Leasing arbitration program
Car & Auto
The State of New York's arbitration program for excess wear and damage on leased autos
A growing number of New Yorkers lease their new or used motor vehicles rather than purchasing them.
When you lease an auto, you are required to sign a lease agreement that defines your rights and obligations. Virtually all motor-vehicle leases contain a provision under which you are held financially responsible for "excess wear and damage" as described in the lease.
The New York Motor Vehicle Retail Leasing Law (MVRLA) provides you with the legal right to challenge charges for excess wear and damage to the leased vehicle when your lease ends.
You can exercise this right by participating in the New York Auto Leasing Excess Wear and Damage Arbitration Program established by the Office of the New York State Attorney General.
This arbitration program enables you to contest
- whether damage to the leased vehicle exists
- whether such damage constitutes "excess" wear and damage
- the amount of the charges sought by the owner of the car
Here is some helpful information about how to protect your legal rights through participation in the arbitration program.
MVRLA covers new or used motor vehicles leased in New York under a retail lease agreement on or after August 31, 1995. Your lease must be for more than four months and you must lease the vehicle primarily for personal, family, or household purposes.
Yes, if the lease states that you are. Virtually all leases provide for the lessee to be financially responsible for excess wear and damage to the leased vehicle at the termination of the lease. Under MVRLA, to hold you responsible for excess wear and damage, the lease must describe the type of damage for which you will be liable.
This is commonly defined as more than normal wear and tear. The extent of your responsibility, however, must be spelled out in the lease. So, be sure to read your lease carefully. Although there is no standard definition of excess wear and damage, it is typically defined to include:
- glass that is damaged or that you have tinted
- damaged body, fenders, metal work, lights, trim, or paint
- missing equipment that was in or on the vehicle when delivered and has not been replaced with equipment of equal quality and design
- missing wheel covers, jack, or wheel wrench
- missing or unsafe wheels or tires (including spare; snow tires are not acceptable as replacements)
- any tire with less than 1/8 inch of tread remaining at the shallowest point
- torn, damaged, or stained dashboard, floor covers, seats, headliners, upholstery, interior work, or trunk liners
- any mechanical damage or other condition that causes the vehicle to operate in a noisy, rough, improper, unsafe, or unlawful manner
- any other damage, whether or not covered by insurance
Not if the leased vehicle is returned at the end of the lease. If the vehicle is being returned before the end of the lease term, however, the holder may only charge up to the actual cost of repairs, minus all discounts, that they have actually paid for.
Yes. The lessor must mail or deliver to you a notice advising you of your rights and obligations under the law. In the case of a scheduled termination, the lessor must give you the notice no more than 40 days and no fewer than 20 days before the end of the lease term. In the case of an early termination, the lessor must give you the notice no more than 10 business days after early termination.
The notice must advise you of the following rights and obligations of you and the lessor:
- Before you return the vehicle, you have a right to obtain, at your own expense, an itemized appraisal of any excess wear and damage. The appraisal must be prepared by an appraiser licensed by the Department of Motor Vehicles not more than 20 days before you return the vehicle.
- The lessor has the right to obtain, from a licensed appraiser, an itemized appraisal of any excess wear and damage within 30 days after they receive the vehicle back from you.
- If you obtained your own appraisal and there is a discrepancy between your appraisal and the lessor's, you or the lessor may submit the dispute to the lessor's informal dispute-settlement procedure, if one has been established. However, you may instead choose to submit the dispute to the Attorney General's arbitration program. The dispute must be submitted for arbitration within 60 days from the date the lessor gets the vehicle back.
- If you did not obtain an appraisal before turning in the vehicle, you still have the right to obtain one. You must obtain your appraisal within 10 business days after you have received (or 14 days after the lessor has sent) the lessor's itemized appraisal and bill for excess wear and damage.
- If the lessor's claim for excess wear and damage is based on the actual cost of repairs and you failed to obtain your own appraisal, you may dispute only whether any item claimed exists or whether such item or items are excessive. In such a case, you cannot dispute the actual cost of the repairs.
Yes. The lessor must grant your licensed appraiser access to the vehicle at a reasonable time and place. The lessor is not required, however, to deliver the vehicle to your appraiser.
If the lessor fails to provide reasonable access to the vehicle for your appraisal, the lessor is deemed to have forfeited the right to collect charges for any excess wear and damage.
Before the lessor can charge you for any excess wear and damage, they must provide you with an itemized bill and an itemized appraisal. The bill must contain:
- an itemized list of the estimated or actual cost of repairing or replacing each item
- the address to which you should mail any response
The appraisal must be dated and signed by the lessor or its agent. The appraisal must also identify, by type, each item of excess wear and damage. The bill and appraisal may be combined into one document. Both the bill and the appraisal must also contain certain prescribed notices advising you of your legal rights.
The lessor must send you these items by registered mail or hand deliver them to you within 30 days after the lessor obtains possession of the vehicle.
You can submit your dispute, along with the prescribed filing fee, to the Attorney General's arbitration program. If the lessor has established its own arbitration program and this complies with the law's requirements, you may submit your dispute to that program. The lessor must submit any dispute relating to excess wear and damage to such established arbitration program before pursuing any other remedy, unless you have opted to participate in the Attorney General's arbitration program.
An arbitration proceeding is a process to resolve your dispute. It is much less complicated, time-consuming, and expensive than going to court. The arbitration hearing is informal. Strict rules of evidence do not apply. Arbitrators, rather than judges, listen to each side, review the evidence, and render a decision.
First, obtain a "request for arbitration" from any of the Attorney General's Regional Offices. Complete the form and return it to:
Office of the New York State Attorney General
New Car Lemon Law Arbitration Unit
28 Liberty Street
New York NY 10005
The Office of the New York State Attorney General will review the form to determine whether your claim is eligible to be heard by an arbitrator. If accepted, the form will be forwarded to the administrator for processing. The administrator will then ask you to pay the required filing fee. Upon receiving the filing fee, the administrator will appoint an arbitrator and schedule a hearing to be held within 35 days. If rejected, the form will be returned to you together with an explanation for the rejection.
You have an absolute right to do so. This is called an "oral hearing." At an oral hearing, each party has the opportunity to present their case in person or virtually before an arbitrator.
You may elect to have a hearing on documents only. Mark this preference on the "request for arbitration" form. In a documents-only hearing, both sides must present their positions in writing. However, if you request a documents only hearing but the lessor objects, an oral hearing will be scheduled.
Any party to the arbitration may arrange, on its own, for a stenographic record or an audio recording of the hearing at its own expense, even if the other party objects. The party that wants to use a stenographer or audio recorder must give reasonable advance notice to the other party through the administrator.
We designed the program so you, as a typical consumer, should not need an attorney. However, either party may use an attorney or any other person to assist them if they wish.
After you pay the filing fee and before the hearing, you can make a written request to the arbitrator, through the administrator, to ask the lessor to provide any necessary documents or other information. You can also ask the arbitrator to subpoena documents or witnesses to appear at the hearing.
Unless the hearing has been properly rescheduled, if either party fails to appear at an oral hearing, the arbitrator will conduct the hearing and issue a decision based on the evidence presented and any documents in the file.
The decision will most likely be available within 10 days of the hearing. This may take longer if the arbitrator requests additional documents or information.
If the arbitrator decides in your favor, the decision must include the return of the filing fee.
Within 30 days.
If the lessor does not comply with the award, you can enforce the arbitrator's decision through the courts by bringing an action to confirm the award. You must start this action within one year of receiving the decision. If you want to pursue this remedy, consult a private attorney. If you successful, the court will convert the arbitrator's award into a court judgment.
The grounds for modification are very limited. Generally, awards can be modified only to correct a miscalculation or a technical mistake in the award. For example, you could request a modification if the award omitted the filing fee.
Either party can request the arbitrator to modify the award by writing to the administrator within 20 days of receiving the award. The other party will have the opportunity to object to the modification. The arbitrator must rule on all such requests within 30 days after the request is received. To modify an award after 20 days, an application to a court may be necessary.
Either party can start a lawsuit to challenge an arbitrator's award within 90 days of receipt of the award. However, the grounds for such challenges are limited by law. The courts will generally uphold an arbitrator's award if it is supported by evidence and is grounded in reason.
A lessor cannot report an unsatisfied claim for excess wear and damage to a credit-reporting agency:
- until the right to challenge an arbitration award has expired (90 days).
- in a court action, until a final judgment is obtained or, where the parties execute a settlement agreement, 30 days after the date a payment is due but not made
You can get free copies of our brochure, New York's Auto Leasing Excess Wear and Damage Arbitration Program: A Guide for Consumers, from the Office of the New York State Attorney General, 28 Liberty Street, New York NY 10005, or from any Regional Office of the Attorney General.