Parking Spot Disputes Too Common a Source of Violence

CarKeys_ iStockNo final word yet on whether the recent Chapel Hill, North Carolina killings of three young Muslims of Arab descent was a religiously motivated hate crime, but it’s definitely a sad reminder of the fevered disputes that can arise over neighborhood parking spots.

According to a report in the Washington Post, “A preliminary investigation revealed that Hicks had previously clashed with his victims — husband and wife Deah Barakat and Yusor Mohammad Abu-Salha and Abu-Salha’s sister Razan — over parking spots in front of the apartment complex where they lived.”

Parking lot disputes between neighbors that turn deadly appear regularly in the U.S. news headlines. Take, for instance, “N.J. man gets 10 years for shooting man 4 times over parking spot,” from Newark in February, 2015; “Father slain in front of young son, caught up in feud between neighbors,” from Baltimore in January, 2015; and “Mom Watches Son Get Shot After Parking Space Argument & Reportedly Delivers Serious Reprisal,” from New York in May of 2014.

Those reports don’t even take us back as far as 2013! And they don’t include the all-too-many cases where someone gets shot over a dispute that wasn’t between neighbors but was, say, over a parking space at a restaurant, gas station, or Home Depot.

I need hardly mention that the law doesn’t give anyone a right to defend their parking space to the death. But in case anyone is curious as to who has rights to a neighborhood parking spot in the first place, here’s a basic rundown.

  • In a condo, apartment, or community run by a homeowners’ association, parking spots may be “assigned,” or even individually rented, in which case only one person has a right to park there.
  • On a public street, no one has ownership rights, not even to the spot in front of their house. (See Nolo’s Q&A, “Does my neighbor “own” a parking spot on a public street?“.)

Of course, there will always be neighbors who violate the laws or community rules, or simply do obnoxious things, like park their third car in front of your house and leave it there for weeks at a time. In light of the passions that can obviously arise over such transgressions, it might be wisest, if you’re the one who’s bothered by a neighbor’s parking habits, to request action from the authorities — a landlord, a homeowners’ association, or the municipal parking authorities (who will often ticket or tow a car that has been in one place for too long).