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What to do if your apartment complex doesn’t have enough parking

April 9, 2024
Hannah Michelle Lambert
Content Writer

TABLE OF CONTENTS

You may be coming to the painful realization that you simply don’t have enough parking at your apartment complex. 

It may be a new realization as you’re approaching the end of your lease-up phase and are beginning to see some cracks in your parking planning, or it’s something you’ve known for a while and have been putting off fixing. Or maybe you’re a property manager that just started managing a new property and noticed that you inherited some major parking issues.

Whatever the reason, the impact is the same: Frustrated residents and swamped staff members who have to constantly try to solve these problems. 

The hardest part is that the problem of your apartment complex not having enough parking can often seem unsolvable. Just take a look at one property manager desperately searching for answers on the popular Multifamily Insiders forum

She goes on to ask, “Any tips or suggestions for me? I really feel like there's not much else I can do but I've got to try something because these people are after my head insisting something be done. There's nowhere for me to add parking spaces so I need to find a different solution.”

There are countless property managers out there facing similar problems. If you’re one of them, read on to learn more about what to do when you’re experiencing a parking shortage.

So, what’s the solution?

The answer to parking shortages isn’t all that shocking, given it’s 2024: Technology. 

It’s impossible to talk about effective parking management without touching on digital parking management systems. And although it seems counterintuitive, the solution is actually not found in building more parking in the first place. This misconception is common, since software-based parking management solutions (like Parkade) have only begun to grow in the past several years. 

Instead, the real problem lies in the lack of a good way to manage parking inventory to begin with. 

Property managers and developers are beginning to realize the value of digital parking systems — which saves them from coming up with a piece-meal solution, implementing it, and monitoring it on their own. Technology knocks all other options out of the water — such as relying more heavily on towing, for instance. 

One property manager from Multifamily Insiders says it right:

When you invest in an end-to-end solution like Parkade to manage your parking, you’re tackling the root of the problem and making residents happier to boot.

Can’t yet invest in software? Here are some tips

While a digital parking system is best-suited to solve parking shortages, we know that some buildings just aren’t ready to invest in new technology. Or the people who are faced with the brunt of the consequences of poorly managed parking don’t have decision-making power to buy new software. 

So if you’re not quite at the point where you can look into a parking management solution, we’re going to give you some tips to make the most of the parking you do have. These alone will not fully solve your parking shortage, but they may help you out until you can invest in a proper solution.

Many of these tips will also work best when implemented together. So we’d recommend picking a handful of these suggestions to get your parking in shape. 

Tip #1: Start charging for parking

Your first line of defense if you’re dealing with a parking shortage is to unbundle parking from rent and start charging for it. Unbundled parking will even be required in states such as California starting January 2025.

When you start charging for parking, it ensures that only the residents who actually need parking will be using it. If you give a spot to everyone for free, what’s stopping your residents from using their spot as storage for a non-working car, for a friend to use who doesn’t have parking at their nearby complex, or for friends to park when they head to nearby activities?

For one of our customers with a building in downtown Los Angeles, changing their pricing strategy worked wonders for resolving their parking shortage. Initially, they were offering a substantial amount of free parking, and had 18 residents on the wait-list. Once they started charging $125-$200 for a parking space, their wait-list dropped down to zero.

As their property manager Andrew Petit told us:

“I remember giving tours and telling people, ‘At this time, we do not have any parking.’ Now, we have plenty of parking for new residents.”

Already charging for parking but still facing a shortage?

If so, it may be time to consider raising prices. 

One of our customers, Delco Lofts in Dayton, OH, faced this exact scenario. They were charging $100/month for long-term parking, but still had 10 people on the wait-list. By increasing their prices to $125/month, several residents let go of their parking space, and the wait-list dropped to just three residents.

We’ve seen a new pricing strategy work wonders for our customers who thought they were cursed with not enough parking at their apartment complex. Not only does paid parking help to manage demand, but it also provides a valuable extra stream of income for your property. 

Worried that starting to charge all of a sudden is going to cause backlash from residents? Even a small amount ($20-30/month) can help to weed out the people that don’t really need parking. And as long as you clearly communicate the benefits that paid parking will provide (i.e. there will be more parking, and they won’t have to cross their fingers they’ll find a spot every time they get home), the change can be well-received. 

Tip #2: Consider reserved parking

Think unreserved parking is the way to go when you’re short on parking, because fewer spots sit empty? Think again. 

If you’re currently doing unreserved – or first-come, first-serve parking – you’ve probably realized that this hands-off way of managing parking has a slew of pitfalls: 

  • Enforcement hazards: With unreserved parking, you need to constantly check every single vehicle parked to see if it’s allowed. Moreover, unreserved parking lots tend to fill with violators, because they know enforcement is tough. Even if you have decals or permits, chances are they’re being abused – and if you don’t have permits, then you can bet there are cars parked in your lot that shouldn’t be.
  • Capacity hazards: If you’re selling 100 permits for 100 unreserved spots, you’re clearly no better off than reserved parking from a parking capacity point of view. So, you might think about selling 140 parking permits, right? That’s an option, but then you’re causing a new problem: You’re just selling a “hunting license.” Tenants may come home and find there’s no place to park, which is an awful experience, especially for something for which they pay. 

Reserved parking can be the fix

If you're facing a parking shortage, reserved parking can help prevent unauthorized parking to begin with, and you only need to enforce the spots that haven’t been leased. When you’re short on parking, that’s usually only a handful of spots — making enforcement a breeze. 

Many hesitate to implement assigned parking because they worry spots will sit idle when not in use, and that can certainly be the case without a system in place for subleasing spots between residents. Additionally, you'll need a reliable way to track assignments, update records, process payments, and enforce parking rules, otherwise reserved parking will become extremely time-consuming for your team to manage. 

With a service like Parkade to share parking, manage records, and handle parking enforcement issues, reserved parking becomes a much more obvious choice to solve your parking crunch.

Tip #3: Use non-transferable decals 

While many properties use hang tags or decals to track who’s allowed to park in their lot or garage, the problem is that they can easily be passed from car to car. This effectively cancels out their purpose.

Many teams have had success in using non-transferable decals that can’t easily be switched from one car to another. These stickers should include license plate numbers. Rose, a property manager we talked to, gave us the advice:

“Each car should have a sticker with a license plate number so that you couldn’t trade it from car to car.” 

Again, though, you may still run into management issues without organized and up-to-date records and a reliable guest parking system, resulting in unnecessary towing. As one property manager puts it,

“We implemented a color coded parking permit program and parking zones but still have a tough time managing visitor parking. We tow a LOT and our reviews suffer because of it.”

Tip #4: Limit the amount of cars allowed per unit

If your lot is bursting at the seams, or you’re getting to capacity and worried about future residents getting a spot, putting limits on cars per unit can be helpful.

You could either do a blanket limit, such as 1 or 2 cars per unit, or you can do limits based on the types of units, i.e. 1 car for studios and one bedrooms and 2 cars for two bedrooms. 

This is extremely helpful, but only if you have a reliable way to track/enforce it. In addition to reliable records for your staff to reference, this will need to be paired with either visible permit stickers or assigned parking to be able to spot cars that are in violation. As one property manager on Multifamily Insiders explained:

“At move-in, residents sign an addendum stating only 2 vehicles are allowed per apartment due to the limited parking available. We make sure we log each apartment's vehicles in our system. We often do parking lot checks to ensure vehicles in uncovered spots are operable and not just parked for weeks on end.”

Tip #5: Implement a specific strategy for guest parking 

None of these solutions so far have taken into account guest parking, which is typically the biggest thorn in the side of teams tasked with managing parking at apartment complexes. Going back to the original poster on the forum asking for help, she was lost when it came to not only offering guest spots, but also enforcing them. 

If you don’t have a parking management system that can streamline guest parking, the minimum you should do is require guests to register with the office and display visible permits (ideally with their license plate number) just like residents should do. 

If you have first-come, first-serve parking, you could also consider sectioning off a small portion for visitors so it’s easier to enforce. However, since any kind of “guest parking” signage notoriously invites abuse – such as a free spot for residents to park their extra car, or for members of the public to park – it really is important to pair this method with guest permits and/or logs. You should also implement and communicate rules, such as time limits. For instance, many property managers don’t allow overnight parking unless guests receive explicit permission from the office.

Bill, one property manager, shared his take on guest parking:

“We are able to isolate the guest parking and have the guests register their car to the apartment they are visiting, or it is towed.”

Having to sign in at the office (or getting towed if you don’t) can be a massive pain for residents and their guests, but it can be one solution to still offering guest parking even if you have a shortage.

Tip #6: Clearly communicate consequences for breaking rules, and tow only when you need to

No one wants to tow someone’s car. It causes complaints from residents, and it’s a pain for your staff to manage. So make sure you’ve clearly communicated the rules and have some sort of permit system to avoid the need to tow in the first place. 

One property manager we talked to couldn’t overstate the importance of communication when implementing new parking policies:

“Communicate your intentions and the new rules with ALL current and future residents. Give them enough time to adjust before anyone gets towed. Post notices. Send mass emails. Leave a note under everyone's door. Go the extra mile in communicating. Add a 1-2 liner on your email signature about reading the new parking rules. Staff can have a note on their desks that says ‘Ask me about the new parking rules.’”

Communication also includes clear signage that states relevant rules and that violators will be towed. There may be rules and regulations in your area for when you can and cannot tow, so just make sure you double check that your plan is in alignment.

If you’ve covered the bases on communication and people still break the rules, it’s important to show that there are consequences to prevent them from continuously doing it. 

It’s often a good idea to implement a warning system, at least initially, like property manager Lori did at her property:

“For a short time I would go through the lot first thing in the AM and put a full page warning on any visitor cars. This was our biggest issue with boyfriends and girlfriends staying the night. The warning said your vehicle info has been recorded and if you park here again you WILL be towed. I didn't have to do it for long. People got the idea and started parking on the street.”

If you have a reliable record of residents’ license plate numbers, you could enforce a policy where resident cars simply get fined and notified to move their cars, while non-resident cars get towed. Teams typically prefer to go this route to avoid resident backlash, and it incentivizes people to provide updated information if they get a new car or license plate. 

This, of course, rests on having a parking management system that is always up-to-date so that you’re not accidentally towing residents’ cars due to out-of-date records.

Tip #7: Restriping 

Depending on the current parking space dimensions in your parking lot, re-striping your lot may be an option. Some properties may realize they have excess handicap spots, or they aren’t making use of any compact spaces. As property manager Stephanie Oehler suggests:

“I would have someone measure for re-striping. I’ve seen sites gain as much as 10 spots doing this.”

Of course, you’ll have to balance this strategy with any minimum sizes required by local regulations, and consider the resident parking experience. The upside of having more parking spots can quickly be overshadowed by residents constantly dinging other cars or having difficulty maneuvering into compact spaces.

You also have to consider the costs associated with re-striping, which can go up to $3,000 for large apartment lots. 

Tip #8: Valet 

Some properties find valets to be a good solution to parking problems. This essentially eliminates all possibilities of unauthorized parking, since the valets are fully in control of where each car goes. And they can also potentially look into parking cars in nearby lots if the on-site lot is full.

However, this solution has significant drawbacks. In addition to the hassle of residents having to wait to retrieve their car, this is also highly expensive for your team. Even one full-time valet attendant can come with a hefty price tag, and for large complexes, you’ll likely need multiple attendants. 

If you’re going to go the valet route, it’s generally only recommended if you truly need a valet, so that cars can be double or triple parked — not something you’d want tenants doing on their own. Using a valet just to park in normal parking spots adds minimal value, and can often be a net negative for parkers. 

Consider your staff’s time

Many of the tips above hinge on the assumption that your team has the bandwidth to reliably manage and enforce your parking. And with shrinking on-site teams that have more responsibility than ever, no one wants to deal with the long list of parking responsibilities. From parking records to audits to monitoring to towing and more, it can add up to significant time each week. 

For one of our customers located in Denver, prior to Parkade, each office associate was spending 3.75 hours per week on parking on average. After Parkade, that number went down to 30 min, resulting in over 117 hours of time savings a month. At a $25 hourly rate, Parkade saved this team almost $3000/month in staff time spent on parking – and stories like this are common across all our customers.

When you consider the human capital needed to create a smooth parking experience, sometimes you can’t afford not to invest in software to automate it. 

Parking management software is the real solution

Parking management software like Parkade is a growing sector of the overall proptech industry. Our software is built to solve the exact problems that so many apartment complexes face, especially the all-too-common problem of not having enough parking.

Our system makes it easy to unbundle parking from rent, automate assigned parking, process payments, and streamline guest parking. In other words, our solution encompasses all the tips above, rolled up into one easy-to-use app for your residents that both frees your team from tedious management and solves your parking shortage. 

Easily unbundle and charge for parking

Once we get your property management system synced with Parkade, our system handles everything from there. Moving forward, this means you get to take a hands-off approach without sacrificing your parking experience. 

Directly in the mobile app:

  • Residents can reserve and pay for a long-term spot
  • Guests can book short-term parking
  • Both residents and staff can report problems that get resolved in minutes

Simply digitizing your parking records and reservations can work wonders for resolving parking shortages. One of our customers in Los Angeles, Mariposa on 3rd, was facing a parking shortage prior to Parkade. After adopting our software, they discovered 18 spots were incorrectly assigned and could be put to use, massively increasing their parking capacity.

Another customer, The Aubrey, experienced the impact firsthand when they went from a pen and paper parking system to a fully digitized system. They went from receiving bad reviews and canceled leases due to their neverending parking wait-list to a seamless system that works for both staff and their residents. 

Integrate parking with your PMS

Whatever PMS you use, we know that it’s the backbone of your management processes. Parkade was purpose-built to integrate with whatever system you use so that there are no breaks in communication. 

If you already have reserved parking, existing residents will get their assigned spot transferred over, and all payment is processed directly in the app. New residents simply download the Parkade app where they’re able to view open parking spots and grab one that suits their needs best in terms of price, lease length, and amenities. 

You can also easily create custom parking rules and prices that automatically apply to groups based on lease length or unit type to make sure that your parking is being used in the most optimal way possible. 

This also gives you a real time view of who has which spots and for how long. This always up-to-date view gives you confidence to enforce your parking rules without worrying you’ll wrongfully tow someone. 

Solve guest parking

Even though we mentioned the guest parking “solution” above, it’s really not the best solution. With Parkade, you can eliminate the guest parking signage that invites abuse and/or save guests and your staff from having to deal with stops in the office for short-term hang tags. 

Instead, you’re able to make any spots that are sitting empty between leases available for guests to reserve. This not only helps to take full advantage of every spot you have available, but it also gives you an easy way to introduce new revenue streams. 

You create the rules, we enforce them

As all property managers know, enforcement can quickly become a beast if you have to do it manually. Luckily, Parkade keeps perfect records and handles enforcement for you. We’re essentially a permit system and enforcement tool without the need for spreadsheets, hang tags, stickers or decals. 

Parkade also lets you deputize your residents to enforce parking, giving them the power to report problems right from their phones. 

Directly via the mobile app, residents can submit a problem report if they find an unknown or misparked car in their spot, and Parkade will instantly offer them a temporary spot to park. Meanwhile, our team investigates the unauthorized vehicle before towing.

In addition to distributing fines and calling towing only when necessary, our team is here to respond within minutes if a resident has questions about anything related to parking.

Tie it all together with gate integration

Of course, if you have a parking gate to control access, you know that there are a million things to consider to make sure you’re providing both a safe and easy experience. 

Parkade makes this easy by using a simple dongle to connect our app to your gate. Instead of relying on clickers that you have to hand out, or scrambling codes on a weekly basis, or using a call box, both residents and guests can open the gate with a simple tap in the app. 

Your resident experience is at stake

If you’re struggling with not having enough parking at your apartment complex, there’s a lot at stake. On top of the hours that are stolen from your staff by trying to manage a seemingly unmanageable situation, you may face bad reviews, residents may consider not renewing their lease, and your guests are robbed of the best experience possible. 

When you implement a simple and reliable parking management system, everyone wins. Your team suddenly has time back in their day to dig into more meaningful work, and your residents are happy that one of their biggest problems was solved, leading to more renewals, better reviews, and an overall happier community. 

So the question is, can you really afford not to use technology to solve your parking shortage? 

If you’re curious to learn more, reach out to our sales team today.

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