This would require a written document confirming the reassignment, and that document would have to be recorded with the Recorder of Deeds as an amendment to the condo docs.

        Technically, if the reassignment isn’t recorded, it isn’t valid, but it does create the possibility that the other unit owner actually does have a piece of paper showing the spot belongs to her, even if the publicly available documents suggest otherwise.

      • Rich

        Depends when you bought. DC made this a practice in the last decade.

        • Anon Spock

          I bought in 2009.

        • JoDa

          Much to the consternation of your smug absolutism, parking spaces can be allocated in many ways in condo developments, even those flipped yesterday. In a place I bought in 2007 and sold a few years ago, the parking spot was deeded separately. In a place I bought in 2013, it is a limited common element assigned to my unit. And even more complicating, in one building I own in now, we have 5 parking spots for just under 20 units, owned commonly, and which we rent out to willing people (owner occupants get a steep discount, renter occupants get a slight discount, and everyone else can pay market).
          Still, in any case, there is a paper trail. The deed, plats and plans, and perhaps Board meeting minutes hold the answer. Review/ask for these.

          • Review guy

            Why the nasty and unnecessary comment about “smug absolutism?”

  • A. Nony Mouse

    Get it in writing from the building manager. Than get a lawyer to send a cease and desist letter.

  • Marc

    I had an experience as a renter in SW where I had been using my spot for years, and one day, somebody started parking in my spot a couple days in a row in a very casual way. I talked to them about it, and they were adamant it was their spot. I clarified again because mine was listed in my lease. It turns out the neighboring condo development of nearly the same name had a similar parking numbering scheme. Nobody else had ever made that mistake, but that person couldn’t find the spot numbered accordingly in their lot and since the lots are close together (practically touching each other), they assumed that the numbered spot they found was the right one. They weren’t exactly grateful for the information, but I think they at least liked knowing I wasn’t trying to park in their spot (since in fact, I was being nice about them parking in my spot). Anyway, my point is, see if there is a similarly numbered spot and assume that one of you has a likely-misunderstanding that is easy to sort out before you assume anything worse, intention-wise.

  • John B.

    I’m a bit confused. How do you learn only after closing that you own a parking spot? Parking is a pretty big deal, especially in this city, and this would have been a major selling point and prominently advertised when the condo was offered for sale.

    • Rich

      OTOH–DC is full of people who aren’t very practical. I had a neighbor who negotiated trade treaties but couldn’t understand very basic explanations of how our building spent money.

  • JohnWashDC

    A) Call the Realtor you used in this transaction or B) call the Title Company that conducted the closing. You paid for this service and both these parties will have the answer. And no, it is not a DC policy to deed parking spot(s) separately from the Unit purchased. Some condos include parking spot(s) on deed, some are deeded separately. Depends on how the condo was marketed when built.

  • textdoc

    The $250 parking ticket might end up being the least of your worries, but — if you’re still within the 30-day period — make sure to appeal it by providing copies of whatever documentation says the parking space is yours. (Or maybe by providing a statement from the property manager, if the space turns out not to be yours but she incorrectly told you it was.)

  • Steve Parsons

    I rent a space and the few times I have had to call 311 to have it ticketed and towed, the parking officer that showed up never asked me for any evidence that it was, in fact, my space. Once there’s a ticket on the car, just about any DC towing company will show and tow it, no questions asked.

    It seems like the system could be abused. The city should mandate that anyone who administers a private parking space (leased or owned) must issue a specific form of identification to the space-holder. If the card is not shown, MPD or parking enforcement won’t ticket the car. That would be easier than having individual officers trying to figure out leases or deeds or other documents while other officers just take a person’s word that the space is theirs.

  • SWNeighbor

    I own a condo in SW and own a spot. The proof of this (including the spot number, whether it is assigned, owned, etc.) is in your Individual Condominium Unit Appraisal Report. Page 2 under “unit description.” Dig that up.

  • Manamana

    1. Get a real estate lawyer. The outcome of this is worth 5 figures to you. 2. Get the square &lot number for the parking space and check the online, searchable DC real property tax database. It will indicate who owns the space as far as the DC government is currently aware.

  • Oh memories.

    I’ve had the exact same thing happen with a private parking not a condo. First establish that it is yours! Send a certified receipt return copy of the proof to the other party with a note saying you will seek legal action against them if they do not stop. Ticket and two her car! Get your ticket dismissed, you will have to fight that in person. You will have to be very agressive in fighting this and obviously will need to document everything and have as much paperwork backing you up as possible.

    • FridayGirl

      “Ticket and two her car!”
      This is definitely not the way to go. If the woman in question turns out to *actually* have rights to the spot, in writing, then OP will likely be on the hook for both his own ticket and her ticket if that’s the way he plays it. It’s a passive aggressive snub that will only make things worse.

  • Vicar

    I admit I skimmed the above and they really covered the spot and deed.

    I’ll pass along appealing the ticket, and talking to dc parking enforcement.

    When people with out of state plates parked there, I called dc parking enforcement – and I _LOVE_ the guy who came out, multiple times. HOWEVER –
    WHEN DC parking enforcement comes out, they require someone to be there and identify their spot. Somehow the person who got your that $250 ticket? They were able to convince dc parking enforcement that it was their spot.

    So my advice is figure out what to do about dc parking enforcement too (if after you research the issue in writing you can prove it’s yours / not the neighbor’s).

  • ehdc

    As I will probably do every time I see an issue I could help resolve on popville, I would be happy to offer my services (for free) as a mediator to help resolve this dispute. I would basically help facilitate the conversation between you, your neighbor, and your property manager. They would both have to agree to participate. We would take a look at documents then brainstorm options.

  • Wendy Testaburger

    If the parking spot really is yours, there should be 1) a reference to the parking spot (maybe referenced as a parking condominium) in your deed when you purchased the condo or 2) a reference in the Condo Declaration (or an amendment thereto) that ties your unit to the parking spot as a limited common element. Parking spots are either treated as a separate piece of property (from the condo unit) or a limited common element. You can verify it by either looking at your deed or Condo Declaration to see if there is a reference to the parking spot that links it to your unit. I would also do a search of the DC ROD (https://gov.propertyinfo.com/dc-washington/) to make sure there you were provided with the entire Condo Declaration (including all amendments), as people forget to include the amendments in the condo resale package. If the parking spot is deeded, it should have a separate lot and square number that you can search for to verify the ownership. If the parking spot is a limited common element, you can verify ownership in the Condo Declaration. You should also be paying a higher fee in your condo dues because of the parking spot (in either case).

    I went through this entire process when I purchased my parking spot years after I purchased my condo unit and it was a limited common element. I drafted an amendment to the Condo Declaration to memorialize the sale/transfer of the unit from one condo unit to another. I also recently purchased a new condo where the parking spot was a parking condominium, so it was transferred by a reference in the deed and now I have 2 tax lots.

    Good luck!


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