The Common Law

Cars -- the Texas Lemon Law

I have a new car, and it keeps breaking down all the time. I've heard about the Texas Lemon Law, but how do I know if the law can help me?

The Lemon Law is administered by the Texas Department of Transportation and is designed to provide help for consumers that have had repeated problems getting their cars properly repaired. Under the law, car owners or lessees are entitled to have their "lemons" repaired, replaced, or repurchased by the auto manufacturer.

How do you know if the Lemon Law covers your car? First, you must have bought or leased a new vehicle from a Texas dealer or lease company. Used cars or cars purchased out-of-state are not covered. Second, the recurring problem with the car must be considered a serious defect or abnormal condition, and that problem must be covered by the manufacturer's written warranty. A serious defect is generally something essential to the car's safety and drivability. For example, malfunctioning steering or brakes are generally considered serious defects, but a bad car radio is not a serious defect.

Even if your car is covered by the "Lemon Law," numerous requirements must be met before you qualify for relief. First, you must report the defect to the dealer or manufacturer within the warranty term. Determining how many reasonable chances the dealer has to fix the problem depends on the defect. But in the majority of cases, the car must be taken to the dealer for repairs at least two times during the first 12 months or 12,000 miles and then two more times during the next 12 months or 12,000 miles.

After all that, your car should qualify as a lemon, right? Not quite. Next, you must present the manufacturer with written notice (via certified mail if possible) of the defect to offer it one last chance to make repairs. If after all of the above, the defect still prevents normal daily use of the car or represents a serious safety hazard, you would qualify for relief under the Lemon Law.

Essentially, if your lemon is still a lemon after you do everything mentioned above, the Lemon Law can help you. Read next week's column to learn how to file a Lemon Law complaint.

Please submit column suggestions, questions, and comments to thecommonlaw@austinchronicle.com. Submission of potential topics does not create an attorney-client relationship, and any information submitted is subject to being included in future columns.

Marrs, Ellis & Hodge LLP, www.jmehlaw.com.

The material in this column is for informational purposes only. It does not constitute, nor is it a substitute for, legal advice. For advice on your specific facts and circumstances, consult a licensed attorney. You may wish to contact the Lawyer Referral Service of Central Texas, a non-profit public service of the Austin Bar Association, at 512-472-8303 or www.austinlrs.com.

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