At some point in their lives, most consumers will have a car that has lots of problems. Often, the problem will occur over and over because it was never repaired properly. If this has happened to you, it’s possible your car is a “lemon”. To qualify as a lemon under the Florida Lemon Law, your car must meet several legal requirements. This article summarizes many of the most important provisions of the Florida Lemon Law, which is formally known as Florida’s Motor Vehicle Warrant Enforcement Act. The descriptions below apply to most vehicles (cars, pickups, vans, SUVs and minivans); the provisions that apply to recreational vehicles (RVs) are slightly different. The Florida lemon law applies only to new vehicles, and not used vehicles.
Simply put, if your vehicle does not conform to its warranty, the manufacturer must fix your vehicle. However, you must first report the “non-conformity” to the manufacturer within 24 months (2 years) of the time it was originally delivered to a consumer. This applies even if the actual repairs are made after this 24 month period expires. It’s also important to note that if the same problem occurs again after the 24-month period, the lemon law still applies as long as the problem was first reported within the 24-month period. There are strict deadlines for how and when a consumer must apply to resolve a lemon law claim.
Next, the lemon law has a very specific definition of “non-conformity”, meaning that not every problem or nuisance is a non-conformity. Under the Florida lemon law, a “non-conformity” means a “defect or condition that substantially impairs the use, value, or safety of a motor vehicle”. However, it does NOT include a defect or condition that results from an accident, abuse, neglect or some modifications or alterations.
If your vehicle has a “non-conformity” under this definition, the manufacturer or its dealers are allowed a reasonable number of attempts to fix your car. The lemon law requires that if the same defect is not fixed after 3 attempts, you must give written notice to the manufacturer by registered or express mail and give them one last opportunity to fix it. The car company must then respond within 10 days, and must fix it within 10 days after your deliver it to the repair facility.
Alternatively, you must notify the manufacturer if your car has been in the shop for service for a cumulative total of 15 days (excluding the time for routine maintenance).
We highly recommend that you use the official State of Florida form for reporting the defect to the manufacturer. A copy of that form is available from the Florida Attorney General’s website – just click here to visit that website.
The manufacturer is presumed to have been given a reasonable number of attempts to fix your car under the Florida lemon law if it has tried to fix the same defect 3 times, plus the final attempt after being formally notified, and has been unable to do so. This same presumption arises under the Florida lemon law if your vehicle has been out of service a total of 30 days or more, including at least one attempt after being provided the formal 15-day notice.
There are two defenses that the car companies often use. First, they may argue that the defect does not substantially impair the use, value or safety of the car. What they are really saying is that the defect is a minor nuisance, and not very important. Second, they may argue that the defect was not their fault, but was caused by an accident, abuse, or neglect. Sometimes they argue that there were unauthorized modifications or alterations that created the defect; such unauthorized changes can void the warranty.