That’s my spot – could you be breaking the law by parking outside your own house?
We all want our own little bit of personal space - somewhere that we can call ours. In a busy town like Eastbourne, though, that space comes at a premium, and parking spaces in particular can become hotly contested. This is especially true if you want that space outside your house for yourself. But how much say do you have about who parks on a public road, even if it's right outside your gate? And do other people have the same claim to that rare parking spot as you, or do you have first dibs' on it?
Legally, the answer to that last question is no, you don't have any right to claim a parking spot as exclusively your own, if that spot is on a public highway. The only way you could reserve a space outside your property is if it has been designated as a disabled space. Even then, if someone parks in it then there's not a great deal you can do.
What you shouldn't do is take matters into your own hands. No matter how infuriating it is to come home after a long day to find your parking space already occupied, taking your frustration out on the vehicle could land you in hot water for criminal damage. You could contact your local authority or the police and report it as an anti-social issue if the car is in poor condition and has been damaged, indicating it is a stolen/abandoned vehicle. Be prepared, though, for very little to happen in response, especially from the police who see matters like this as a very low priority.
You could, in theory, pursue a legal claim for nuisance based on the principle that the driver of the vehicle is preventing you from using your property, but again, it would be a tough sell in court, and you'd have to know the identity of the driver. It would also have to be a continuing problem, not a one-off.
It also doesn't matter how long a vehicle is parked in your spot' - there's very little you can do about it. The only exception to this is if the vehicle has been abandoned: in which case you can contact the police and ask to have it removed.
The bottom line is that you have no legal right to park outside your property on the public highway, so no matter how annoying it is, and even if it's residents only permit parking, you still cannot specify that a space is yours'.
When it's a crime to park in your own driveway
One thing that homeowners need to watch out for are by-laws that make it an offence to drive across pavements to access your own driveway. Unless there is a dropped kerb in place, then you are technically not allowed to drive across a pavement, even to access your own property. You can apply for the council to install a dropped kerb to grant you unhindered access but be aware that it'll probably cost you around £1,200 which, ironically, is the same amount you could be fined if you repeatedly cross a raised kerb and pavement to access your drive.
There are also other issues to think about when you have to drive over a pavement, which includes collisions with pedestrians, damage to the pavement, and damage to any utility access points or equipment positioned underneath the path.
Can I cordon it off with cones?
Unless your local council has given you special permission to do so (for example, during a funeral), then blocking the space outside your home with cones could be regarded as obstruction of a public highway, and you could end up with a fine (and still no parking space!).
If someone is really cheeky and actually parks on your property without your permission, then this could be regarded as trespass. However, there's not a lot of point in calling the police as this is a civil rather than a criminal matter, and it's unlikely that the police would respond.
Street parking, even those spots that are designated for residents only, is a bit of a free-for-all. It's always well worth checking your local by-laws, as there can be discrepancies regarding who can park where, and for how long. But the general rule is that you cannot claim a spot as your own if it's on the public highway, and that even if you do have your own driveway you can only legally access it if there is a dropped kerb. If you're buying a new home, then this is one of those little things that it's well worth remembering. If you're not sure as to your status, talk to a legal expert.
David Battaliou is a Solicitor in the Criminal Defence Department and can be contacted on 01323 644222 or firstname.lastname@example.org