The practical importance of the answer to the question of what type of contract we conclude by leaving a vehicle on a paid parking lot is mainly grounded on the consequences that occur in the event of a theft of the vehicle, a natural disaster or the manifestation of any other circumstance, affecting the integrity of the vehicle or leading to such damage that makes the vehicle unusable anymore.
By applying the clauses of a concluded deposit contract, the consequence of a possible damage to the object would be that the holder of the parking lot (whether an owner or a tenant) would have to compensate the vehicle owner for the damages caused to their vehicle. Applying the rules of a rental contract for a parking space, it would mean that if the integrity of the vehicle is affected, the negative consequences will remain only for the owner of the vehicle, because the object perishes at their expense.
A vehicle, left in a paid parking as a deposit contract.
What is a deposit contract (Art. 250 – Art. 257 of the Obligations and contracts Act)?
The parties of the deposit contract are:
- depositor – in the specific example, this is the person who leaves their vehicle on the parking;
- depositary – the person who is the holder (owner, tenant) of the parking.
With a deposit contract, the depositary undertakes the obligation to keep the chattel, handed to them by the depositor, free of charge or upon a fee, and to return it upon request or at the agreed time. The deposit contract is a real contract, which means that the handing of the object – the vehicle in the specific example, is relevant for its conclusion. The contract is also informal – no written form is required for its conclusion in order to be valid. It is the depositary’s duty to accept the chattel, keep it with the care of “a good owner” and return it, taking full responsibility for the object they received, unless they can prove that the loss was due to a cause beyond their control, which cannot be impute into their blame.
Prevailing case law
General/permanent is the formed court practice regarding the qualification of a contract for assigning the security of a vehicle in a parking lot, against payment, as a deposit contract.
It makes an impression that the judges, assessing whether the contract is for a deposit, discuss and take into account details of the factual situation of the cases, such as:
- circumstances of whether a person undertook the obligation to secure the vehicle, which in turn indicated a concluded contract for a deposit, and not for the rental of a parking space;
- whether there is an obligation of a parking lot holder to keep and return the process vehicle and whether there is an actual handing of the object;
- is there a coincidence of the persons’ declarations of will, for a vehicle to be parked on a parking lot, managed by the other litigant;
- are there enough collected evidences to prove the securing of a vehicle left on a parking lot, against an agreed monthly fee in a certain amount and the depositary’s obligation to protect the accepted car from damage and destruction;
- is the parking estate used specifically as a parking lot, etc.
Therefore, many details of the factual situation are relevant in order to properly qualify a contract for leaving a vehicle on a parking lot for safekeeping against a fee.
Assessing the facts, courts more often make the decision that a contract for leaving a vehicle in a parking lot is a deposit contract.
A vehicle, left in a paid parking, as a parking space rental contract.
In the legal world, legal acts issued by the judges exist, in which the contract for leaving a car in a parking lot is qualified as a contract for renting a parking space, and not as a contract for a deposit.
In fact, a rental contract is a contract by which an immovable property is provided by one person – the lessor, to another – the tenant, to use the property for a certain period of time and upon payment of a certain fee.
The rental contract is also an informal contract, like the deposit contract – which means it is not necessary to be concluded in a written form. It is considered to be concluded upon the mere agreement between the parties, without the need to hand over the object.
As already indicated, some judges consider that the provision of a paid parking space by a person, for a certain period and for a certain price, to another person, is considered to be a rental contract / lease contract. The courts justify that such contract is a lease contract, interpreting the will expressed by the subjects, namely that the parties have reached an agreement on the essential elements of the lease contract, defined under Art. 228 and the following of Obligations and contracts Act.
So, do we rent a parking space or we put our vehicle in a parking for safekeeping? – In my opinion, what is fundamental in determining the type of contract is what the agreement between the parties is: whether it is for the provision of a parking space, or whether it is for the provision of a vehicle for safekeeping against a fee, or in other words – what is the subject of the contract.
It is also worth mentioning the arguments of the judges, who reasoned that parking a car in a parking lot is a deposit contract and not a parking space rental contract, because as far as the person – holder of the parking lot never lost the actual possession of the parking lot, the contract is not for rent, but for a deposit. An additional argument in this direction is the fact that nowhere is agreed that the person parking their vehicle should use a specific parking space. As far as the duty of the employee is to determine the parking place when someone enters the parking lot, the driver of the car may be directed to a different parking space and this has no relation to the validity of the agreement.
Some litigants try to argue that the contract is not a deposit one, but a lease, when the parking lot is not secured. But is this circumstance actually relevant for determining the type of contract? More likely not, as are the conclusions of some of the courts, justifying their negative answer with the fact that, in fact, the provision of security for a parking lot contributes to a greater extent to the protection of the deposited object. The provision of security, however, is not among the mandatory features of the deposit contract, and failure to provide such does not change the nature of the agreement or the obligations of the depositary to keep the item with the care of a “good owner”, which is objectified when, for example, the parking employee reports the theft of the car from the parking lot in a timely manner or tries to prevent theft/fire or any destruction of the object.
Court Decision of the Supreme Court, IV CD, on the development of the legislation, from 29.11.2022.
Whatever the different subjective views and perceptions of the litigators of the cases and the judges are regarding the exact type of contract, the Supreme Court issued a Decision on the development of the legislation recently.
The legal question on which the admissibility of a cassation appeal was based, was whether the positioning of a car in a fenced above-ground parking lot, with a pass mode through a barrier and an employee, against the payment of an agreed fee, constitutes a transfer of the factual possession over the car from its driver to the manager of the parking lot, and whether these facts fulfill the factual terms of the deposit agreement.
The Supreme Court summarized the specifics of the deposit contract and accepted that when it is established that one person (for example person X) has assigned another (person Y) to guard their car in a parking lot, which lot is in the possession of the person Y and the person Y has agreed to undertake the car’s security service (this fact being established as with the evidence of paid parking lot, as well as from the documentation available that person Y accepted the car for safekeeping), the responsibility attributed to person Y is the responsibility of a depositary under the deposit contract, and that the realization of all these facts fulfills the factual composition of the deposit contract.
The article above is for information purposes only. It is not a (binding) legal advice. For a thorough understanding of the subjects covered and prior acting on any issue discussed we kindly recommend Readers consult Ilieva, Voutcheva & Co. Law Firm attorneys at law.