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Dwayne B.
Dwayne B., Attorney
Category: Legal
Satisfied Customers: 32319
Experience:  Began practicing law in 1992
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Can an automobile company charge a lessee for damages they

Customer Question

Can an automobile company charge a lessee for damages they have no proof of?

I recently leased a new car from an American car company. The dealer agreed to pay off the lease on my foreign car and turn it in for me.

Two months later, I received a bill for excessive wear and tear. The bill cited 4 instances of stained carpeting, two in the front, two in the back.

These claims are not true. In 39 months, there were only a couple of times passengers rode in my back seat. The light tan interior mats in the front were soiled with dirt that should be expected in a state that has inclement weather all winter long. The carpeting itself was not soiled.

When I asked the company for proof of such damage they initially said they had photos but could not share those with me. When I asked who did the inspection and where, they stated a company they contract with did it at an auction in another state. They said they must rely on the report from this company but would not provide me with a copy of this report. If I do not pay the damages, they will report me to the credit bureaus.

Is this legal?
Submitted: 4 years ago.
Category: Legal
Expert:  Dwayne B. replied 4 years ago.
It is legal, under most lease contracts, but you can certainly challenge it. That would require filing a lawsuit against them and this isn't the type of case most small claims courts would hear since it is more in the nature of a declaratory judgment action. Knowing that then the decision is yours as to whether you want to go through the time and expense over $110. If you do decide to sue the lawyer will want to be paid up front but you can also sue for your attorney's fees.

Thank you for allowing me to assist you. As you know, we work on the honor system here and cannot always provide you answers that you like but I believe I have answered all of the questions you asked.

I believe in giving information that is to the point, but please remember that I can only base our answers on the information you provide and sometimes a misunderstanding as to what you are looking for or already know occurs so feel free to ask additional questions or for clarifications. Be very careful about looking at other internet sites that just post generic information without any inquiry into your facts because often those answers are dated, wrong, or wrong as applied to your facts. Please be aware that my answer is not legal advice, it is merely information. You should always contact a local attorney for legal advice.

Several customers have asked how they direct a question to me in particular. If you specifically want me to provide information for you just put “FOR JD 1992” in the subject line and I will pick up the next time I am online.
Customer: replied 4 years ago.
I don't get it. I thought small claims court was for cases like mine where a lawyer isn't desired and which involve less than a few thousand dollars. Why would a judge refuse to hear my case?

What is a declaratory judgment?

Doesn't the auto company have the burden of proof? If they I report me to the credit bureaus can I make them remove it for lack of proof?
Expert:  Dwayne B. replied 4 years ago.
You're not actually suing them for money. You're suing them for a declaration from a judge that you don't owe the money. Most small claims courts don't have the power or can't render a judgment like that (called a "declaratory judgment").

The auto company does have the burden of proof in a court but their word alone is sufficient to put it on your credit report. The credit reporting agencies don't require any other proof.

Thank you for allowing me to assist you. As you know, we work on the honor system here and cannot always provide you answers that you like but I believe I have answered all of the questions you asked.

I believe in giving information that is to the point, but please remember that I can only base our answers on the information you provide and sometimes a misunderstanding as to what you are looking for or already know occurs so feel free to ask additional questions or for clarifications. Be very careful about looking at other internet sites that just post generic information without any inquiry into your facts because often those answers are dated, wrong, or wrong as applied to your facts. Please be aware that my answer is not legal advice, it is merely information. You should always contact a local attorney for legal advice.

Several customers have asked how they direct a question to me in particular. If you specifically want me to provide information for you just put “FOR JD 1992” in the subject line and I will pick up the next time I am online.