Sometimes communities and HOA’s don’t have the budget to hire a third-party agency to handle their parking enforcement and need to do so on their own. Here are eight things to consider before starting to enforce your own parking program:
1. Develop a Plan to Enforce
An enforcement plan is a vital piece in creating a complete and successful parking program. A good parking enforcement plan should outline:
Who will be doing the enforcement
When enforcement will take place (frequency, time, and duration)
How it will be conducted (checking every car on property, sections of the property, and based off of what data)
What the consequences will be (warning notice, monetary fine, immobilization/boot, or legal impound)
2. Research Legal Requirements and Regulations
There are many laws and regulations in place at the local, city, county, and state level that are designed to protect vehicle owners, property owners, and those who are tasked with carrying out the enforcement on private property.
Although many laws are more or less uniform across the U.S., in some instances there are fundamental differences.
It’s imperative that you familiarize yourself with your state’s laws surrounding parking enforcement. You can usually find these under your state’s motor vehicle codes.
3. Seek Legal Counsel
Consult with a licensed attorney who specializes in HOA’s or multifamily communities to ensure your enforcement plan is legal.
Fines, court costs, legal fees, lawsuits, and reputation damage can leave your community in financial straits. Consulting with a legal professional prior to self-enforcement will give you peace of mind knowing that you have added another layer of legal protection.
4. Put Together Your Team
Now that you have your enforcement plan (and legal protections) in place, you need a team to help you implement it. Conducting parking enforcement can be time-consuming and stressful when undertaken alone. We recommend sharing parking duties between team members to help you manage.
If you are a part of an HOA board, establish a committee or team of volunteers who can dedicate a portion of their time to tracking permits or violations, doing administrative duties, and leading communication.
5. Hire a Reputable Tow Company
It's no secret that tow vendors have a bad reputation. This is mainly because they are at the end of the enforcement process; the ones who actually impound or tow a vehicle. Some tow companies practice predatory towing, while some follow the law to the letter. When choosing a tow partner, consider the following:
Ensure that the tow company requires an authorized agent signature before impounding any vehicle. This protects your residents from predatory tow practices.
Specify what fees the association will agree to, if any. Although most states regulate what tow companies can charge vehicle owners, some tow companies charge associations extra fees for items like “call-outs.”
Get indemnified! Be sure the tow company indemnifies your association for any laws it may break. If your association does not have a good indemnification provision in place, you may be responsible for hefty fines for any laws that are broken.
Always check for current licenses and insurance to ensure that the company is legitimate.
6. Establish Communication Channels
Maintaining clear communication is the key to avoiding road bumps in your enforcement plan. Some ways to keep everything running smoothly:
Have a clear channel to communicate live information to your enforcement team. For instance, if you are walking your parking lot at 10:30 pm, will your team be aware that a vehicle received special permission to park at 10:29 pm?
Establish an open channel for residents to communicate with yourself and team and define how disputes are to be resolved.
Determine how your tow vendor will report on actions taken over the course of the night. If an upset resident comes to you about their vehicle, you want to be up to date beforehand.
7. Practice Safety
Parking enforcement is often done in the evening or at night, when visibility is low and the risk of crime is higher. Here are some ways to stay safe when enforcing your parking:
Always try to self-enforce in a group of two or more.
Inform your team before you begin enforcement. Use an enforcement schedule that is only visible to the team.
Keep an open channel of communication while conducting enforcement. Cell phones and two-way radios work great.
Wear bright clothes or a high-visibility vest that identifies who you are and what you are doing.
Wear a vest or jacket printed with the name of the community so that residents can easily identify you as enforcement and know that you belong in the community.
Don’t leave any personal contact information on violations or enforcement materials. Residents and their guests should always be directed to a neutral phone number, address, or email for all parking concerns.
8. Provide Enforcement Materials
Investing in professional parking enforcement materials provides consistency and legitimacy to your enforcement plan. Clear materials, like signs and warnings, set expectations for residents. They are also often affordable. Some materials you may want to consider are:
Parking and tow enforcement signs
Violation and warning stickers
Templated email responses and notices
A solid enforcement plan will help you better manage your parking. Using a parking management software such as Parking Boss can help you enforce with tracking vehicle license plates, issuing violations, and managing guest parking.