Just Park has been forced to issue an apology to homeowners who have fallen victims to a new scam where fraudsters rented out their driveways and pocketed the cash from customers.
The website, which allows property owners and businesses to rent vacant parking spots to other drivers, unknowingly listed driveways advertised by scammers that didn’t belong to them.
In some cases, owners returned to their homes to find vehicles parked in their allocated spaces and driveways.
And while you might think it would legally straightforward to remove vehicles parked on your property without permission, homeowners will discover it can become a logistical nightmare.
Parking scam: Fraudsters have been cashing in by listing driveways and allocated bays belonging at homes not belonging to them on Just Park
BBC Radio 4’s You and Yours show highlighted the scam over the weekend.
Just Park is one of several online services that allows people to make money from their unused parking spaces or driveways, which is becoming an increasingly lucrative option for many homeowners.
These are often near train stations, sporting stadiums and other entertainment venues.
But some have discovered in recent weeks that their parking facilities have been advertised on the site without their permission.
The parking website said cases of this are ‘extremely rare’, though the BBC show spoke to numerous victims of the scam.
Simon Gallagher told the BBC that strangers were parking in bays allocated to owners of flats in his building in Bexleyheath in Greater London.
‘This was going on for about a month or so… until one day somebody had left a note in the window of one of the cars that was parked there with a booking reference for Just Park,’ he said.
‘I looked it up on the website and to my surprise, found a photograph of the flat advertised out for rent’.
Incredibly, scam artists had been charging a £8 daily fee to use the spaces allocated to tenants in the building, and were pocketing the income from the venture without the rightful owner’s – or Just Park’s – knowledge.
Some owners of the parking spaces have now had to install bollards to prevent unsuspecting drivers from using their allocated bays.
Victims of the parking scam have been forced to install removable bollards to prevent anyone from using their bays without permission
Homeowners in Edinburgh have also been victim of the scam.
Barbara Oliver, who lives in the Scottish capital, returned from holiday to discover that mystery drivers had been parking their cars in front of her garage door.
‘It appeared that these people had used Just Park and had information to say that they could park there, which, as the property’s owner, I knew was not true’, Barbara told the BBC.
Just Park removed the unauthorised adverts and says it will do the same with immediate effect if other fraudulent activity is identified.
The company’s founder and chief executive officer, Anthony Eskinazi, apologised to both Mr Gallagher and Mrs Oliver for the fraudulent activity carried out on its website.
‘We do have stringent checks in place to prevent spaces from being listed fraudulently,’ he explained to the BBC,
‘On rare occasions where they are added, we immediately remove them once notified and ensure that our community is not adversely affected.’
Just Park is one of a number of parking website that allows drivers to rent vacant bays belong to homeowners and businesses to avoid steep on-street parking charges
Removing a car parked on your driveway without permission isn’t as straightforward as you think…
For homeowners, removing a car that’s parked outside their property is more problematic than many might suspect.
That because of a bizarre legal loophole that means anyone can legally park on your driveway – and it could cost thousands of pounds to remove them.
Homeowners across Britain have found a stranger’s car on their driveway, before being told by the police and local council that neither can do anything about it.
Local authorities can fine a motorist blocking a driveway on a public road – but if on a driveway, it becomes private property on which councils have no jurisdiction.
Councils can also remove abandoned cars from public or private property, but they are unlikely to touch it on private land if it is taxed and insured, with a valid MOT.
Meanwhile, police would likely say that although the car is trespassing it is actually a civil offence, meaning the homeowner would need an eviction notice in court.
This would begin a long and expensive legal process that would see a solicitor have to obtain the civil court’s permission to track down the owner of the car.
A judge would then have to make a removal order before court enforcers could take action to remove the car – all of which would be at the cost of the homeowner.
Other options available include blocking in the stranger’s car with your own vehicle, before catching them returning and asking them to move.
Homeowners could also spend at least £100 on a private tow truck to remove it –but the car owner could make them pay for any damage while it is being towed.
Jack Cousens, head of roads policy for the AA, said in 2018: ‘In a bizarre way, the system seems to favour the offender over the victim in this case.
‘Because the offence of trespass is a civil matter the police cannot get involved, and as the vehicle is on private land the council cannot help either.
‘So the only options available to homeowners seeking to get back what is rightfully theirs, costs both time and money.’
Mr Cousens added: ‘It happens rarely enough that it’s not thought about how should we actually work this from a legislative, civil, criminal work-through in terms of how we protect the victim.’
David Carrod, from the British Motorists’ Protection Association, explained: ‘It’s very rare to come across instances of this sort of thing, and if it happens it’s most likely to occur on properties close to sports stadia, e.g. Twickenham or Wembley.
‘It’s true that the homeowner can only pursue the offender under a civil tort of trespass, for which the damages would usually be nominal, unless the homeowner could prove that consequential losses were incurred, such as losing pay because he couldn’t get to work.
‘But if the trespass action were successful in a court hearing, he would be able to recover his costs – the court claim issue fee, the hearing fee, and his witness costs for attending court.’
He added: ‘Anybody with reasonable cause can apply to the DVLA on form V888/3 to get the registered keeper details of a vehicle.’