Tenant Parking Rights: A Guide for Renters and Landlords
Parking issues can lead to headaches and frustration for both tenants and landlords. As a tenant, can the landlord dictate where you park or establish parking rules that limit your access? And, what parking rights and responsibilities do landlords have when it comes to tenant parking?
The answers depend on the lease agreement terms, local laws, parking arrangements, and whether the rental property is a single-family rental or a multi-unit building.
The lease agreement is the first place you should look for any parking clauses, but even if the lease doesn't address parking, tenants have implied rights that landlords must honor.
Here, we'll break down parking rights and responsibilities for both tenants and landlords. Understanding this issue from both perspectives can help avoid disputes and create a smoother rental experience.
The types of parking arrangements
To start, let's look at the various types of arrangements for parking at rental properties. Some of the most common parking setups in rental agreements include:
Assigned parking spaces
With assigned parking, the lease specifies the exact parking spot(s) for a tenant's exclusive use. The landlord cannot remove or reassign parking spaces with specific numbers or labels without proper notice. This gives tenants guaranteed access to their designated spots.
Unassigned or open parking
Open parking means there are no pre-assigned spots for individual tenants. All tenants share equal rights to use any unmarked parking space in the designated rental parking areas on a first come, first served basis. This allows more flexibility but can also mean competition for open spots.
Tandem or double parking is when vehicles park one behind the other in a single file line. This stacked style fits more cars into smaller parking lots. The rear vehicle owner usually needs the driver of the front car to move before they can get in or out. For this reason, tandem parking requires coordination with other tenants.
Stacked parking uses machinery to stack vehicles vertically, allowing more cars to fit in less surface space. Tenants may have rights to specific spaces but need to coordinate with management to access their vehicles, making retrieval inconvenient.
Carports are covered, open-sided parking spots. They offer protection from rain, snow, and other elements. In the lease, property managers typically assign carports to individual tenants.
Parallel parking is when spots are lined up along the curb rather than in a lot. Tenants may have rights to specific numbered curbside spaces at rental properties. Otherwise, parallel spots are first come, first serve.
Some luxury buildings offer valet parking, where attendants park cars for tenants in a centralized parking garage or parking lot. Valet arrangements don't limit tenant access but do mean tenants need to coordinate with valets to retrieve their vehicle.
Parking concerns for landlords
Parking is an amenity that can greatly impact tenant satisfaction and day-to-day convenience. How you handle parking can make your rental property listing even more attractive to potential renters. Landlords should consider a number of factors when creating rental rules around parking.
- Space availability: Changes in tenant vehicles, visitors, and turnover can strain the available parking spaces over time. Periodically evaluate capacity of your parking lot to make sure that you have adequate parking to meet demand. This is especially key if your rental agreement provides reserved tenant spaces. Consider adding parking as occupancy increases.
- Accessibility: Make sure tenants can conveniently access assigned or general parking areas without obstructions. Keep walkways well-lit, maintained, and clear of debris. For tenants with disabilities, provide properly sized accessible spaces close to entrances.
- Fair allocation: To avoid conflicts, landlords should handle parking spaces and related rules fairly. First come, first serve, free-for-all parking can lead to parking wars, so consider assigned spaces or implementing a lottery system for open spots.
- Zoning and regulations: Consider any local zoning laws, permit requirements, and property codes that apply to parking facilities. This may include minimum parking space dimensions, handicap spot quotas, curbs, striping, and signage.
- Cost: If you charge for parking, make sure the rates are reasonable and consistent. Clarify if fees are per-use or monthly. Specify rates, billing, and policies in the lease agreement to set expectations.
- Tenant turnover: During turnover, parking assignments may need occasional adjusting between incoming and outgoing tenants. Have an organized system to transition reserved spots and update records smoothly.
- Liability: Make sure parking lots and garages are properly maintained to minimize safety hazards. Tenants could raise concerns over things like potholes, broken glass, poor lighting, or insufficient security patrols that present liability risks.
Key elements of a parking policy
Let's look at some of the core components to include in a comprehensive parking policy for rental properties.
Designating parking spaces
One of the first steps is designating parking areas on your rental property. This includes assigning specific spots to each unit and allocating certain spaces for guests. For properties with driveway or garage parking, give each tenant a numbered spot near their unit. Make it clear that they are only allowed to park in their designated parking area.
For larger buildings and complexes, specific spots may not be feasible, but you can still designate general zones, floors, or areas for tenants of each unit. Provide guest parking in a separate location so visitors don't occupy tenant spaces.
Accommodating tenants with disabilities
You must provide reasonable accommodations for tenants with disabilities in compliance with the Fair Housing Act.
This may include designating accessible parking spots or allowing exceptions for illegally parked vehicles displaying valid disability placards.
Defining no-parking zones
Specify areas that are off-limits for parking. This may include fire lanes, loading zones, dumpster access, entrances, exits, and other essential access areas.
Mark these no-parking zones clearly. Make sure to leave room for emergency vehicles and service trucks to maneuver.
Rules regarding inoperable vehicles
You'll want to prohibit the parking of any inoperable, unregistered, or abandoned vehicles. Define what qualifies as "inoperable" — flat tires, expired license plates, or major body damage.
Give tenants notice to remove the vehicle or have it towed at their expense.
Procedures for towing
Outline specific procedures for towing illegally parked vehicles. Require written notice to the tenant before towing. Towing should only occur after multiple violations and warnings.
Include information on the towing company, where tenants can retrieve towed vehicles, and any fees the tenant will incur. Follow all state and local laws regarding notifications and towing from private property.
Compliance with laws
Stay informed on all relevant local, state, and federal laws regarding parking and vehicles. This includes ordinances on snow removal, emergency vehicle access, maximum occupancy, and notices required before towing. Make sure your parking policy complies with all applicable parking regulations.
In some cases, you may need to coordinate with local law enforcement to verify that your parking policies are not only legal but also practical and enforceable.
Don't surprise tenants with sudden parking rule changes. Communicate any policy changes in writing with at least 30 days' advance notice.
Post signs and warnings in visible areas before enforcing new rules.
Avoiding and resolving parking disputes
Even with a strict parking policy, disputes may occasionally arise between tenants or the landlord. Here are some tips for minimizing conflicts and complaints over parking:
Clearly outline expectations in lease agreements
Detail all assigned spots, consequences for violations, guest parking rules, and towing policies directly in the written lease agreement. Have tenants acknowledge and agree to the terms with signatures to prevent confusion in the future.
Provide a grace period for infractions
Provide a reasonable grace period before strictly enforcing violations. Issue a friendly verbal or written reminder and give tenants adequate time to self-correct their behavior. Going after small problems full-force can deter tenants from renewing their lease with you.
Address chronic offenders
For repeat violations, issue escalating warnings, which can include fines and towing, and document each step. Start with parking fines, and if the renter still doesn't comply, escalate to towing the vehicle.
Use towing as a last resort
Towing creates ill will, and brings tenants significant expenses and major inconveniences. Save this option for those who fail to respond to multiple prior warnings and continue to violate the rules. Always follow proper legal protocols and written notices before towing vehicles.
Avoid unreasonably obstructing parking
Landlords should not block, restrict, or interfere with tenant parking without good cause. Drastic actions could be illegal and considered harassment or constructive eviction.
Special considerations for urban properties
Finding sufficient parking poses unique challenges for city properties located in dense and space-constrained areas. With limited room to expand, you need creative solutions to accommodate tenant parking needs. Here are some potential options to explore:
1. Investigate creative uses for available space
Take an in-depth look at current parking areas to find ways to maximize capacity. Consider stacked or mechanized parking systems that allow cars to be parked vertically and retrieved mechanically to fit more vehicles in a small footprint.
Compact tandem parking spaces where two cars park end-to-end in a single stall can also help. Parking lifts that stack cars above or below ground level are another option, as are underground parking garages if constructed on the rental property. Get creative and leverage parking innovations to make the most of your space.
2. Offer off-site parking solutions
If it is not possible to provide sufficient on-site parking due to land constraints, consider leasing additional spaces at nearby public or private parking lots or garages.
Allow tenants to park in these lots and consider running shuttle van services to and from the building for convenience. This allows you to accommodate tenant vehicles without expanding on-site parking.
3. Implement parking permits or stickers
Require tenants to display special parking permits or static cling decals on their vehicle windows when parked on-site. This helps identify authorized parkers versus unauthorized vehicles. It also provides quick visual monitoring and can deter non-residents from occupying tenant spaces.
4. Make room for alternative vehicles
Given the rise in popularity of electric vehicles, consider adding charging stations on-site for tenant convenience.
You can also designate preferred parking areas for motorcycles, scooters, and bikes to encourage tenants to use these space-efficient alternatives.
Parking rules for tenants
When parking problems lead to frustrated tenants, landlords must find thoughtful and helpful solutions.
Parking issues often happen due to unclear or unenforced rules. Landlords can prevent problems by enacting tenant-friendly policies and proactive management. They should honor the lease terms and treat tenants fairly when it comes to parking access and enforcement.
Tenants should carefully review and understand the parking terms in their lease. Communicate your needs to the landlord and try to resolve issues cooperatively before complaining or breaking the property rules. With clear expectations, parking can be easy for both landlords and tenants.
Tenant parking rights FAQs
Are tenant parking laws the same for apartments, condos, and houses?
Parking rules can vary depending on whether you rent an apartment, condo, or house. Landlords generally regulate apartment parking, while an HOA may dictate condo parking. Houses may offer more flexibility.
Can tenants sublet their parking spaces to others?
This depends entirely on the rules laid out in the rental agreement. Some landlords may allow it, while others may prohibit it.
Can my landlord restrict large vehicles or trailers?
Landlords can create reasonable restrictions regarding oversized vehicles that don't fit in spaces or could cause damage to the parking structure due to their size. However, restrictions must apply evenly to all tenants to avoid violating tenants' parking rights.