District of Columbia Lemon Law
When does a Vehicle Qualify?
4 unsuccessful repair attempts of the defect, the vehicle is out of service for 30 calendar days, or 1 unsuccessful repair attempt of a safety-related defect within 2 years or 18,000 miles of purchase.
Required actions and Timeline:
The owner must report to the manufacturer, agent, or dealer. District-run arbitration mechanism available.
For a look at the strengths or weaknesses of District of Columbia’s lemon law, see the Center for Auto Safety Letter to District of Columbia Attorney General on Lemon Law Rank & Effectiveness.
More Helpful Information:
Links to external attorney sites do not constitute an endorsement or legal advice by the Center for Auto Safety.
District of Columbia Lemon Law Statute
District of Columbia
D.C. Code, 40-1301 to 40-1310
For the purposes of this chapter, the term:
(1) “Board” means the Board of Consumer Claims
Arbitration for the District of Columbia established by Â§ 40-1303.
(2) “Consumer” means the purchaser, other
than for purposes of resale, of a motor vehicle; any person to whom the
motor vehicle is leased or otherwise transferred during the duration of
a warranty applicable to the motor vehicle; and any other person entitled
to enforce the obligations of the warranty. For the purposes of Â§ 40-1303, the
term “consumer” means any natural person who does or would purchase,
lease, or receive consumer goods or services. The term “consumer”
includes any natural person who purchases insurance coverage in the District
(3) “Council” means the Council of the District
(4) “Court” means the Superior Court of the
District of Columbia.
(5) “District” means the District of Columbia.
(6) “Known” means, for the purposes of Â§ 40-1305, that a dealer or the dealer’s
agent or employee has obtained facts or information about the condition
of a motor vehicle which would lead a reasonable person in similar circumstances
to believe that the motor vehicle contained 1 or more material mechanical
defects. The term “known” encompasses knowledge obtained through
an inspection, from a previous owner, from the salesperson at an auction,
or through other means.
(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.
(8) “Mayor” means the Mayor of the District
(9) “Motor vehicle” means a motor vehicle
which is manufactured for sale, offered for sale, sold, or registered
in the District and which is designed for the primary purpose of transporting
a driver and 1 or more passengers on streets, roads, or highways. The
term “motor vehicle” shall not include buses sold for public
transportation, motorcycles, motor homes, or motorized recreational vehicles.
(10) “New motor vehicle” means a motor vehicle
which is in the period of the first 18,000 miles of operation or the first
2 years after the date of delivery to the original purchaser, whichever
(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
(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.
(13) “Used motor vehicle” means a motor vehicle
which is offered for sale in the District and which is not within the
period of the first 18,000 miles of operation or the first 2 years after
the date of delivery to the original purchaser, whichever is earlier;
but it does not mean a motor vehicle sold only for scrap or parts.
(14) “Warranty” means the written or implied
warranty of the manufacturer of a motor vehicle.
40-1302 Consumer’s remedy for defective vehicles
(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 of the first 18,000-mile period of operation or the
(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 lienholder, if any, as their interests
may appear on the records of ownership kept by the Department of Public
(c) Each of the following circumstances shall be an affirmative
defense to any claim under this section:
(1) The nonconformity, defect, or condition does not significantly
impair the vehicle.
(2) The nonconformity, defect, or condition is the result
of abuse, neglect, or unauthorized modifications or alterations of the
(d) It shall be presumed that a reasonable number of attempts
have been made to conform a motor vehicle to the warranties, if:
(1) The same nonconformity, defect, or condition, if
it is not safety- related, has been subject to repair 4 or more times
by the manufacturer, its agent, or authorized dealer after notification
by the consumer within the first 18,000 miles of operation or during the
period of 2 years following the date of original delivery of the motor
vehicle to a consumer, whichever is the earlier date, but the nonconformity,
defect, or condition continues to exist;
(2) The same nonconformity, defect, or condition, if
it is safety-related, has been subject to repair 1 or more times by the
manufacturer, its agents, or authorized dealers after notification by
the consumer within the first 18,000 miles of operation or during the
period of 2 years following the date of original delivery of the motor
vehicle to a consumer, whichever is the earlier date, but the nonconformity,
defect, or condition continues to exist; or
(3) The motor vehicle is out of service by reason of
repair of any nonconformities, defects, or conditions which significantly
impair the vehicle, on a cumulative total of 30 days or more during either
period, whichever is the earlier date.
(e) The 30-day out-of-service period shall be extended by
any time during which repair services are not available to the consumer
because of a war, invasion, strike, fire, flood, or other natural disaster.
(f) The consumer, in order to seek the refund or replacement
provided by this section, shall first submit a claim to the Board of Consumer
Claims Arbitration established pursuant to Â§ 40-1303. If the Board rejects
the case for arbitration, or if the claim is arbitrated and the consumer
rejects the arbitration decision, the consumer may then bring an action
in court to seek the remedies provided by this section.
(g)(1) If a motor vehicle is returned to a manufacturer, its
agent, or authorized dealer pursuant to this section, the manufacturer,
its agent, or authorized dealer shall notify the Department of Public
Works that the motor vehicle was returned.
(2) The Department of Public Works shall note the fact
that the motor vehicle was returned pursuant to this chapter on any certificate
of title issued for the motor vehicle.
(3) A motor vehicle dealer shall state the fact that
the motor vehicle was returned pursuant to this chapter in any sales contract
for the motor vehicle prior to the signing of the contract by a prospective
(a) There is established in the Department of Consumer and Regulatory
Affairs a Board of Consumer Claims Arbitration for the District of Columbia.
The Board shall consist of 7 members who shall be appointed by the Mayor.
(b) The members shall be at least 18 years of age and residents
of the District.
(c) Two members shall be attorneys admitted to the practice
of law in the District, 1 of whom shall be designated by the Mayor as
chairperson of the Board. Two members shall have training and experience
in arbitration and mediation. One member shall be the Director of the
Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs or his or her designee.
One member shall have experience or training in representing the interests
of consumers. One member shall have experience or training in the manufacture
or wholesale or retail sales of consumer goods.
(d) The Mayor shall appoint the initial Board members within
60 days of March 14, 1985. Of the members first appointed, the chairperson
and 1 other member shall be appointed for terms of 3 years; 2 members
shall be appointed for terms of 2 years; 1 member shall be appointed for
a term of 2 years; and 1 member shall be appointed for a term of 1 year.
Subsequent appointments shall be for terms of 3 years. This subsection
shall not apply to the representative of the Department of Consumer and
(e) Members of the Board shall be compensated pursuant to
(f) The Mayor shall issue, and may amend from time to time,
rules and regulations to implement the provisions of this section and
may establish reasonable fees for the filing of complaints.
(g) The Board, in accordance with the rules and regulations
issued pursuant to subsection (f) of this section, shall provide arbitration
for claims filed by consumers against manufacturers, their agents, or
dealers pursuant to Â§Â§ 40-1302 and 40-1305; for claims voluntarily filed
by consumers against the provider of any consumer goods or services, who
agrees to arbitration, pursuant to rules and regulations issued by the
Mayor; and for claims filed pursuant to Â§ 35-2105 by parties agreeing
to arbitration pursuant to rules and regulations issued by the Mayor.
(h) Consumers may submit claims to the Board by completing
forms which shall be approved by the Mayor.
(i) Upon receipt of a written claim filed by a consumer, the
Board shall within 5 business days determine whether the claim qualifies
for arbitration pursuant to this chapter and notify the opposing party.
(j) The Board shall develop and maintain a roster of persons
who are residents of the District, at least 18 years of age, and experienced
in arbitration techniques who may be employed to serve as arbitrators
for specific cases.
(k) The Board shall assign cases for arbitration according
to the following provisions:
(1) A case may be assigned to a single arbitrator if
the Board first informs all parties to the case of the identity and background
of the arbitrator and obtains their consent. When a case is assigned to
a single arbitrator, the arbitrator must be an attorney-member of the
Board or another attorney admitted to the practice of law in the District
and chosen from the roster of arbitrators maintained by the Board.
(2) All cases not assigned to single arbitrators shall
be assigned to a panel of 3 arbitrators, 1 of whom must be a member of
the Board and 1 of whom must be an attorney admitted to the practice of
law in the District. Participation on the panel by an attorney-member
of the Board shall satisfy both requirements. The Board shall inform all
parties to the case of the identity and background of the arbitrators
tentatively selected for the panel and shall obtain the consent of both
parties to the choice of arbitrators. The decision of the panel shall
be by majority vote.
(l) The Board is authorized to reject for arbitration consumer
claims which are determined by a majority of the Board to be frivolous,
fraudulent, or beyond the legal authority of the Board.
(m) The Board shall promptly assign all cases accepted for
arbitration to an arbitrator or arbitrators who shall appoint a time and
place for a hearing and notify the parties personally or by registered
mail not less than 5 days prior to the hearing. Hearings shall be public
and shall be recorded electronically.
(n) At all arbitration hearings, the parties are entitled
to present oral and written testimony, to present witnesses and evidence
relevant to the controversy, to cross-examine witnesses, and to be represented
(o) The Board may issue subpoenas for the attendance of witnesses and
for the production of books, records, documents, and other evidence. The
Board or arbitrators designated by the Board shall have the power to administer
oaths and affirmations and take acknowledgements.
(p) Upon application by any party to an arbitration proceeding,
or upon its own motion, an arbitrator or arbitration panel may retain
independent technical experts as needed to determine the facts in the
case. The arbitrator or arbitration panel may assign the costs of the
technical experts to 1 or both parties to the case.
(q)(1) The arbitrator or arbitration panel shall determine
whether the defendant is liable to the claimant and, if so, shall award
the claimant relief.
(2) The arbitrator or arbitration panel may award the
claimant the relief provided by this chapter, any relief available under
any other law, and reasonable attorneys’ fees. The defendant may be assessed
the costs of arbitration as part of any award rendered by the arbitrator
or arbitration panel.
(3) Decisions of an arbitrator or arbitration panel
shall be in writing and shall be entered by and in the name of the Board.
(4) Decisions shall be entered no later than 60 days
from the date the Board accepts a case for arbitration.
(5) The decision shall state the relief granted, if
any, and shall specify a time limit for compliance.
(6) The board shall promptly provide a copy of the decision
to each party.
(r) The Board or any party to a case may petition the court
to issue an order compelling compliance with a decision by the Board.
(s)(1) Any party to a case may, within 20 days after receipt
of the Board’s decision, petition the court to vacate the decision and
grant a trial de novo.
(2) Upon receipt of a petition, the court shall first
determine the validity of the arbitration proceeding and shall vacate
an arbitration award upon a finding that:
(A) The award was procured by corruption, fraud,
or other misconduct in violation of law;
(B) The arbitrator or arbitration panel exceeded
(C) The arbitrator or arbitration panel failed
to conform to the rules and regulations issued pursuant to this chapter,
and the failure to conform prejudiced the rights of a party to the complaint;
(D) The award is based on a numerical error or
other error of fact which the Board has failed to correct.
(3) If the court determines the arbitration process
was valid but grants the petition for a trial de novo on other grounds,
the decision of the Board shall be admissible as evidence and shall be
40-1304 Disclosure of rights
(a) The manufacturer, its agent, or authorized dealer shall
provide written notification to the prospective consumer of any motor
vehicle to be sold or registered in the District of the rights provided
to the consumer by this chapter.
(b) The Mayor shall issue rules and regulations prescribing
the form and content of the notification required by this section.
(c) Any agreement entered into by a consumer for the purchase
of a motor vehicle which waives, limits, or disclaims the rights set forth
in this chapter shall be void. These rights shall inure to a subsequent
transferee of the motor vehicle.
40-1305 Disclosure of damages or defects in used motor vehicles;
(a) No motor vehicle dealer may offer for sale any used motor
vehicle without first providing:
(1) Written notice to the prospective consumer of any
material mechanical defect in the motor vehicle and any damage sustained
by the motor vehicle due to fire, water, collision, or other causes for
which the cost of repairs exceeded $1,000, when the defect or damage was
known to the dealer; and
(2) Written notice to the prospective consumer whether
the dealer has conducted any inspection of the motor vehicle to determine
known defects or damage.
(b) A motor vehicle dealer who fails to provide the notices
required by this section or who provides false or misleading notices shall,
upon conviction, be subject to the following penalties:
(1) A fine of not less than $300 or more than $1,000
for a first offense; and
(2) A fine of not less than $1,000 or more than $5,000,
or suspension or revocation of the license issued pursuant to Â§ 300 of
the Vehicles and Traffic Regulations (18 DCMR 300.1 et seq.), or both,
for a second or subsequent offense.
(c) The purchaser of a used motor vehicle shall have a right
of action against a used motor vehicle dealer for damages or injuries
sustained as a result of the dealer’s failure to comply with the requirements
of this section. The purchaser, in order to seek the remedies provided
by this section, shall first submit a claim to the Board. If the Board
rejects the case for arbitration, or if the claim is arbitrated and the
purchaser rejects the arbitration decision, the purchaser may then bring
an action in court to seek the remedies provided by this section.
(d) Violations of this section shall be prosecuted in the
name of the District of Columbia by the Corporation Counsel of the District
(e) Civil fines, penalties, and fees may be imposed
as alternative sanctions for any infraction of the provisions of this
chapter, or the rules or regulations issued under the authority of this
chapter, pursuant to subchapters I through III of Chapter 27 of Title
6. Adjudication of any infraction shall be pursuant to subchapters I through
III of Chapter 27 of Title 6.
40-1306 Listing of odometer readings
The Department of Public Works shall list the odometer readings
at the time of registration or transfer of registration on the title of
all motor vehicles registered in the District.
40-1307 Other rights or remedies; limitations on actions
(a) Nothing in this chapter shall in any way limit the rights
or remedies which are otherwise available to a consumer under any other
(b) Any action brought pursuant to this chapter shall be commenced
within 4 years of the date of original delivery of the motor vehicle to
40-1308 Rules and regulations
The Mayor shall issue, and may amend from time to time, rules and regulations
to implement the provisions of this chapter.
40-1309 Provision for alternative arbitration system.
If the arbitration system established pursuant to Â§ 40-1303
cannot consistently handle complaints during the 60-day period as required
by Â§ 40- 1303(q)(4), and if the administration of the arbitration system
results in expenditures beyond the sums budgeted annually for the program,
the Mayor may certify an alternative arbitration system that complies
with this chapter and rules issued to implement this chapter.
40-1310 Suspension of enforcement.
Notwithstanding any other provision of District law, enforcement
of this chapter by the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs is
suspended until October 1, 2000.