District of Columbia Lemon Laws

District of Columbia lemon laws are dealt with in District of Columbia Code, Title 50, Subtitle II, Chapter 5 (Automobile Consumer Protection) Section 50-501 et seq.  The law is known as Automobile Consumer Protection Act of 1984.

A motor vehicle is defective if it does not conform to all warranties and if such nonconformity results in significant impairment of vehicle.  The prescribed time limit for manufacturer repair is within the first 18,000 miles of operation or during the period of 2 years following the date of delivery of the motor vehicle to the original purchaser.  This time limit is prescribed in Section 50-502.  During this time limit the consumer should report the nonconformity, defect, or condition to the manufacturer, its agent, or its authorized dealer.  The manufacturer, its agent, or its authorized dealer should correct the nonconformity, defect, or condition at no charge to the consumer, within this time period.

Certain remedies are available to the consumer if the manufacturer, its agent, or authorized dealer is unable to repair or correct any nonconformity, defect, or condition which results in significant impairment of the motor vehicle, after a reasonable number of attempts.  The manufacturer should either replace the motor vehicle with a comparable motor vehicle, or accept return of the motor vehicle from the consumer and refund to the consumer.  The refund includes the full purchase price, including all sales tax, license fees, registration fees, and any similar governmental charges.  The consumer has the option to choose from either of the two remedies.

From the full purchase price, the manufacturer can deduct a reasonable allowance for the consumer’s use of the motor vehicle in excess of the first 12,000 miles of operation and this rate should not exceed 10 cents per mile used in excess.  A reasonable allowance for any damage not attributable to normal wear or to the nonconformity, defect, or condition which significantly impaired the motor vehicle can also be deducted from the consumer’s full purchase price refund.      

D.C. Code § 50-501

Definitions [Formerly § 40-1301]
For the purposes of this chapter, the term:

(7) “Material mechanical defect” means any defect, failure, or malfunction of the mechanical system of a motor vehicle, including, but not limited to, the engine, transmission and drive shaft, differential, cooling system, electrical system, fuel system, or accessories, which significantly impairs the operation, safety, performance, or value of the motor vehicle.

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(11) “Safety-related defect” means an impairment which reduces the operator’s ability to control the motor vehicle in normal operation or which creates a risk of fire, explosion, or other life-threatening malfunction.
(12) “Significantly impair” means to render the motor vehicle unreliable or unsafe for normal operation or to reduce its resale value below the average resale value for comparable motor vehicles.
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D.C. Code § 50-502

Consumer’s remedy for defective vehicles [Formerly § 40-1302]
(a) If a new motor vehicle does not conform to all warranties during the first 18,000 miles of operation or during the period of 2 years following the date of delivery of the motor vehicle to the original purchaser, whichever is the earlier date, the consumer shall during that period report the nonconformity, defect, or condition to the manufacturer, its agent, or its authorized dealer. If the notification is received by the manufacturer’s agent or authorized dealer, the agent or dealer shall within 7 days forward written notice thereof to the manufacturer by certified mail, return receipt requested. The manufacturer, its agent, or its authorized dealer shall correct the nonconformity, defect, or condition at no charge to the consumer, notwithstanding the fact that the repairs may be made after the expiration of the first 18,000-mile period of operation or the 2-year period.
(b) If, after a reasonable number of attempts, the manufacturer, its agent, or authorized dealer is unable to repair or correct any nonconformity, defect, or condition which results in significant impairment of the motor vehicle, the manufacturer, at the option of the consumer, shall replace the motor vehicle with a comparable motor vehicle, or accept return of the motor vehicle from the consumer and refund to the consumer the full purchase price, including all sales tax, license fees, registration fees, and any similar governmental charges. In calculating a refund, the manufacturer may deduct from the consumer’s full purchase price a reasonable allowance not to exceed 10 cents per mile for the consumer’s use of the motor vehicle in excess of the first 12,000 miles of operation, and a reasonable allowance for any damage not attributable to normal wear or to the nonconformity, defect, or condition which significantly impaired the motor vehicle. Refunds shall be made to the consumer, and the lien holder, if any, as their interests may appear on the records of ownership kept by the Department of Public Works.


Inside District of Columbia Lemon Laws