Like much of the Pennsylvania Code, state regulations on the posting of signs for private parking lots is somewhat wordy and can be difficult to understand. One key provision to notice, however, is that it is illegal to tow any vehicle unless the signs posted in the parking lot are fully in accordance with Pennsylvania law. Thus, it is very important that any Pennsylvania business owner with a private parking lot fully understand the regulations in place to ensure the business lot contains the proper signs in the proper places.
The Code covers two different types Striping of signs used in any private parking lot. The first is defined as “Public Notice Signs,” which show messages referring to the entire lot, such as “Parking for XYZ Business Customers Only,” or simply “Private Parking.” These signs must be posted in specific areas, and must also follow several other regulations. If the parking lot has clearly defined entrances and exits, the law is fairly straightforward and states that a sign must be posted at EVERY entrance to the lot and that each sign must be facing traffic. Unfortunately, the Pennsylvania Code is not as clear on what is required in parking lots with no clearly defined entrances, such as those that are simply open to the street on one or more sides. In these cases, the Code states only that signs must be posted so that they are “readily visible to an ordinarily observant driver.” How many signs are necessary, or where exactly to place them, is difficult to pin down, so business owners may be best off following the law of “better safe than sorry,” and posting signs very clearly at relatively small intervals throughout the lot. It may also be helpful to speak with a representative from a towing company or even local law enforcement to make sure the signs are posted properly.
Of course, having signs posted in the right locations is only half the battle. Business owners must also ensure that their signs are displaying the correct message in the correct way. To this end, it is important that any signs posted in a parking lot contain three pieces of information as follows:
The primary restriction: essentially the basic message of “Private Parking,” “Parking by Permit Only,” or another phrase along these lines. This message needs to use letters at least 3 inches high. If the sign is more than 75 feet away from an entrance, an extra inch has to be added for every additional 25 feet. As for the width, the letters must be at least 1/8 wide as the required height.
The secondary restriction: this includes the additional information such as which hours of the day or days of the week the sign applies. This can also include a warning that unauthorized vehicles will be towed and/or the charge that will apply. The secondary restriction is NOT required for a sign, but is generally helpful, even if it simply states “No Parking, Any Time.” The secondary restriction requires letters at least 2 inches high. If the sign is larger, the secondary restriction letters must be at least half the size of those in the primary restriction.