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How lemon laws apply to leases

When a car is leased in California, the consumer is renting the vehicle from a leasing company. Therefore, the leasing company is the entity that has rights under a state's lemon law instead of the lessee. That was one attorney's interpretation of a ruling made by the Arizona Supreme Court. Typically, a lemon law stipulates that a manufacturer must take back a vehicle that has been in a repair shop for more than 30 days.

The manufacturer must also generally take the car back if there have been four or more attempts to fix the same issue. However, since the leasing company tends to have a relationship with the car's manufacturer, it may not be inclined to exercise those rights. A consumer who chooses to lease a vehicle may be able to get a lender to sign a document that ensures he or she is protected.

The agreement should include as many details about the vehicle as possible, such as the VIN number as well as its year, make and model. It could also be worthwhile to add language stating the person driving the car is the consumer for purposes of any lemon law claims. Those who can't get those terms in writing may be best suited by walking away from the deal.

If a vehicle is defective, a consumer might have a valid legal claim against the manufacturer. An attorney could help an individual pursue that claim either in court or through private settlement talks. A defective vehicle might be replaced by the manufacturer. Consumers may also be entitled to a refund of the vehicle's purchase price in addition to other damages allowed by law. Maintenance records and other documents could be used as evidence in defective vehicle case.

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