Automobiles-Frequently Asked Questions
Authored By: Texas RioGrande Legal Aid - Austin & Lone Star Legal Aid - Houston
Q.) How long do I have to file a lemon law complaint?
A.) Remember: the lemon law applies only to new cars. You must file a lemon law complaint within the shortest of the following time periods:
? 30 months after you bought the car;
? or, 6 months after the warranty on the car expires;
? or, 6 months after 24,000 miles.
For a complaint form and a free booklet that explains your rights under the lemon law call: 1-800-622-8682. You can also go to the following website for more information or to print out a complaint form: http://www.dot.state.tx.us/mvd/lemon/lemonlaw.htm
Consumers represented by attorneys tend to have more success in filing lemon law complaints
Q.) I bought a used car. I have discovered that the sales person intentionally didn't tell me about some major problems, including prior wreck damage. What are my rights?
A.) Under the Texas Deceptive Trade Practices Act (DTPA), it is not lawful for a seller to not tell you about a known fault, in order to get you to buy the car. This law must be followed by everyone, not just used car dealers.
Under this law, a seller who knows about a problem with the car and doesn't tell you, or who tries to cover up the problem, may have to pay you up to three times your damages (for example, the cost of the repairs) plus court costs and attorneys' fees.
To use the Trade Practices Act you have to write the seller a letter telling him about the problem and the amount of your damages. In your case, the damages will be either what it will cost to get the car repaired or the difference between what you paid for the car and what it is really worth. If this amount is less than $10,000.00, you might want to file in small claims court. You don't need a lawyer to represent you in small claims court. If you wish to file in any other courts, though, your chances of success improve when you are represented by counsel.
Q.) My car has been repossessed. How can I still owe money when they have the car?
A.) When a car is repossessed, the finance company or bank will usually sell the car for whatever they can get for it in its present condition. The money from that sale will first go to pay for the cost of the repossession, with any remaining money going to pay off what is owed on your car loan. If the money from the sale of your car is not enough to pay off your loan, the finance company may attempt to collect the "deficiency" (which is the unpaid balance owed on your car loan, including unpaid interest and late charges). Sometimes, the finance company or bank may even sue to collect the deficiency.
Q.) I bought a car 3 months ago, the car dealer has gone out of business, and I never received title, nor was trade-in off. What can I do?
A.) When you buy a vehicle from a licensed Texas car dealer, the dealer is required to complete all the papers that are necessary to title and register the vehicle in your name. The dealer must also file them with the county tax assessor-collector's office within 20 working days of the date you bought the vehicle.
If you do not receive the title within a month, you can file a complaint with the Texas Department of Transportation. When you file the complaint, you must show you had proof of insurance at the time of sale and send that proof when you return the form. To get a complaint form, you can write: Texas Department of Transportation, Motor Vehicle Division, Enforcement Section - New Complaints, P.O. Box 2293, Austin, Texas 78768 or call: (512) 463-8588. You may also go to the following internet link to print a form: ftp://ftp.dot.state.tx.us/pub/txdot-info/mvd/dealerform.pdf
In addition, you may sue the defunct dealer in court and seek a judgment for the cost of paying off any liens to obtain a clean title. You can then seek to collect this judgment from the dealer?s $25,000 bond. If there are a number of similar claims against the dealer, however, the bond may not cover your damages. If the bond is not available, your attorney may be able to sue your lender, if you purchased under a retail installment contract.