NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — Parking enforcement on private lots walks a fine line where they may not be breaking a law, but some say their practices are far from ethical.
If you’ve ever been to Edgehill Village in Nashville, you probably know the lot well. If not, stick around long enough and someone will clue you in as to how strict they are once you’re over your parking limit.
Jack Platt works for Jack Brown’s Burger Joint just down the street and says they hear all the complaints.
“It’s not a fun experience for anybody,” Platt said.
We saw two cars get the boot in an hour, although we weren’t sure how long ago their parking expired. Needless to say, the drivers weren’t thrilled.
“I’ve had people yell at me thinking that I’m in control of the lot. That’s not my job. Usually, they boot immediately after. If you go for an hour, they’ll boot you after an hour and five. It’s very, very quick,” Platt said.
While the lot is managed by Peak Parking based out of Austin, Texas, enforcement is handled by Apex Parking Enforcement. We spoke to the man in charge of booting vehicles and asked if there’s any flexibility.
He said while the signs clearly state that parking is strictly enforced, his policy is to give people a 10 minute grace period to make it back to their cars. That said, he doesn’t really leave this lot. So the moment you’re over your limit, he’s probably waiting. It’s for that reason Platt says he reminds customers to either pay for more time than they need or rush back to their cars as soon as they can.
William Spielhagen of Peak Parking said none of the money that comes from booting or towing cars makes it to them. They only make money off of parking fees at the meter. The $50 boot fee goes to the enforcement attendant who they’ve asked to give people a 15 minute grace period.
What Spielhagen doesn’t want is for anyone to take advantage of their attempt at goodwill. There’s nothing in the city ordinance that suggests parking enforcement has to offer a grace period of any kind. Once you’re over your parking limit, you can be booted, fined, and or towed immediately.
“This is the only industry where it’s socially acceptable to steal from the company and we become the bad guys. We don’t want people not to park with us, we just want them to follow the rules,” Spielhagen said.
Speilhagen said they have refunded money for those who were within only minutes of their meters expiring. He intends on speaking with the enforcement attendant to ensure people have time to make it to their vehicles.
Metro Nashville City Council member Freddie O’Connell says they’ve talked about price gouging for parking lots in the past, but this issue is a little more complicated. In Nashville, you can’t enforce parking by booting cars on the same lot you manage, which helps prevent predatory practices. Short of what’s already on the books, O’Connell says there’s not much else the council can do if these companies are following the rules.
“The most we’ll be able to do in that situation is something like a transparency initiative, but if they’ve got everything posted appropriately, I don’t know that Metro has anything to do there,” O’Connell said.
O’Connell encourages people to reach out to his office if they find any lots attempting to hide or conceal their signs in an attempt to catch customers off-guard. For now, he says his hands are tied.
“I’m listening to this kind of accounting trying to figure out where the predatory elements are. Where is the stuff that may be truly harmful in a way that people don’t suspect or would have no way of knowing. If I ever got a ticket at a place where there’s no sign posted about it, I would dispute it. If I got a parking ticket and I ignored the sign, I pay that one,” O’Connell said.
Some businesses have picked up on these parking practices like on the corner of 12th and Porter Street. There you’ll find a sign warning customers to avoid the trouble of parking in the lot altogether. The sign reads, “we do not control the rates they charge and they are quick to boot if you do not pay or if you overstay your paid time limit.”
While it’s not against the law for them to be on time when you’re not, some say it’s anxiety they can do without.