For the past nine months, a shadow has been cast over my life and has hung over us all like a bad smell. In April of this year I received papers from the court telling me that UKPC believed I owed them over £700 for parking outside their guidelines in the residential car park where I lived. Will UKPC take you to court? Well, they took me all the way to the court room…this is my story.
Let’s start by going back a few years…
We moved into our residential block of apartments in August 2014. While we were upstairs collecting the keys, a man was issuing a ticket on my car for parking outside of the designated lines. The lines were marked by silver studs on the floor and in our haste to meet the letting agent and collect our keys, I hadn’t even thought about being in a designated space- just about being as far out of people’s way as possible.
The second, third, fourth and fifth tickets came in quick succession over the next few months. On a couple of occasions, I was unable to park in my designated space as another resident was parked over the lines. I had two choices: park as far into my space as I possibly could, or occupy someone else’s space. After receiving two tickets for doing the former, I started doing the latter, and instead of parking tickets, i started getting nasty notes. It was a lose-lose situation- either get tickets from an unscrupulous car parking attendant or annoy the neighbours by stealing their space when someone was hanging over mine.
The other tickets were issued as it was deemed I had a photocopied permit. This came out of the blue after we’d been living there a few months using the same permit we always had done. Our letting agents quickly issued us a new permit and that was the end of the tickets. I always made sure I was within a designated space, even if that meant parking right at the other end of the car park and having to carry the baby in his car seat.
Each ticket was charged at £25 or £30 but I refused to pay them. I challenged the first one and appealed it to UKPC; of course they didn’t want to know and informed me the charge still stood. I started ignoring all correspondence after this. Rightly or wrongly, I chose to do this.
I had letters from debt collectors, UKPC themselves and a solicitors firm, but I didn’t reply and I was adamant I wasn’t going to pay: why should I have to pay for parking in my own car park? Sometimes I wouldn’t hear from them for months and months on end, other times the letters would be arriving daily. I kept ripping them up and binning them. I didn’t ever think that UKPC would take me to court. Was it really worth their time?
We’d been living in the flats for just under four years when the letter from the county court came in April of this year. I was terrified. We’d just found out I was pregnant and were desperate to buy our own home. The letter talked about the risk of getting a CCJ if you didn’t pay what you owed and the grand total was now over £700 for five unpaid tickets.
We panicked and my husband rang the solicitors who were now dealing with the case in UKPC’s behalf to see if they would negotiate. The lowest they would come down to was £689. This was our first mistake: they knew now I was scared and were happy to keep pursuing this.
Being pregnant and worrying that within a few months I might have a CCJ made us decide that we had to make the move to buy our own house: it was now or never. In a way, it was a good kick up the bum as we had been working hard to save, reduce debts, improve credit scores and we were more than ready to make the move. But of course, that’s a different story.
Importantly, I did everything I needed to do with regards to replying to the court to let them know I planned to fight this and writing up a basic defence using information I found online. There are tight deadlines when it comes to responding and doing what needs to be done and I always made sure I was on top of my game. Occasionally the solicitors would email me and try to negotiate an offer and eventually I asked them to stop contacting me as their offers were insulting.
I contacted my letting agent, the landowner of the property and the property management company but none of them wanted to know. It wasn’t their problem though was it? Why should they get involved?
In July, I was given a date for mediation and I spent an hour on the phone with a court appointed mediator who rang me, asked me details about the case, rang the solicitors, discussed the case with them and then rang between us intermittently to try and reach a resolution. It was horrible. I felt like the mediator was on their side and didn’t really care about what I had to say. She kept telling me every so often that I was admitting my guilt and I should offer to pay something, but I was adamant I shouldn’t have to pay anything. It was very upsetting and it took me a few hours to compose myself afterwards.
A few weeks later we were given a date for court: October 3rd. Everytime I thought about the court case and the amount of money they wanted me to pay I would cry. My Dad even offered to pay the money, but that just made me feel worse. Why should he have to give up his money because of these extortionists? I’d rather pay for it myself.
I knew I couldn’t go to court even though everyone told me I really had to. Have your day in court, they’d say. Show them you mean business and how ridiculous this is. But how on earth would I stand up in a court room and deliver my evidence when everytime I thought about it I cried? I had to do what was best for me and for the baby growing in my belly. I would ask the court to hear my defence in my absence. The whole thought of it was stressing me out and I knew it wasn’t good for the baby.
A couple of weeks before court, each party has to send all the evidence they have to each other and to the court. My evidence was typed up simply across two A4 sheets of paper and explained the reasons why I felt I had the right to park where I parked. I referred to the tenancy agreement and the leasehold document and carefully explained how each document was applicable to my evidence and witness statement.
The evidence I received from UKPC was enough to have killed a small tree. It was page after page of grainy photographs of my vehicle, a copy of the leasehold, a copy of the contract between UKPC and the landowners and numerous other legal stuff I couldn’t even bring myself to read.
The next day I received another letter from the solicitors setting out the fees they were adding on top of what I ‘owed’ for the expense of them having to attend court. Instead of looking at £700, I was now looking at having to pay close to £2000 if I lost the court case. Just what I needed before going on maternity leave. But I pressed on. I was wildly regretting not paying the £700.
The court date came and went and I knew I’d made the right decision not to attend, but every day I was on tenterhooks, waiting for the postman to arrive with the result of the case.
Weeks passed. I emailed the court and I rang them. They asked me to be patient. My husband kept telling me it wouldn’t have even got to court. I wasn’t convinced. Ever since we made the initial contact to try and negotiate an offer I felt as if they would see this through to the bitter end.
Finally today, at the end of November after contacting the court again, I found out a court order had been issued and sent to me last month, but for some reason had been returned to sender. The outcome? CASE DISMISSED.
I could actually cry (and I am!) I am so happy of the outcome of this case and sincerely thank the judge who presided over it. It turns out the solicitor did actually come up to Liverpool from London and set out his claim, the judge then read my defence and decided to dismiss the case. After months of worrying about having to use all of my savings paying off these cowboys who are no better than extortionists, I can finally relax, enjoy the last few weeks of my pregnancy and get on with the rest of my life.
I am sharing my story here today so that others who have been threatened with legal action by these cowboys know that not all is lost. There is a way to beat them and they don’t win every case they take to court. Please share your UKPC court case success stories below so that others can read how to defeat these extortionists.