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Car parking-a legal right?

View profile for Paul Harris
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Car parking is a contentious issue at the best of times. We have all witnessed tempers fray as one motorist swiftly pulls in to a space that another motorist had been patiently waiting to come free in a public car park. The other timeless classic-residents becoming possessive of the public roadway outside their property that does not fall within the boundaries of their private residence but nonetheless they feel inextricably attached to because of its proximity to their property. Understandable perhaps, but no basis for a legal right to park!

In both of the above examples none of the parties necessarily have more of a legal entitlement to park than the other but what about where as part of a lease people are given a general right to park somewhere or even allocated an individual space. The legal term associated with these scenarios is an ‘easement’. Put very simply an easement is a right to do something on, under or over someone else’s land. If a such a right amounts to exclusive right of possession then it cannot be an easement otherwise it will deprive the owner of the benefits of ownership altogether. It is very common, therefore, that rights to park cars that are intended to take effect as easements are drafted in such a way that the person entitled to park somewhere has a right to park a car (or cars) within a designated area but not in individually designated spaces.

There has been case law, however that has established that even where tenants are allocated use of individual car parking spaces then this can still amount to an easement as long as the owner of the space could still potentially be able to make use of it.

Clearly, the best way to ensure that you have a legal right to park somewhere is to own the land on which you intend on parking. This is simply beyond the financial reach of many of us though so we must resign ourselves to finding either; public highway with no parking restrictions (the rarest of beasts) or a pay and display car park that is not too exorbitant!