Don’t buy a lemon. This is the first thing a lot of people say when you talk about buying a new car. But what is a lemon? And what do you do if you just bought one?
Despite all the talk about lemon Law and a car being a Lemon, wondering if you have one can be a lot harder than most people expect, and getting the problem fixed can be a sour business. But what makes a vehicle lemon? Is it because of the door clicks, the seat adjustment that does not work, the steering wheel which makes a funny noise or the turn signal that stops working?
Are all these worthy to lounge a vehicle in the ‘lemon category? Maybe or maybe not, but the reality remains that figuring out if a vehicle is a lemon can be a complicated and bitter process for the layman. Hence in this article, you will learn how to spot a lemon car, how the Florida Lemon law works, who a consumer is, the processes to file a lemon claim, and lots more.
When is a Car a Lemon?
According to Florida bar, a car qualifies as a lemon when it has been undergoing repairs for fifteen (15) cumulative days as a result has been out of service. A car is also considered a lemon when it has recorded a recurring problem not fixed after three attempts. Such recurring problems are legally referred to as “nonconformities”.
The Lemon Law defines “nonconformity” as a fault or condition that considerably hampers the use, value or safety of the vehicle. Such faults include, but are not limited to electrical or mechanical faults, spillages and leakages.
If you do not know about the Lemon Law, read up this article: What is Lemon Law?
How does a Vehicle Qualify Under the Lemon Law?
To qualify under the Lemon Law, the vehicle in question must have been sold (or leased) in Florida. The purchase must not have been for resale purposes and must fall into one of the following categories: (1) the vehicle is used for personal, family or household purposes; (2) the vehicle was acquired from the first owner for the same purposes during the first owner’s first 24 months of ownership; or (3) the owner or lessee is a person who is entitled to enforce the warranty.
Understanding the Lemon Law of Florida
At the federal level, there is no specific lemon law. The most applicable federal law covers only what is stated in your warranty. The Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act, passed by Congress in 1975, requires manufacturers and sellers of consumer products to provide buyers with detailed, written information about warranty coverage.
In Florida, the lemon laws are not as detailed as it is in some other like the California lemon law, but it has made available some useful lemon law information that is beneficial for consumers and potential litigants.
The authorized body armed with the responsibility of resolving disagreements relating to vehicle users and manufacturers is the Florida New Motor Vehicle Arbitration Board. The attorney general appoints three arbitrators who hear the proceedings across the state. Most hearings take up to four hours or less. The parties in question must invite expert witnesses and also tender evidence. All hearings are publicly made.
The Board also publishes hearing case summaries at least thrice a year. Full transcripts of Arbitration Board hearings however are to be purchased. The summaries can be gotten from the Florida Attorney General’s office. These Florida lemon laws arbitration summaries are categorized by a particular statute section of the Florida lemon law and are very informative about how the lemon laws are being applied.
Although these arbitration decisions are not binding on any other state’s lemon law arbitration board or any court, consumers and lemon law attorneys from any jurisdiction can use the legal facts and reasoning to evaluate their claims or even to prepare for their arbitration.
Who is a Consumer in Lemon Law?
According to the Florida Statutes (2005), section 681.102(4), a consumer is the purchaser who got a vehicle for personal, family, or household purposes, and not for resale, or leasing. A consumer is also any individual to whom such a vehicle is transferred, for personal use during the duration of the Lemon Law rights period. The consumer also has the right to enforce the obligations of the warranty as stipulated by the terms of the warranty.
If a purchaser testifies to have purchased a vehicle for resale, the Florida New Motor Vehicle Arbitration Board will not deem you a “consumer” as defined by the statute, and therefore ineligible to file Lemon Lawsuit.
What should a consumer do if they have a Lemon Car?
Step 1: First, the consumer must take the vehicle to an authorized service agent for the repair of the nonconformity. This must be at least on three occasions. When the fault cannot be repaired, then they must notify the manufacturer of the nonconformity by filling the Motor Vehicle Defect Notification Form and delivered through a registered mail. At this point, the manufacturer has the opportunity and right to try repairing the defect.
Upon receiving the notification, the manufacturer has 10 days to direct the consumer to a possible competent repair facility. After the vehicle is delivered to the repair facility, fixing the nonconformity must not take more than 10 days for a private vehicle, and 45 days for a recreation vehicle. If the manufacturer fails to correct the nonconformity, the vehicle is presumed to be a lemon.
Step 2: However, if a consumer’s vehicle is out of service for repair of one or more nonconformities for a cumulative total of 15 or more days, the vehicle owner must notify the manufacturer by writing delivered through a registered mail. After receipt of the notification, the manufacturer or authorized dealer must have at least one opportunity to inspect and repair the vehicle. Once the vehicle is out of service because of repair of one or more nonconformities for a cumulative total of 30 days and 60 days for a recreation vehicle, the vehicle is presumed to be a lemon.
Step 3: The vehicle owner must at this point check the vehicle’s warranty booklet to see if the manufacturer has a state-certified informal dispute settlement program. Resolution should first be sort through such a program if it exists. If the informal dispute settlement program fails to decide the dispute within 40 days of the date the dispute is filed, or if the owner is not satisfied with the decision, the owner or lessee can then apply to the Florida Attorney General’s Office to have the dispute arbitrated by the Florida New Motor Vehicle Arbitration Board.
In the absence of a state-certified informal dispute settlement program, the vehicle owner should request for arbitration by applying directly to the Florida Attorney General’s Office to have the dispute arbitrated by the Florida New Motor Vehicle Arbitration Board.
Upon approving the request for arbitration, the Florida New Motor Vehicle Arbitration Board will hear the dispute within 40 days. If the case is decided in favor of the vehicle owner, the manufacturer is mandated to comply with the decision within 40 days of its receipt.