Understanding Tennessee Lemon Law
Tennessee’s lemon law covers passenger motor vehicles and motorcycles sold in Tennessee that are subject to registration and title in Tennessee or any other state. The lemon law does not cover motorhomes used as a dwelling, living abode or sleeping place. The law also does not cover garden tractors, recreational or off-road vehicles or vehicles weighing over 5 tons.
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The Tennessee lemon law extends coverage to purchasers and consumers leasing motor vehicles. The lemon law also covers anyone to whom the motor vehicle is transferred during the duration of the vehicle’s warranty.
The state’s lemon law covers any vehicle “nonconformity,” which it defines as a “defect or condition that substantially impairs the vehicle. The lemon law defines “substantially impair” as to render the vehicle unreliable or unsafe for normal operation, or to reduce its resale market value below the average resale value for comparable unimpaired vehicles.
The Tennessee lemon law does not cover nonconformities that do not substantially impair the vehicle, such as a radio issue or slight rattle. It also doesn’t cover any defect or condition caused by abuse, neglect, or unauthorized modifications or alterations by the consumer.
The lemon law compels manufacturers to repair a vehicle that does not conform to all applicable express warranties. The consumer must report the nonconformity to the manufacturer within the warranty term or one year following the vehicle’s original delivery to the consumer, whichever comes first.
If the manufacturer can’t successfully repair the nonconformity, the Tennessee lemon law mandates they must replace or repurchase the vehicle. However, the law also says the manufacturer must be allowed a “reasonable number of attempts” to repair.
The Tennessee lemon law defines “reasonable number of attempts” as three or more attempts for the same problem without success. The lemon law also defines reasonable attempts to mean it is unreasonable for a car to be in service repair for 30 business days or more.
The Tennessee lemon law says a manufacturer repurchasing an owned vehicle must pay the vehicle’s full purchase price. They must also reimburse the consumer for collateral charges, including sales taxes, registration fees and finance charges. The manufacture may withhold a “reasonable allowance for use” depending on how many miles the vehicle was driven before its nonconformity was first reported.
A manufacturer repurchasing a leased vehicle must pay the lessee the aggregate deposit and rental payments previous payed to the lessor, minus applicable service fees.
The Tennessee lemon law requires manufacturers replacing a nonconforming vehicle to provide a “comparable motor vehicle.” The law defines a comparable motor vehicle as one of comparable worth to the same make and model with all options and accessories, with appropriate adjustments for any model year differences.
The Tennessee lemon law’s provisions covering refund or replacement don’t apply until the consumer as first resorted to an “informal dispute settlement procedure,” i.e. arbitration.
For more information on arbitration and other frequently asked lemon law questions, click here.
The manufacturer must abide by the decision of the arbitrator, while the consumer does not. If dissatisfied with the outcome, a consumer can bring civil action in court. By filing a claim under the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act, Tennessee consumers can hire lawyers who will represent them without the vehicle owner having to pay any attorneys’ fees directly out of their pocket. This is because the federal Act provides that the vehicle manufacturer shall pay the claimants’ reasonable attorneys’ fees if the claimant prevails against the manufacturer. Lemonlawusa.org encourages vehicle owners with a lemon to hire a lemon law attorney. You can bet the car manufacturers have legal counsel at the ready to help defend against lemon law claims both in arbitration and in court.
Clients who prevail in court or settle outside court can use their awarded funds for whatever purpose they so choose. That could include paying off their previous auto loan, paying a down payment toward a new vehicle, or literally any other purpose they like.
If the client financed their vehicle and are still making payments when they start their lemon law claim, they must continue making payments throughout the lemon law claims process. Falling behind on these payments can adversely affect their lemon law claim. Luckily they could, following a positive claim resolution, use their awarded funds to pay off what remains of their auto loan. Freed from their loan they are free to seek a new, functioning vehicle.
Clients who bought their vehicle outright or paid it off by the time their lemon law claim resolves could use their awarded funds as a down payment on a new vehicle. If they would rather not be locked into another loan again, they could purchase a less expensive used vehicle with the funds. The choice lies entirely with the client.
The Tennessee lemon law does not cover used vehicles. Lemon laws in most American states don’t cover used vehicles as they must be either still be within the manufacturer’s original warranty, or within a certain time period following the vehicle’s original delivery to a consumer. Almost all used vehicles are resold long after either of these periods expire. Speak with a lemon law lawyer to determine whether your specific situation is covered by state or federal law.
Regardless of if you won in court or settled outside it, you can use the money you gain through a lemon law claim however you choose. However, statutes of limitation can stop your claim in its tracks if you don’t act quickly. Contact the office of Allen Stewart P.C. today.
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