Does My Neighbor "Own" a Parking Spot on a Public Street?

No one has a right to a public parking space, but negotiating with the neighbor is still a good idea.

By , Attorney · Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law

It's amazing how fast people living on a city street start to think of certain parking spots, typically the one in front of their home, as their own. This can even lead to aggressive behavior, where someone screams that another person is in "their" parking spot and demands that the supposed interloper move their car.

This becomes a legal question: Is the parking spot in front of someone's house legally theirs?

No Ownership Rights to Parking Spots on Public Streets

Generally speaking, an individual citizen does not "own" or have any ongoing exclusive right to use a parking space on a public street. These spaces are open to the public on a first-come, first-served basis.

There are exceptions, of course, primarily in neighborhoods that specifically allocate a particular parking space to the owner or occupant of a particular home. This is most likely to be true in condominium, townhome, or other developments governed by a homeowners' association (HOA). The allotment of the parking spot would be included in the rental or homeowner agreement. This is rarely the case in large cities like New York or Chicago, but it is more common in suburbs. If you received a set of CC&Rs along with your purchase or rental agreements, read them over to see how parking spots are dealt with.

What to Do When Challenged Over Your Right to Park in Front of Someone's House

Ongoing screaming matches probably aren't the answer, assuming that you also live or work nearby and might need that spot in the future. One alternative is to engage the homeowner in a discussion. Perhaps the two of you could compromise by determining which of you most needs the spot and when.

For example, maybe you need to park there on weekends and the homeowner needs to park there on weekdays, depending on your respective work schedules. Perhaps you could trade off, and you could park there one week and the homeowner parks there the next. (This assumes, of course, that parking in your area isn't so tight that the spot isn't frequently filled by someone else entirely!)

Try to make the homeowner understand that you have every bit as much right to park on a public street as anyone else. It is to your mutual advantage to keep each other's needs in mind so that you can both park in peace.

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