Spot Flood Damage In A Used Car

Whenever storms surge across the country, you can count on flood damaged cars pouring into the used car market. Certainly car shoppers within a couple hundred miles should be on the lookout for water damage, but savvy dealers and resellers often move flood drenched autos into states and areas where rains and flooding did not occur. Frequently cars will be auctioned and sold through unaffected states where they can be retitled before foisting them on unsuspecting buyers who may not even think about water damage.  When shopping for a car, be smart and look for these tell-tale signs of flood damage.

  1. LIFT CARPETS AND FLOOR MATS

Resellers usually clean and scrub flood damaged cars before selling them, but as the carpets and floor mats dry they often leave behind mud or rust deposits. Lift any carpets and floor mats and look for stains, rust spots or mineral deposits.  Also, if the carpet boards are warped, flood damage is usually the culprit.

  1. DEBRIS IN TRUNK AND ENGINE COMPARTMENT

Like the floor mats, reseller will clean the trunk and engine compartment, but check the corners and compartments within each for mud, sticks or debris.

  1. THE SMELL TEST

Does the car have a musty smell? That is an obvious warning sign, but a heavy aroma of cleaners or Lysol is also a telltale sign that someone’s trying to cover up a mold or odor problem.  Also, turn the air vents on to see what smells come from within the ventilation system. While it may be possible to remove musty smells from the interior of the car by cleaning or reupholstering, it is much harder to clean the car’s ventilation system.

  1. STRAIGHT-LINE STAINS

Many used cars have spills and stains, but they usually result from a sloshed drink or dropped sippy-cup. The resulting stain looks like an irregularly shaped puddle. Floods, on the other hand, tend to leave straight-line stains due to standing water. If you see a straight-line stain, there is a good chance that the car was submerged.

  1. TEST THE SEATBELTS

Pull on the seat belts. If they grind or stick there may be mud or sand in the mechanism. Even if there is no flood damage, you want to avoid cars with possible seatbelts defects.

  1. LOOK UNDER THE SEATS

Again, check the carpet under the seat and give it a sniff, but also look at the seat rails. If you spot rust, there are few explanations beyond flood damage. Rust will usually not appear here unless the car has been submerged.

  1. RUSTY SCREWS

Check for rust on exposed screw heads under the hood, in the door frame and in the trunk. Rusty screw heads usually mean exposure to excessive moisture.

  1. PULL A VIN HISTORY REPORT

While flood or wreck damage will not always show up on a VIN History report, such as CarFax or AutoCheck, they often will let you know where the car has titled in the past. If it was titled in an area during a time when flooding occurred, be alert.

In the end, keep in mind that resellers are often very good at hiding flood damage. A professional will clean and fix many of the issues mentioned above, and sometimes will even replace the seats and carpet. The damage to a submerged car goes much deeper than these cosmetics, however, as the frame or structure may be compromised and the car may not be mechanically sound. If you even suspect the car you are looking at is flood damaged, walk away. You don’t want to buy a cheap car only to spend your life savings fixing it. There is always another car lot down the road.

If you think you purchased a flood damaged car and are not sure what to do. Feel free to contact Chuck Marshall of the Marshall Law Firm for a free consultation at (925) 575-7105, or submit your case for review at http://www.marshall-law-firm.com/describe-your-case.

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Fixing the Mortgage Servicing Industry: The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s New Rules

Bureau Publishes Sample Letters to Mortgage Servicers to Guide Consumers

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Today the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) released additional resources for consumers as part of its campaign to educate the public about the new protections provided by the Bureau’s mortgage rules. These new materials include sample letters that consumers can send to their mortgage servicers. The Bureau is publishing these educational materials in anticipation of the January 10, 2014 effective dates for its mortgage rules.

“Taking out a mortgage to buy a home is one of the biggest decisions a consumer can make,” said CFPB Director Richard Cordray. “We want to make sure that people are aware of their new protections so they have the knowledge to make sound decisions about their financial futures.”

The CFPB’s mortgage rules protect consumers by requiring that mortgage lenders evaluate whether borrowers can afford to pay back the mortgage before signing them up. The rules also establish new, strong protections for struggling homeowners, including those facing foreclosure. Under the rules, mortgage borrowers will be protected from costly surprises and runarounds by their servicers.

The Bureau is working with industry, housing counselors, and consumer groups to promote a smooth implementation of these rules. The Bureau has released many different educational materials to improve the public’s understanding of the new rules and their protections. These materials include:

  • Sample Letters: The Bureau is releasing sample letters that consumers can use to find solutions to various problems with their mortgage servicers. The sample letters address such topics as:
    • Requesting that a servicer correct errors: Consumers should use this letter template if they think their servicer has made an error. The instructions for the template describe what information to include in a letter to a servicer, how to identify the error, and include other tips. The template also tells consumers what to expect from the servicer and provides a general idea of the timeline of events once the letter is sent.
    • Requesting information from a servicer: Consumers should use this letter template if they need information from their mortgage servicer. The instructions for the template describe what information to include in a letter to a servicer, examples of information requests, and include other tips. The template also tells consumers what to expect from the servicer and provides a general idea of the timeline of events once the letter is sent.
  • Mortgage Tips: The CFPB is providing a number of different tips on new rights under the new rules for homebuyers and homeowners at every stage of the mortgage process—from taking out a loan to paying it back. The tips also includerecommendations for troubled borrowers facing foreclosure.
  • Answers to Consumer Questions: The Bureau provides answers tomortgage-related questions through AskCFPB, an interactive online tool designed to answer consumers’ most frequently asked questions in plain language.
  • Consumer Tools: The Bureau’s website offers a tool to help consumers find local housing counseling agencies to answer their questions or address their concerns. Consumers that have an issue with consumer financial products or services, such as a mortgage, can also submit a complaint.
  • Factsheets on the Rules: The CFPB offers a factsheet with an overview of the new consumer protections in the Bureau’s mortgage rules. The CFPB also offers a summary of the new procedures to facilitate borrowers’ access to foreclosure avoidance options.

The CFPB has also published a reference guide for housing counselors and others who interact with consumers who are struggling with paying their mortgage. The CFPB wants to ensure that housing counselors and others understand the new federal protections so that borrowers can pursue all possible options to avoid losing their home to foreclosure. The CFPB is also offering training on the rules for housing counselors.

Print copies of the mortgage materials will be available to be ordered in seven languages: Spanish, Tagalog, traditional Chinese, Haitian Creole, French, Korean, and Vietnamese. English language materials can be found at consumerfinance.gov/mortgage. The Bureau will continue to develop and produce materials to educate consumers about the new mortgage protections.

 

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This article is republished from http://www.consumerfinance.gov/newsroom/cfpb-releases-new-mortgage-rule-resources-for-consumers/.

 The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is a 21st century agency that helps consumer finance markets work by making rules more effective, by consistently and fairly enforcing those rules, and by empowering consumers to take more control over their economic lives. For more information, visit consumerfinance.gov.

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Buying A Car? What to Watch Out For

If you think you’ve been ripped off by a car dealer and are interested legal help, click HERE for a free consultation.  The Marshall Law Firm will let you know if we can help. Otherwise, read on for information about common schemes seen in car sales.

Buying a car can be confusing.  Apart from buying a house, this may be the most complicated transaction people undertake without the help of a lawyer.  While most people understand the general terms of a car deal, there are many details people may not understand or pay attention to.  It is in those details that some shady dealers will take your money.

“Dealer fraud,” as it is commonly called, refers to the deceptive and illegal practices employed by car dealerships during the sales process. Whether the fraud happens during the early stages of the negotiation (i.e. misrepresentation as to the cars accident history, title, characteristics, attributes) or after the buyer has picked a vehicle and is in the financing stages of the purchase (i.e. illegal yo-yo financing scams), many dealers engage in these unlawful practices on a daily basis.

Dealers have more access to information about the vehicles being sold than consumers do.  As a result, consumers are left with no choice but to believe much of what the salesman and dealer tell them, and hope that it is true.  In reality, however, honest, hard-working people are commonly taken for a ride by dealers that will say almost anything to close a sale quickly.

There are an endless number of scams that fall under the category of dealer fraud. The following are some examples of the more common dealer fraud scams:

Failure To Disclose Frame Damage or Accident History

California consumers are entitled to complete disclosure of whether a vehicle previously sustained material damage that was repaired or whether the vehicle still has unrepaired damage. The California Vehicle Code defines material damage as any of the following:

a.    the cost of repairs is greater than 3% of the MSRP or $500 (whichever is greater, including cost of parts & labor at the repairer’s cost).

*Note: The above formula excludes the cost of replacing certain damaged or stolen components if they were replaced by the installation of new original manufacturer’s equipment. However, any damage overall that is greater than 10% of the MSRP is considered material.

b.    the vehicle’s frame or drive-train was damaged;

c.    the vehicle was damaged during theft;

d.    the vehicle’s suspension was damaged.

Dealers are also required to provide consumers with written disclosure of previously existing, but repaired, material damage either before the sale is finalized or at some point before the vehicle is delivered to the buyer. Also, any damage to the vehicle (whether material or not) that the dealer knows has not been repaired must be disclosed in writing.

Finally, and perhaps most significantly, dealers must not mislead or lie to consumers if asked about the vehicle’s repair or accident history. In other words, dealers are obligated to give consumers truthful answers to their questions and must not attempt to deceive them in any way.

Failure To Disclose Vehicle’s Prior Use

If a vehicle was previously used by the dealer as a rental, loaner, lease or service vehicle, the dealer must clearly disclose such use in any advertisement or sale. Also, the dealer cannot call such vehicles as “new.”

Failure To Disclose Vehicle’s Salvage Title Or Lemon Law Buyback Title

A dealer is obligated to disclose that a vehicle has been in a wreck and has a “salvage title” or “junk title.” A vehicle is deemed “salvaged” if it has been “wrecked, destroyed, or damaged to such extent that the insurance company considers it uneconomical to make repairs to the vehicle and the vehicle is not repaired by or for the person who owned the vehicle when the damage occurred.”

Dealers must also disclose whether a vehicle has a “lemon law buyback” title. The lemon law buyback title is used to designate vehicles that were defective and repurchased by the manufacturer. In short, if someone had a lemon law case and persuaded the manufacturer to refund their money and take back the vehicle, then the manufacturer labels the bought-back vehicle as a “lemon law buyback.” Dealers often purchase these bought-back lemons and attempt to resell them without disclosing the fact that these vehicles are or continue to have one or more persistent defects that impair the vehicles’ safety, use or value.

Odometer Fraud / Mileage Rollback

This scam perhaps immediately comes to mind when one envisions a dealer engaged in deceptive practices. Mileage rollback cases, also known as Odometer Fraud, involve a dealer making false representations to unsuspecting purchasers about the actual mileage of the vehicle despite being aware that the vehicle’s odometer has been rolled-back or modified. Or despite the dealer having knowledge that the vehicle’s odometer was reset/replaced and proper legal notice was never provided.

Yo-Yo Financing Or Spot Delivery Scam

The Yo-Yo financing/Spot Delivery scam occurs when a dealer lets a buyer take a vehicle home, claiming that it is now his, but before financing has actually been approved. As a result, the unknowing purchaser takes the car home, mistakenly believing he owns it. And soon after, the dealer calls the buyer asking him to return the car or demands that the parties “redo” the contract because financing could not be secured. After the sale is rewritten, the buyer is left with an extremely high APR.

Dealers will typically use this scam to prey on consumers with credit problems. It is not uncommon for the dealers to make outlandish claims to consumers about how they will certainly be approved for financing at unbelievably low rates, knowing that nothing could be further from the truth. Buyers need to be wary of these financing tactics and make sure that all sales terms are finalized before driving the vehicle off the lot.

Advertising Fraud (“Bait & Switch”)

False and deceptive advertising is another fraudulent tactic used by dealers. Among other prohibited acts, a dealer must not disseminate false or misleading advertisements that list a vehicle for sale at a price at which the dealer never intends to sell the vehicle. These scams are used to lure unsuspecting buyers in to the dealerships. Once the prospective buyer steps foot on the dealer’s lot, the dealerships will typically fabricate various falsities throughout the negotiation process to wriggle their way out of holding up to their end of the bargain. Don’t let this happen to you. Dealers are also prohibited from advertising a vehicle as being “new” when it is in fact “used”, among being prohibited from engaging in various other “bait and switch” tactics.

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Fighting By Writing: How to Write an Effective Complaint Letter

An unfortunate reality is that that people get ripped off every day. Nancy buys a car and it turns out to be a lemon. Tom’s hard drive freezes, but the manufacturer won’t cover the repair under warranty. You get your credit card bill and there are fees and charges you never agreed to pay. When this happens, most of us get mad, complain to our friends, and maybe make an angry phone call. This, however, rarely fixes the problem. The best way to get results is to put your complaint in writing.

Letter writing is becoming a lost art, replaced by more urgent forms of communications such as email, texts and tweets. While those methods have merit, none get results quite like a well-crafted complaint letter. If you are out of practice, here are some tips on the art of putting your complaint in writing.

Keep It Short

A letter is not effective if no one reads it. Your intended audience is likely faced with a stack of letters or a full inbox. They are not interested in reading an opus on what their product meant to you and how its failure ruined your life. They are interested in cutting through that stack of letter as fast as possible. Two to three paragraphs is all you need. Explain what happened in chronological order, include any dates and names you can recall, specify the product at issue, and be clear about what you want.  If you absolutely need more than one page, make sure to include your name, contact info and account number (if applicable) on every page in case the pages get separated.

Be Professional

While ranting at customer service may reduce your therapy bill, it will not help your complaint. Keep to the facts. Avoid name calling or mudslinging. A company is less likely to help you if it appears they’ve already lost your business. You want to seem dissatisfied, not angry or unhinged. Also, if the letter doesn’t work, you may file a lawsuit or take the matter to arbitration.  Your letter will certainly be part of the record in that proceeding. Don’t say anything you would later regret or which may hurt your case.

Keep Your Audience Small And Relevant

Many people believe that going to the press, governmental agencies or broadcasting a complaint as far as possible will get results. It will not. Give the company a chance to fix your problem. If you copy the world on your letter, it puts the company on the defensive. Once you go global with your complaint, you’ve caused more damage than can be fixed by simply addressing your issue.

Also, make sure the letter is addressed to someone who can actually fix your problem. Many companies list on their website who handles corporate complaint, and don’t be afraid to copy the CEO.

Know What You Want And Ask For It

If you want a new widget, ask for it. If you want money, ask for it. If you want a repair, ask for it. You are the one complaining—you know what will make you feel better. If you wait for the company to make an offer, you let them define the solution. As a caveat: be reasonable. Asking for too much is the same as not asking for anything at all.

Prove Your Case

If you have receipts to prove purchase, photos to prove damage, advertisements to prove a promise, then reference it and include a copy with your letter. Do not send originals—you will not get them back. Keep your original documents, and a copy of the signed letter, in a file, along with any notes, or responses from the company. You may need them later.

Use The Law

If you are certain a law has been broken, say so, and cite the statute. Be careful though, you lose credibility if you stretch too far or are wrong.

Set a Time Limit And Wait

Your letter should set a deadline for the company to reply. Ten business days is usually reasonable, but you may have to wait longer.  If you have not heard back within a month, you may need to take further action.

Certified Mail, Return Receipt Requested

I always imagine there are two piles of complaint letters in a corporate office:  One sent certified mail, return receipt requested, and everything else. The certified pile probably sits on the desk in a stack ready to be read, while the others are recycled for paper airplane practice. Sending a letter certified mail means someone at the company signs for it and provides proof that it was received. This shows you mean business and expect your letter to be read.

Be Ready To Take Additional Action

While a lawsuit is not always advisable, or necessary, you should consider what you will do if your letter does not work. Don’t threaten a lawsuit in your letter (remember, be professional), but be prepared to consult with a lawyer about what rights you may have. If you do need to talk with an attorney, following the guidelines above will help him or her manage your case.  Be ready to provide all documentation, communication, notes and proof of your complaint if you are interested in taking your complaint to the next level.

If you need help with this process, have gone through it already and feel the need to take it to the next level, or do not feel a letter will help at all, feel to contact the Marshall Law Firm to schedule a free consultation at 925-575-7105, or submit your complaint online.

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