Halifax man refuses to pay booting company, waits five hours for car to be freed

A Halifax resident who waited five hours in a parking lot for a car booting company to free his vehicle wants stricter oversight of an industry he says uses “predatory tactics and intimidation.”

Joshua Bernas thought he was parking in a visitor spot when he visited an acupuncturist at 50 Bedford Highway on Saturday. When he realized the office was closed, he returned to his car to find someone securing a boot to his tire. 

When he asked what was going on, Bernas said the employee handed him a ticket from One-Shot Parking Solutions with instructions to pay $115 to free his vehicle.

“I absolutely refused. I knew what my rights were,” Bernas told CBC’s Information Morning.

“They had no right to immobilize my car or to keep me there…. It was a completely ridiculous situation through and through.”

In Halifax, companies that boot vehicles in private parking lots aren’t regulated, which means they can set their own prices and follow their own rules.

Bernas said he was told the only way to have the boots removed was to pay the company $115. (Submitted by Josh Bernas)

Companies are not doing anything illegal as long as they have a sign up indicating what happens to illegally parked cars.

But that could change.

Halifax Regional Municipality recently asked for a staff report on regulating car booting companies following complaints from residents about high costs.

Municipal staff have suggested one option is for Halifax to follow Moncton’s lead and require companies to apply for licenses.

Bernas said there was a sign at the entrance to the parking lot that stated it was private property and that violators would be booted. He didn’t see that sign when he first pulled in and believed he was following the rules by parking in a visitor spot. 

“I was a consumer in the area looking to do business,” he said. “Surely there’s no reason to boot my car. You know, it’s a public space as far as I’m concerned.”

Bernas said what really concerned him was that the employee of One-Shot Parking Solutions didn’t identify himself or let Bernas speak to his supervisor.

“They’re using predatory tactics and intimidation to put you on the spot to get you to pay in an environment that you’re not comfortable in, and I don’t think that that’s fair,” he said. 

CBC News made multiple attempts to reach One-Shot Parking Solutions, but no one responded.

According to the Nova Scotia Registry of Joint Stocks, the company was revoked for non-payment on Jan. 7 and was reinstated on Monday.

Worth the five-hour wait

Bernas said he stayed in his car researching the company online and eventually called the police. 

Halifax Regional Police said officers responded to a call on the Bedford Highway on Saturday, but determined it was a civil matter. 

“Officers were able to mediate a resolution to the matter; the boot was removed from the vehicle and the file was closed with no charges,” Cst. John MacLeod said in an email. 

Bernas said he arrived at the acupuncturist at 4 p.m. and the boot was removed by the company around 9 p.m. He did not pay a fee.

He knows most people would have simply paid the $115, but he said the long wait was worth it.

Regulatory oversight ‘concerns’ companies

According to the HRM staff report, One-Shot Parking Solutions and another company called RFM Parking monitor about 50 private lots in the municipality on behalf of businesses. 

The staff report noted that officials in business districts said better education and public awareness is needed to balance the needs of private lot owners and parking availability for local businesses.

The car booting companies, however, “expressed concerns with increased burden of regulation and oversight to their business.” 

The staff report is expected to come up at a transportation standing committee meeting on Jan. 23. 

In 2018, Moncton passed a bylaw that requires companies to apply for a license if they want to boot someone’s vehicle. Under the new rules, they can’t charge more than $45.

But a bylaw didn’t entirely solve Moncton’s problem with booters because some companies continued to immobilize cars illegally. Earlier this year, Moncton decided to take the offenders to court.

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