With new car inventory shortages and the surge in used car prices, more people are buying out their leases, but some are being hit with unexpected fees and forced car certifications that were not in the original lease.
But now, after a Local 10 investigation, one South Florida attorney says if you paid a dealer fee when you recently bought out your lease, you are entitled to your money back.
Back in December, Rafael Fernandez went to buy out his 2018 GMC pickup truck at Brickell Motors at the end of his lease. He was charged a $995 fee, which the dealer called a “pre-delivery service charge.”
He saw the fee, and he didn’t question it.
“I literally went in there and signed paperwork,” Fernandez said. “The truck never moved. They said, ‘That’s the charge we have to do.’ So I said, ‘OK.’ I mean, at this point I’m at their mercy.”
That fee wasn’t in Fernandez’s original lease. The lease includes the residual value, which is the agreed amount he can buy the pickup for at the end of his lease. The $995 “pre-delivery service charge” is not listed on that lease agreement.
Local 10′s Jeff Weinsier went to Brickell Motors and spoke with the General Manager, Mario Diaz.
Diaz confirmed to Weinsier that a dealer fee would be charged despite it not being in the original lease.
“It’s the cost of doing business that’s put into the deal,” Diaz said.
“We can look at deals one by one, I don’t mind doing it with you and showing you,” Diaz added. “There’s nothing to hide.”
Attorney Josh Feygin takes on car dealerships for a living and he says dealerships cannot charge a dealer fee that’s not in the initial lease agreement.
Weinsier asked him if car buyers paid these dealer fees six months ago, can they get their money back?
“Most certainly you can,” Feygin said.
Feygin says a federal regulation called the Consumer Leasing Act, which was enacted in 1976, requires that all the terms of the lease, including anything you’d have to pay, must be disclosed in the initial lease agreement. Feygin says that includes any sort of buyout provision at the end of the term.
“If it is not in the lease, they cannot charge it,” Feygin said.
Weinsier questioned Feygin – is what they’re doing illegal or wrong?
“In my opinion it is 100 percent illegal,” Feygin said.
Attorney Johnny Kane filed a complaint with Broward County after Gunther VW not only wanted to charge him a dealer fee to buy out his lease, they were forcing him to have his car certified by their mechanics before they would sell it to him, which was another additional non-disclosed fee.
He eventually won and didn’t have to pay or get the car certified.
In the past, leases would routinely get turned in and a customer would usually lease another car.
“I’m seeing it a lot more now than any other time in my practice,” Feygin said.
“The Consumer Leasing Act affords the consumer not only reimbursement of their damages, the amount of the overcharge, but up to $2,000 in statutory damages, as well as attorney’s fees,” Feygin said.
What appears to be happening in the state of Florida is that if you sell more than three cars a year, you need a dealer’s license and finance companies and banks don’t have them, so they are forcing you to the dealer.
“Really it is just a matter of consumers being educated about their rights and not falling for the high pressure sales tactics that most of these dealers employ,” Feygin said.