You may be towed, but only if there is proper signage

Q. Does a store have the right to limit who may park in its lot? Isn’t this public property? Can I be towed for parking in the lot of one store and shopping somewhere else?

A. First, as a general rule, a parking lot is not public property. Nearly all parking lots – or parking facilities, as the law refers to them – are private property, and the owner of a facility may limit who may park there. In fact, you should assume that parking facilities are built for customers of the owner. Whether you may be towed, however, is a different question.

Although a store or shopping area may limit who can use its parking facility, it must follow state law to have the right to tow violators. Under state law, a parking facility must place the proper signs before it may tow a car. Among other things, the signs must be conspicuously visible to and facing the driver who enters the lot and be located at each entrance to the lot. The signs must also contain the international symbol for towing vehicles, describe who may and who may not park, and contain a current phone number that is answered 24 hours a day to enable the owner to locate the car. If the parking facility has the proper signage, and you park where you shouldn’t, you may be towed and will a owe substantial fee to the towing company. The bottom line is that a parking lot owner may limit who is permitted to park in the lot; it may only tow wrongdoers, however, if there are proper signs.

Q. My landlord fined me $25 for allowing my dog to poop in one of the common areas. Can I be fined? I thought only the city or state can impose a fine.

A. You are correct that generally, criminal penalties, or fines, are imposed by a government entity. But your landlord has the right to impose whatever fines or penalties are provided for in your lease. If your lease says you will be fined $25 for allowing your dog to poop in the common areas, you may be fined and owe the money. On the other hand, if your lease is silent and says nothing about penalties for such conduct, you landlord has no right to impose a fine.

Q. I am the sole shareholder and president of a small corporation. I was told my business cannot appear in court or file a lawsuit without an attorney. My business is being sued for a small amount of money in small claims court. Do I have to hire an attorney to represent the business?

A. In most cases, a corporation may file a lawsuit or appear in court only through an attorney. The corporation is considered a legal entity, and if someone besides an attorney tried to represent the corporation, they would be acting as its attorney without a license. In small claims court, however, any authorized agent such as the president may represent a corporation. The law recognizes that many claims in small claims court do not require the assistance of an attorney, and allows a corporate officer to represent the company.

Q. Is it true that someone who doesn’t pay his child support may lose his driver’s license?

A. Yes, it is true. Under the law, a court has the right to suspend any professional license, including a driver’s license, of a person who doesn’t pay child support as ordered. In fact, a court may even throw the person in jail.

Q. How much notice is an employee entitled to before he or she is fired? I showed up for work this morning and was told the end of the week would be my last day. I thought I was entitled to two week’s notice. This doesn’t seem fair.

A. As a legal matter, you are not entitled to any prior notice. Unless you have an employment contract or union agreement that says otherwise, you may be fired with no prior notice. Your employer might not have treated you fairly, but from a legal standpoint, it had the right to do what it did.

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