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Car Dealerships Refusing To Take Back Leased Vehicles During Coronavirus Pandemic

LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) — The automotive industry has slowed massively due to the coronavirus pandemic and as hundreds of thousands of leases are expiring, some drivers are running into problems returning their vehicles.

Jenna Schwartz's lease on her Ford Explorer was up on April 1, but when March 19 rolled around, she was told by the salesman that the dealership was now closed.

"I contacted the local dealer where I bought the car and we arranged for me to turn the car in on March 19th," she said. "I was like, 'But I have an appointment today, and he was like, nope, the dealership is closed.'"

Schwartz called Ford Credit and they said she could keep the car until the dealership reopened but she would still have to pay the registration and insurance.

She tweeted her frustration and said Ford told her they can't force the dealership to take the car.

"I guess I don't know what the solution should be," Schwartz said. "I just feel like I shouldn't be financially penalized for having to keep my car."

Schwartz said she also tried another local Ford dealership.

"They said if you're not buying a new Ford, we won't take your car because they don't have room on their lot."

USA Today recently ran a story profiling 10 other consumers who were told they couldn't turn in their leases to their local dealer unless they were going to lease or buy another car.

Consumer attorney Alec Trueblood said refusing to accept a lease return may be illegal.

"You are entitled to return the car, that's what you bargained for in your contract, and there is no obligation to buy a new one or continue the old lease."

Trueblood said dealerships may be turning away leases, "because they have so much inventory and no sales and they don't want another car on their lot."

In a statement, the National Automobile Dealers Association wrote:

"Unfortunately, in states or localities where dealers have been ordered to close the sales office or limit sales activity, dealers are often unable to process lease returns. As a result, consumers with expiring leases are left with very few options."

According to Trueblood, if consumers contact the finance company and they tell you to take the car to a dealership, even if the dealership refuses, consumers can dropping off the car and leave the keys.

As for Schwartz, Ford eventually came to pick up her SUV.

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