Individuals have rented a vehicle while on vacation. After renting, where the agency closes, they park the car in the dedicated parking lot and deposit the keys in the rental company’s mailbox. They receive a delusion a few days later.
Facts. We rented a vehicle while on vacation. The rental company gave us the keys but did not accompany us to the car. We quickly bypassed it without detecting any problem and used it for a week with no problems. When the office was closed the day of our departure, we left the car in the parking lot and deposited the keys in the mailbox that the rental company had requested. A few days later, he sent us an outrageous invoice for a scratch repair and withheld our deposit. What can we do ? The contract states that in case of depositing the keys in the mailbox, we remain responsible.
Car rental is a contract between landlord and user. This document supersedes the law between the parties (1)with the exception of clauses that can be declared unreasonable and therefore invalid due to the significant imbalance they create between the professional and the consumer; (2).
Take care of the furniture
To avoid any problem, it is imperative to prepare a careful inventory of the vehicle when handing over the keys and require the rental company to do this with you. Otherwise in the eyes of the law (3), you are considered to have received a car in good condition. If damage is found on your return, you are responsible for it, unless you can prove that it has existed before (with pictures), or that it is due to obsolescence or force majeure. Suffice it to say, it’s hard! Likewise, when you return, it is important to make an inventory with the rental company to prove that you have returned the vehicle in good condition. If there is no difference compared to the previous one, the landlord can not charge anything. It is common if the rental company is closed when you plan to hand over the car that the rental company offers to leave the keys in their mailbox. However, this prevents the inventory from being completed and it is then up to him to charge you for damages that you have not caused.
The rental contract often includes a clause stating that if you hand over the keys outside the agency’s opening hours, you are responsible for any damage the vehicle may suffer until the rental company has picked them up. Know that this clause is abusive and that you can dispute it (4).
Similarly, it is common practice for agencies to estimate the size of a repair without any discussion with the client. This often results in invoices that are not commensurate with the damage found. The landlord generally makes use of a clause in the contract authorizing him to do so. The court ruled that such a clause is invalid. (5). If you did not make a statement (or if it was made in a hurry), try to prove that the damage is not your fault and dispute the invoice amount. At the same time, check whether you are covered by the insurance.
1) Dispute the facts with the rental company
You must send a registered letter (or email) to the rental company’s customer service department. Tell him, if necessary, that his contract contains unreasonable clauses: the one that covers your liability after the keys have been deposited in his mailbox, and the one that says the landlord can unilaterally estimate the size of the repair.
Remind him of all the details (the date of the contract, the date of taking over the vehicle), the absence of a statement made with an employee of the agency (or the fact that he was very quick and a little careful). Attach statements from people traveling with you that confirm these items and that you have not had any incidents. If necessary, send photos taken before you leave the office, with the scratch visible on the car’s body, or photos taken during the return, where it does not appear. If you do not have photos, you can ask the landlord to send you a copy of the furniture from the previous tenant of the vehicle. You win your case if you prove that the scratch was already present before you took possession of the car or that there was no damage when it was returned. If you can not prove that you had nothing to do with this scratch, then at least try to lower the note that the rental company asks you to.
Reject unilateral estimates
Tell him that the amount of the repair he is charging is exorbitant (you can attach an estimate that you will ask a mechanic) and that he can not fix it on his own without allowing you to do the same with your side . Conclude by mentioning that if he does not refund your deposit, you will sue through a consumer association, which will review the clauses of his contract … Since some rental companies are not unaffected by this view, the argument should strike back.
2) Check the insurance taken out
When you rent a car, compulsory insurance is included in the contract. It covers your liability to third parties (drivers, pedestrians, passengers) for personal injury and property damage that you cause them. On the other hand, it does not protect you if the rented vehicle is damaged by you – you have scratched the body, for example – or even worse if it is stolen. In these cases, you must pay the landlord the amount of the repair or the amounts stipulated in the lease. Some assume that repairs due to an unintentional or indefinite cause remain the responsibility of the tenant. The Unreasonable Terms Commission considers such a clause invalid because it does not allow the tenant to prove his absence of guilt (6). Hard proof …
If you have taken out the optional insurance offered by the landlord, you can have damages you have inflicted on the vehicle covered within a reduced deductible. Also remember to check the insurance for your personal car. It can provide an extended warranty for leased vehicles. The insurance of the bank card (Visa, MasterCard or American Express) used to pay the rent also sometimes covers this type of damage.
Request a refund
Contact the relevant insurance companies. Asking for their support does not constitute an acknowledgment of your commitment. Just report the damage and state that you are not the cause of the scratch. If the damage is guaranteed, you can still ask the rental company to refund the part of the invoice that would not have been covered by the insurance.
3) Take legal action
If you have not won your case with the rental company or have not been covered by insurance, you can consider litigation.
Contact the broker
Contact the consumer intermediary beforehand, whose name must appear on your rental contract or on the rental company’s website. (7). You must prove that you have already taken amicable steps with the landlord, therefore it is important to keep track of your complaints (email and e-mail, receipt, any response from the landlord). You have one year from this complaint to contact the broker, by simple mail or electronically (use as a precautionary measure a means of giving you access to a notice of receipt). Explain to him your dispute and attach the lease as well as a copy of the evidence you have. The mediator can propose a solution to the dispute, which each party is free to reject.
If mediation fails, it will be possible, as a last resort, to intervene with a judge.
Go to court
You must have items that prove that the scratch is not attributable to you or that the cost that the rental company has requested for the repair is too high. You do not need a lawyer if your claim does not exceed € 10,000 (8). But it’s in your interest to get closer to a utility association that can help you: UFC-Que Choisir, Consumption, Housing and the Living Environment (CLCV), etc.
Apply, at your choice, to the courts of the place where the rental company that gave you the car is located, its head office (9)or your home (10). It can be seized on request if the size of the dispute does not exceed € 5,000 (11) (with Cerfa form no. 16042 * 02, can be downloaded from service-public.fr), after summons (model on the Conseil national des barreaux website) issued by a bailiff, on.