Does The Law Protect Me If I Bought A “Lemon”? Under the Florida Lemon Law (Motor Vehicle Warrant Enforcement Act), if a new or demonstration motor vehicle purchased or leased in Florida on or after January 1, 1989 has a defect or condition covered by the manufacturer’s warranty which substantially impairs the use, value or safety of the vehicle, you should report the problem to the manufacturer or authorized dealer. The Lemon Law applies to new and demonstration motor vehicles. The Lemon Law does not cover used motor vehicles. All sales and most long-term leases of automobiles and trucks of 10,000 pounds or less gross vehicle weight, and self-propelled recreational vehicles are covered by the law. The mechanical and structural components of recreational vehicles are also covered, but the interior fixtures such as chairs or lights, or living quarters are not.  The law applies to any report made during the “Lemon Law rights period”, or the period ending 24 months after the date of the original delivery of a motor vehicle to a consumer. The law applies to any major problem reported to the manufacturer or its authorized service agent during the first 18 months or 24,000 miles of operation, whichever occurs first. At the time of purchase or lease of a new or demonstration motor vehicle, the manufacturer must provide to the consumer a booklet prepared by the Office of the Attorney General entitled “Preserving Your Rights Under “The Florida Lemon Law.”

The provisions of the law still apply after the rights period has expired if the consumer has notified the manufacturer or its authorized service agent of a defect during that period.

If the manufacturer or authorized service agent has been unable to fix the same defect after three attempts, the consumer must send written notification of the need for repair to the manufacturer by registered or express mail to give the manufacturer one final opportunity to cure the defect. The manufacturer must direct the consumer to a reasonably accessible repair facility within 10 days of its receipt of the written notification. After the vehicle has been delivered to the designated repair facility, the manufacturer has 10 days to fix the defect. If the manufacturer fails to comply with either of the above requirements within the time provided, the consumer does not have to give the manufacturer a final repair opportunity.

If the vehicle has been out of service for repair of major problems for a cumulative total of 30 days, the consumer must send written notification of this fact to the manufacturer by registered or express mail after 15 or more days, and give the manufacturer or authorized service agent an opportunity to inspect or repair the vehicle.

If the manufacturer cannot correct a defect after all the prescribed steps have been taken, the manufacturer shall repurchase the vehicle for the full purchase price, plus expenses, minus a reasonable charge for use or upon payment by the consumer of the reasonable charge for use, replace the vehicle with one acceptable to the consumer, plus pay expenses. The consumer has a right to choose a refund rather than a replacement.

If a manufacturer has established an informal dispute settlement program certified by the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, the consumer must first resort to relief under the program before making claim for replacement or a refund.

If the consumer resorts to a manufacturer’s certified informal dispute settlement program and a decision is not rendered within 40 days, or if the consumer is not satisfied with the decision, or if the manufacturer does not have a certified informal dispute settlement program, the consumer may request arbitration by the Florida New Motor Vehicle Arbitration Board by contacting the Division of Consumer Services at the Lemon Law Hotline (850) 488-2221 or (800) 321-5366 if out-of-state and asking for a Request for Arbitration form.

The Florida New Motor Vehicle Arbitration Board is administered by the Office of the Attorney General. If the request for arbitration is approved, the board will hear the dispute within 40 days and render a decision within 60 days of the date of approval. If the decision is in favor of the consumer, the manufacturer must comply with the decision within 40 days after receipt of the written decision. Once the arbitration board rules on the case, either side can then appeal the decision in court.

For more information, refer to Chapter 681 of the Florida Statutes.