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driving concerns

A Toronto police officer issues a ticket in 2015. In Toronto, you need a permit to park on residential streets in some neighbourhoods during specific hours, but the permits don’t mean you have a reserved spot in front of your home or even on your street.Chris Young/The Globe and Mail

My friends live in an older neighbourhood with no driveways. People park on the street. I went there for their daughter’s 16th birthday party on a weekday evening. It’s not an area that requires a residential parking permit. Because the spaces in front of their house were full, I parked across the street. When I went to leave after a couple of hours, there was a snarky note on my windshield. It said the street parking space was their property – and they had recorded my licence plate number and would have me towed if I ever parked there again. My friends said the neighbours (who are apparently renters) leave notes any time a car is in front of their house, even for a few minutes. My friends think they printed a bunch of notes and have them stacked by their front door. They’ve also left lawn chairs in the space to keep people from parking there and they had their own No Parking sign up for a while. Does their note have any legal force? Can someone really reserve the street parking in front of their house? Could I get towed? – Cary, Edmonton

When it comes to street parking in most cities, there’s no home advantage.

“The curb in front of a home is public space and individuals – regardless of whether they live in that particular home or community may park a vehicle while following any posted parking restrictions,” Jessica Lamarre, director of safe mobility and traffic operations with the City of Edmonton, said in an e-mail.

“Residents cannot get a car privately towed for parking in front of their home, and they cannot leave items on the street in front of their home to prevent others from using the space.”

In most cities, you don’t have a right to reserve a spot directly in front of your home – even in neighbourhoods that require a residential parking permit.

For instance, in Toronto, you need a permit to park on residential streets in some neighbourhoods during specific hours, but the permits don’t mean you have a reserved spot in front of your home or even on your street.

“On-street spaces are not allocated to specific addresses, but rather on a first-come, first-served basis,” Ashika Theyyil, communications adviser with the City of Toronto, said in an e-mail.

“The person may call [Toronto police parking enforcement], but if your vehicle is parked legally, no action will be taken.”

So, for example, you could report someone parking in front of your house without a permit, if your neighbourhood requires one, but they’d be ticketed or towed because they didn’t have a permit – and not because they’re in front of your house.

Some cities have limits on how long someone can park in front of your house.

In Vancouver, for instance, between 8 a.m. and 6 p.m. every day, you can’t park for more than three hours in front of a home you don’t live in or a business you don’t work at.

Parking rules rule

You can’t just call a towing company to tow a vehicle that’s parked in front of your house. Instead, you would have to call parking enforcement and they would order it – but only if that car is illegally parked, Toronto’s Theyyil said.

But if someone really wants to punish you for parking in front of their house, they could report you if you are breaking other parking rules – including blocking a driveway or being too close to a fire hydrant.

In Edmonton, for instance, there are further restrictions in some residential neighbourhoods. They include parking in one spot for longer than 72 consecutive hours, Edmonton’s Lamarre said.

In Toronto, there is a maximum three-hour parking limit on all city roads unless you have a parking permit or there’s a sign saying otherwise.

How common are complaints about parking in front of a house? Vancouver, Edmonton, Toronto and Montreal didn’t immediately provide numbers.

In 2018, an Edmonton parking staffer told CBC News that the city received dozens of complaints a year about parking on the street in front of homes.

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