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How The Florida Lemon Law Works

The Lemon Law covers defects or conditions that substantially impair the use, value or safety of the new or demonstrator vehicle (these are called "nonconformities"). These defects must be first reported to the manufacturer or it authorized service agent (usually, this is the dealer) during the "Lemon Law Rights Period," which is the first 24 months after the date of delivery of the motor vehicle to the consumer. If the manufacturer fails to conform the vehicle to the warranty after a reasonable number of attempts to repair these defects, the law requires the manufacturer to buy back the defective vehicle and give the consumer a purchase price refund or a replacement vehicle. The law does not cover defects that result from accident, neglect, abuse, modification or alteration by persons other than the manufacturer or its authorized service agent. DO NOT DELAY in reporting a problem as this may cost valuable time and protection.

Consumers should KEEP RECORDS of all repairs and maintenance. A written repair order should be obtained from the service agent (dealer) for each examination or repair under the warranty. The consumer should note the date the vehicle was taken in for repair and date he or she was notified that work was completed. Odometer mileage when the vehicle was taken to the shop and when it was picked up after repair should also be noted. Consumers should keep all receipts or invoices for payment of expenses related to the purchase/lease of the vehicle and to any repair.

If the vehicle has been back to the service agent for repair of the same recurring problem at least three times, the consumer gives written notification by certified, registered or express mail, to the manufacturer (not the dealer) to afford a final opportunity to repair the vehicle. Check the warranty book or owner’s manual or other written manufacturer supplement for the address given by the manufacturer. A Motor Vehicle Defect Notification form may used for this purpose. Click here for the Instructions and Motor Vehicle Defect Notification form. Upon receipt of the notification, the manufacturer has 10 days to direct the consumer to a reasonably accessible repair facility, and then up to 10 days from delivery of the vehicle to fix it.

If the vehicle is in and out of the authorized repair shop for repair of one or more different problems for 15 or more cumulative days, the consumer gives written notification of this fact to the manufacturer (not the dealer), by certified, registered or express mail. Check the warranty book or owner’s manual or other written manufacturer supplement for the address given by the manufacturer. A Motor Vehicle Defect Notification form may used for this purpose. Click here for the Instructions and Motor Vehicle Defect Notification form. After the manufacturer’s receipt of the notification, the manufacturer or its authorized service agent must have at least one opportunity to inspect or repair the vehicle. The consumer may be eligible for a purchase price refund or a replacement vehicle if the vehicle is out of service for repair for a cumulative total of 30 or more days.

If the manufacturer does not provide a refund or a replacement vehicle, consumers may invoke their rights through one or two arbitration programs. The dispute must be submitted for arbitration to a manufacturer sponsored program, if that program was certified by the State of Florida when the consumer purchase or leased the vehicle and the manufacturer's warranty or other written material explained how and where to file a claim with a state-certified program.

A list of Manufacturers who sponsor state-certified programs can be found by clicking here , or to find out if a manufacturer has a state-certified program, Consumers in Florida may call the Lemon Law Hotline (1-800-321-5366), consumers out of state may call (850) 488-2221. "State-certified" means the manufacturer’s program meets certain state and federal requirements; it does not mean that the program is administered or sponsored by the State of Florida.

If a manufacturer has no state-certified program, or if the manufacturer has a state-certified program, but the program fails to make a decision in 40 days, or the consumer is not satisfied with the state-certified program's decision, the dispute must be submitted to the Florida New Motor Vehicle Arbitration Board, which is administered by the Office of the Attorney General. The consumer initiates the process by contacting the Lemon Law Hotline (1-800-321-5366; 1-850-488-2221) to obtain a Request for Arbitration form. The form is submitted for eligibility screening to the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, Division of Consumer Services.

Once a case is approved for arbitration before the Florida New Motor Vehicle Arbitration Board, a hearing will be scheduled within 40 days. A panel of three arbitrators hears the case at a location that is reasonably convenient for the consumer. Hearings are held during normal working hours and are conducted in accordance with Florida's Open Meetings Law. Arbitration hearings are conducted in English. Consumers who do not speak or understand English must bring an interpreter to the hearing, at the consumer’s expense. The interpreter should be fluent in both languages, since the hearing may contain very technical evidence that must be translated precisely. At the hearing's conclusion, the board renders an oral decision which is subsequently reduced to writing and mailed to the consumer and the manufacturer.

If the board determines the vehicle is a "lemon," the consumer is awarded either a replacement vehicle or a refund (the Consumer may choose whether they want a refund instead of a replacement vehicle), including costs incurred in connection with the acquisition of the vehicle (collateral charges) and costs directly caused by the substantial defect which resulted in the award (incidental charges). The consumer is charged an offset for the use of the vehicle. The offset is calculated according to a statutory formula based on the mileage attributable to the consumer as of the date of settlement or an arbitration hearing, whichever occurs first. The case is dismissed if the board rules in favor of the manufacturer. Decisions of the board are final unless an appeal is filed with the circuit court within 30 days. If the award is not appealed, the manufacturer must comply within 40 days of receipt of the written decision.

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