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Lemon Law and Leased Vehicles: Your Rights and Responsibilities

There are many reasons why people choose to lease a car rather than buy one, from lower payments to getting to use a car without worrying about long-term wear and tear. But leased vehicles are just as prone to manufacturer defects as any other car. Therefore, it’s crucial to understand your consumer rights and responsibilities in case your car has significant problems.

The Lemon Law lawyers at The Lemon Firm want everyone who leases a car to know their legal protections if they get a car that is a lemon. Our practice has handled many cases involving defective cars and can help you pursue a refund or new vehicle if the manufacturer doesn’t honor their obligations under California law. Keep reading for more information on your rights and responsibilities if you lease a defective car.

Does the California Lemon Law Apply to Leased Vehicles?

Yes, the California Lemon Law applies to leased vehicles. If a dealer or manufacturer refuses to honor the law’s provisions by claiming that they don’t apply to a leased vehicle, contact an attorney right away.

The Basics of the California “Lemon Law”

The formal name for the “Lemon Law” in California is the Song-Beverly Consumer Warranty Act. This law says that all consumer goods in California, including cars, have an implied warranty of merchantability and an implied warranty of fitness. Taken together, these warranties imply that:

  • Consumer goods will work as promised by the manufacturer or retailer
  • The items sold are suitable for their intended purpose
  • The items sold are of the same quality as similar products

However, not all vehicles necessarily qualify for legal protections under the Lemon Law. First and foremost, manufacturers and retailers are only responsible for defects covered under the manufacturer’s warranty. So, if your car has aftermarket parts or modifications, repairs to those parts likely do not qualify under the Lemon Law.

Second, the law says you must give manufacturers and retailers a “reasonable” number of attempts to correct the issue before you can declare the car a lemon. There is no hard rule regarding what a “reasonable” number of attempts is, though, and the number may be as low as two in some cases where safety is a major concern.

When Is a Car a Lemon Under California Law?

The Tanner Consumer Protection Act (which is part of the broader Song-Beverly Act) spells out certain conditions under which it is assumed that a vehicle is a lemon. In order to be eligible under the Tanner Act, you must have purchased or leased the vehicle within the last 18 months, or it must have less than 18,000 miles on it, whichever happens first. Other conditions are:

  • The dealer has made two or more attempts to fix the same defect that could cause severe injuries or deaths when the car is in operation, or;
  • The dealer has made four or more attempts to fix the same performance-related defect, or;
  • The car has been out of service for more than 30 calendar days from the date you purchased or leased it.

If your car meets the above criteria, California law assumes it’s a lemon, and you can take appropriate legal measures. However, failing to meet these conditions does not mean your car is not a lemon. If your car doesn’t meet the conditions of the Tanner Act, you will have to provide additional evidence to prove your case under the broader Song-Beverly Act.

Legal Remedies Under the California Lemon Law

The Song-Beverly Act and Tanner Act spell out manufacturers’ duties when a car is a lemon. In these cases, the buyer has the right to a refund or a replacement vehicle. The law also specifies that manufacturers and retailers must cover your incidental costs while your vehicle was out of service, such as the cost of rental cars. Finally, the law says manufacturers must cover your attorney’s fees and other legal expenses in a successful claim. In some cases, you may also qualify for additional compensation (called a “civil penalty”) if the manufacturer does not honor their legal obligations under the California Lemon Law.

Is Your Leased Car a Lemon? Contact a California Lemon Law Attorney Now

Whether you leased or bought a car does not affect your legal protections under California law. The Lemon Firm team can handle your case and see that you find justice when automakers do not meet their legal responsibilities. Call us today or complete our contact form for a free consultation.

About the Author
Sepehr Daghighian is a partner with CCA that is well-versed in all aspects of lemon-law litigation. A 2005 graduate of Loyola Law School, Mr. Daghighian has been practicing litigation throughout the state of California for over 13-years. In this time, Mr. Daghighian has advocated on behalf of California consumers in hundreds of lemon law cases throughout our great state. Mr. Daghighian has also successfully tried numerous such cases to verdict in both Federal and State Court.