Budget Buster: How to get out of paying council fines

Parking wardens have to collect evidence of your alleged wrongdoing, so be sure to ask if they actually have any.

Parking wardens have to collect evidence of your alleged wrongdoing, so be sure to ask if they actually have any.

Let's get 2017 off to a good start. At the end of last year we looked at how to get out of parking tickets issued by private carpark operators.

The council and police also make a tidy little sum out of traffic and parking tickets, especially over the holidays. Unlike the parking companies, they do have the power to fine you, which means we need to change up our tactics from last time.

Each council deals with tickets in its own way, but there are some broad guidelines that are well worth learning.

The first thing to know is that you have a few get-out-of-jail-free cards. A medical emergency, stolen car or roadside breakdown will almost certainly get you off the hook.

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Assuming none of those apply, the next thing to do is to scrutinise the ticket itself. Check the rego number, date and make of vehicle. If any of the details are wrong, the ticket may be invalid.

A perfectly printed ticket doesn't mean you have to give up hope, especially if you have a half-decent excuse. If road signs were faded, hidden or obscured, snap a photo and send it in with a letter explaining what happened.

The same applies if the parking meter was broken and you couldn't see any others nearby. Be sure to take a photo of the error message and include the location of the specific machine.

If you actually did pay for parking but the docket fell on the floor or the warden didn't notice it, you have a pretty good chance of getting off with a warning if you post it in along with a letter.

Copped a $200 ticket for an expired rego or WOF?  If you're only behind by a few days or weeks, write in to appeal and they may waive it. If you registered your car but the new insert was still in the mail, or you can prove you were on your way to get a warrant when you got pinged, you also have a good case.

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The powers that be can show mercy. Let's say your number plate was obscured or attached in the wrong place, or one of your tyres was bald. Get the problem solved within a week, then send in a receipt and a photo and they'll quite likely let it go.

These appeal strategies aren't guaranteed to work, because they depend partly on whether the clerk handling it is having a good day. Always be polite and explain the situation as best as you can. The soul of a bureaucrat is grey and withered, but it does exist.

If you still have no luck and you're feeling hard done by, ask to see the evidence of your alleged wrongdoing. Parking wardens and cops don't always remember to take photos when required. The burden of proof is on them, and if they don't have any, you should be able to wriggle off the hook.

The easiest way to avoid fines is not to break the rules in the first place. However, it's your moral duty to gently push back when you have been unfairly ticketed. It costs nothing, takes all of a few minutes, and keeps money in your pocket instead of filling government coffers.

Got a burning money question? Email Budget Buster at richard.meadows@thedeepdish.org, or hit him up on Twitter at @MeadowsRichard. You can also find links to previous Budget Busters here.

 - Sunday News


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