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Law Educator, Esq.
Law Educator, Esq., Attorney
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Experience:  JA Mentor -Attorney Labor/employment, corporate, sports law, admiralty/maritime and civil rights law
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I returned a leased car on its maturity date- 14,000 miles

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I returned a leased car on its maturity date- 14,000 miles on a 36 month lease. This was on a Saturday... the previous Thursday there were torrential rains and drove the car through a big puddle. Car would not start. I called the dealer and asked if I could have the tow company drop the car off and also make my Saturday morning appointment. Yes, that was no problem. My assigned sales person called me later that day to let me know that my vehicle had arrived. I asked him if they were going go run it through service for an assessment at which point the sales man said "no, no, you will be fine!". I arrive the next morning, picked out my new car, negotiated the price (all the while asking about the old car going through service for an assessment). "No, it is OK!" is what was said. 14,000 miles... Anyway, a deal was made and whilst the paperwork was drawn up the salesman and a service mechanic assisted in trading the battery from my old car to my new car (I had just purchased it and had great warranty), paperwork was done- I signed, they signed, check was handed over and I drove away in the new car with dealer plates.... I get home and immediately let my insurance company know my new details and let the finance company know that I have handed over the old car and am in a new one.

3 hrs. later I get an aggressive call from the dealership where I had just spent 5 hrs. "we have a problem and you need to bring the car back! There is 4500.00 damage to the old vehicle!..." I told them that perhaps they should have thought about that one of the many times that I had mentioned it BEFORE signing all the paperwork. I explained that I had now had a few beers in me and would not drive. 3 more calls came to which I asked them to please send me everything in an e-mail. Monday afternoon the cashed my check for first month payment.

I received a couple of calls from the dealership through the month. All I answered and to all I asked that everything be sent in an e-mail. Nothing. My second payment notice never arrived and when I called to inquire they told me that I had to make my 2nd payment at the dealer- I found out that they did let the finance company know that they had my old car but that they never fully sent all the paperwork for my new car over.

I finally went to the dealership again and as soon as they found out who I was, my car was blocked in by two vehicles, I was told that there was no deal and they asked for the keys back. The finance company told me that my old car was not my car anymore because I was 1 month passed my lease end... The final 3rd party assessment report reads: lessee (name of the dealership). $5000.00 owed and my name is XXXXX XXXXX on it...

What are my rights and how do I proceed?
Thank you for your question. I look forward to working with you to provide you the information you are seeking.

If you had a contract for the new lease, which was not dependent upon the old lease, you have them for breach of that contract as you have a right to enforce that contract as written. If they refuse you have a right to sue them for breach of contract and seek specific performance or actual damages you suffered as a result of the breach.

Unfortunately, the damage to the returned vehicle is another problem. If you did cause the damage to the other vehicle by driving it through the water, then when they discovered that damage you are liable for payment for that damage and that is an issue separate from your new lease. If your car was insured at the time, you need to file a claim with your insurance for the damage caused by flood or high water if you had comprehensive coverage to cover that damage. The dealer should not, however, be mixing the old contract of lease which imposes liability on you for any damage found upon turning the car in with the new contract unless the new contract referenced the old vehicle contract.

If you received a waiver or clearance of the old vehicle stating they accepted it and there was no damage, then you can argue that the damage to that vehicle was their fault and not your fault, since they signed saying it was returned in working condition without damages and you can fight owing them damages on that old lease claim.

These are your legal options if the dealer is refusing to negotiate or discuss this matter.



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