Assembly Passes Burzichelli & Mukherji Bill Prohibiting Rental of Motor Vehicles Subject to Safety Recalls

(TRENTON) – The General Assembly on Thursday approved legislation Assembly Democrats John J. Burzichelli and Raj Mukherji sponsored to make it illegal for rental companies to rent, lease or sell unrepaired motor vehicles that are subject to safety recall.

“Consumers have certain expectations when they rent a car – that it’s safe and in good operating condition,” said Burzichelli (D-Cumberland/Gloucester/Salem). “Unfortunately, since rental companies aren’t required to pull recalled cars from their active fleets until the vehicles are fixed, consumers can instead be unwittingly subjected to a dangerous game of rental car Russian roulette.”

Current state and federal law does not require rental car companies to remove vehicles with a safety recall from their active fleets until repairs are made. Likewise, rental car companies are not currently required to repair safety recalls prior to putting a car from a rental fleet up for sale to the public.

“It is troubling that someone could rent or buy a patently unsafe car without knowing it,” said Mukherji (D-Hudson). “Closing this glaring loophole will protect consumers and reinforce the responsibility of car rental companies to maintain their fleets.”

The bill (A-1892), entitled the “Safe Motor Vehicle Rental Act,” would make it a violation of New Jersey’s Consumer Fraud Act for rental companies in the state to knowingly rent, lease or sell motor vehicles that are subject to a safety recall, without first repairing the problem.

Under the bill, if, during the rental or lease period of a vehicle, a rental company receives notification that the vehicle has become subject to a safety recall, the company would be required to immediately contact the renter or lessee, inform them of recall notice and offer to provide the individual with a comparable replacement vehicle at no extra charge.

Violators would be subject to penalties of up to $10,000 for a first offense and up to $20,000 for second and subsequent offenses.

The measure was approved 49-20. The bill was released by the Assembly Consumer Affairs Committee on October 23, 2014.