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While people are busy booking their summer holidays, the flights, hotels and activities take precedence. So, it is unlikely they will be willing to spend more than a few minutes trying to find a reliable and trusted place to park their vehicle while they’re away.
Vehicle owners who had booked a valet parking service can sometimes find their cars with hundreds of extra miles on the clock or even damaged. But how can vehicle owners make sure they do not fall foul of bad valet parking practices?
Elisa Ribeiro, Paralegal at DAS Law clarifies the legal position of valet companies entrusted with the care of customer's vehicles while they are away.
There are many ways in which you can deduce if a company is reputable or not.
Many organisations that have links to valet parking companies such as airports, hotels and general events facilities will often vouch for the valet parking company’s reputation in their marketing efforts. However, the liability will often lie with the company that you ultimately enter into a contract with, therefore, it is important to read the terms and conditions and critically analyse them before agreeing to any service.
To check if a valet parking company is a registered company, you can access the Government website to check Companies House to see if they are listed as active and who the people of importance to that company are. You can also check if they are registered with a trade association such as the British Parking Association. Some car parks also have accreditation awards such as Park Mark (parkmark.co.uk) which show what measures are in place to ensure the protection of vehicles. You can also check review websites to see previous customer experiences of their service to help make an informed decision.
Ideally, if the site is close by, you can arrange with the company to visit the site before deciding, otherwise, valet parking companies normally will have pictures available online or in brochures for you to inspect. You can also contact the company directly to ask them what measures they have in place to ensure that your vehicle will be safely kept and where your vehicle will be stored.
When discussing safety and security, you can ask the valet parking company questions such as:
Although it is important that valet parking companies have insurance and that they make that clear on their terms and conditions, there is no legal requirement for them to have insurance in case your property is damaged. It is therefore advisable that you check your own insurance for cover should your vehicle be damaged whilst being under a valet parking company’s responsibility. Many car insurance policies will not cover unnamed drivers of your vehicle so it is definitely worth checking your own cover.
If the information on the valet parking company’s insurance is not freely available, you can request proof of insurance from the valet parking company directly.
When you leave your car with a service such as a valet parking company you essentially enter a contract where your statutory rights are stipulated under the Consumer Rights Act 2015, which states that services are to be carried out with reasonable care and skill.
If the company does not perform the services with reasonable care and skill, then you can potentially argue that they have breached the contract and you may potentially be entitled to some form of compensation. In addition, the company also assumes the risk that comes with looking after your car and there must be no wrongful interference with the goods that could result in property damage due to their negligence.
In the unfortunate event that your vehicle is damaged, it is always quicker and easier to resolve the issue directly with the valet parking company by following their complaints procedure. You can also potentially complain to Trading Standards and ultimately you will always reserve the right to bring a legal claim against the valet parking company.
It is advisable to always keep a record, such as a photo, of your mileage before you deliver your car to a valet parking company. When assessing whether the mileage has increased by the time you collect your vehicle, a degree of reasonableness should be applied. It is to be expected that the vehicle will be driven to its storage location, and this could mean that the mileage could increase slightly.
If you find that the mileage has increased significantly, you could potentially argue a breach of contract due to services not being provided with reasonable care and skill and you may potentially be entitled for compensation. In the unlikely event that the mileage has increased to an excessive amount, you may potentially be compensated for the fuel and decrease in value of the vehicle.
Valet parking companies generally have clear terms and conditions on valuables and often will have big signs displayed at the entrance clarifying that they will not be accepting liability should your personal possessions be lost or stolen.
If this notice has been made clear before entering a contract, you will be responsible for your own belongings. However, the Valet company has still accepted responsibility of your vehicle’s safety and so you should expect anything in your vehicle to be under the same level of responsibility. If you have anything valuable/fragile in your car you should consider removing this from your vehicle beforehand. In case of theft, you can also contact the police to investigate the matter.