Florida may be known for its oranges, but there are plenty of lemons to be found in the Sunshine State, as well. Every year, thousands of Floridians find out that they have purchased one of those “lemons” – a new car or other vehicle which never worked as promised, even after repeated attempts to fix the problems.
If you’re one of these folks with a lemon parked in your garage or at the repair shop for the umpteenth time, the good news is that Florida law provides you with a mechanism that can get you your money back, replace your vehicle, and compensate you for your troubles so you can get back on the road.
What Makes a Vehicle a “Lemon”?
Under Florida law, a “lemon” is a purchased or leased, new or demonstrator motor vehicle which has “nonconformities” that the manufacturer or dealer has not been able to fix after a “reasonable number of repair attempts.” The “nonconformity” must be a defect or condition that substantially impairs the vehicle’s use, value or safety.
The remedies available under Florida’s lemon law, officially called the “Motor Vehicle Warranty Enforcement Act,” don’t apply to all cars with chronic problems. If your 18-year old car keeps having the same issue over and over, the law won’t be much help to you. However, Florida’s lemon law can help you if:
- You purchased or leased your vehicle from a Florida dealer or acquired it from the vehicle’s first owner in Florida within 24 months of the first owner’s original purchase;
- You use the vehicle primarily for personal, family, or household purposes;
- Your vehicle does not conform to the manufacturer’s express written warranty;
- You have the right to enforce the warranty;
- The manufacturer or dealer haven’t fixed your car’s defect after a reasonable number of repair attempts;
- You provided the legally required notice to the manufacturer about the problem to give them one final chance to address the issue.
Three Strikes and They’re Out
If the manufacturer or authorized service center has made at least three unsuccessful attempts to fix the same problem covered under warranty, Florida law presumes that those were a “reasonable number of repair attempts.” Similarly, your vehicle will be presumed to be a lemon if it is out of service because of efforts to repair the effect for a cumulative total of 30 days (60 days for a recreational vehicle).
Notice and Hearing Requirements
Just because your car is a lemon doesn’t automatically mean you can get help under Florida’s lemon law. There are specific timing, notice, and other requirements you must meet or else risk forfeiting your rights. That is why it is important to speak with an experienced and knowledgeable Florida lemon law attorney if you believe you purchased a lemon.
First, you must let the manufacturer know about the defect and efforts to fix it. Specifically:
- After three attempts have been made to fix the same nonconformity, you must then give the manufacturer written notification, by registered or express mail to the manufacturer, of the need to repair the nonconformity. They then have ten days, commencing upon receipt of such notification, to respond and give you the opportunity to have your vehicle fixed at a reasonably accessible repair facility within a reasonable time after your receipt of the response. The manufacturer then has ten days (45 days for RVs) to conform your vehicle to the warranty.
- If your vehicle is out of service because of the defect and attempts to repair it for a total of 15 days or more, you need to notify the manufacturer in writing by registered or express mail to give the manufacturer or its authorized service agent a chance to inspect or repair your vehicle.
If the problem persists and hasn’t been fixed after you provide the required notice, you may still have to go through an informal dispute resolution process with the manufacturer and/or arbitration before the Florida New Motor Vehicle Arbitration Board. You should be represented by an attorney at these critical points, though you are not required to have one.
Remedies Available Under Florida’s Lemon Law
If your vehicle is indeed a lemon, the manufacturer will have to either replace your vehicle or refund the full purchase price, whichever you choose. Both remedies include the manufacturer’s payment of related reasonable expenses.
A Florida Lemon Lawyer Can Help You Enforce Your Rights
There are strict time limits as to when you can seek relief under Florida’s lemon laws, and the process of doing so and proving that your car is a lemon can be complicated. If you believe that you bought or leased a lemon, you should consult with an experienced Florida lemon law attorney who can help protect and enforce your rights and get your money back.