Do I have to pay this late car rental damage claim?

Shawna Amella gets a bill from Hertz more than a year after her rental, even though the car she damaged has already been fixed. Does she still have to pay?

Question: I rented a car in 2014 from Hertz in Canada. While I rented it, the vehicle received a small dent in the driver’s door. It happened overnight; it looked like someone hip-checked it. I took a photo of the damage.

I filled out an incident report and contacted my credit card company to open a claim. My credit card requires claims to be processed within 100 days.

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For two months, I took the initiative in repeatedly calling Hertz’s claims department to get a claim number for my credit card company. At the 60-day point, the Hertz representative I was talking to said she had made some inquiries and found that the car had been rented out the next day; they had simply suctioned the door and everything was fine.

More than a year later, I received a letter from Hertz with pictures of not just the dent, but bumper damage as well. I have been emailing and talking to people at Hertz’s claims department to let them know that there is damage unrelated to my rental and that it’s been 15 months since my rental.

I can’t file a credit card claim because it’s past the 100 days. Hertz wants $790. Can you help?
Shawna Amella, Mount Pleasant, South Carolina

Answer: Hertz should have processed your damage claim promptly, not waited until 15 months after your rental. And if the dents in your pictures didn’t line up with the damage in its photos, that also should have been a red flag.

You did everything you could to resolve this on your own. You took photos of the car. You filed a damage report instead of returning the vehicle and hoping no one noticed. And you followed up with Hertz frequently to inquire about the status of your claim.

When a Hertz representative told you the damage had been fixed and the vehicle rented out, that should have been the end of your claim. You might have asked for something in writing, absolving you of any future claim, and the company should have sent you something that verified you were off the hook.

When Hertz revived your claim, you could have appealed this to someone higher up at the company. I publish the names and email addresses of its executives on my website (elliott.org/company-contacts/hertz). A brief, polite email to a manager should have cleared this up right away.

Instead, you tussled with someone in Hertz’s claims department. Even after I suggested that you formally appeal your case, a representative called you and, in your own words, “doubled down” on the damage claim, insisting you pay up.

But here’s the thing: You wanted to do the right thing. You asked for a bill and tried to work within the system. Hertz gave you the all-clear, and then returned with a $790 bill, which it expected you to pay. That doesn’t seem right.

I contacted Hertz on your behalf and asked it to take another look at your case. It contacted you, apologized for the “long delay” in sending you a bill, and dropped its claim.

 

13 thoughts on “Do I have to pay this late car rental damage claim?

  1. Well, if the FTC thinks they can regulate resort fees (though one wonders what’s taking so long), I don’t see any reason why they can’t regulate rental car damage claims.

    A rule saying: “If damage is not noted at time of return for a full-service return or by close-of-business for an unattended return, then the renter is not liable.”

    1. I might be a little more generous. Maybe a full week but *only* if it had not been rented out. Their “thorough inspection” (ha!) before every rental will certainly reveal all damage from the previous rental which needs to be in the system by the type the inspector leaves for the day. Then a notice in the mail or email by the next business day.

    2. I agree that the FTC should regulate rental car damage claims. However, since the incident cited here occurred in Canada, I doubt that FTC rules would apply.

      1. They generally don’t but it is an American customer and American company so I don’t know for sure. However, there are regulatory bodies in other countries too!

  2. For every person you help Chris, there’s probably 20 people they scam out of money this way though. It’s criminal behavior.

  3. Yet another fake claim that vanishes as soon as someone with clout calls the company on it. We need a Travelers’ Bill of Rights that clamps down on such practices.

    1. more that how about jail / prison time for fraud.

      After a few weeks of the CEO trying harder not to drop the soap this will stop.

  4. I think something is amiss and certainly she did everything she could.
    I think there need to be some rules with car rental companies. However, good job Chris! For starters, during business hours, they should be required to have someone to inspect the car for physical damage and get that addressed before you leave. I returned a car to Hertz in New Orleans on Tuesday night. They had one guy to handle everything on the parking level, from the gold desk, check in, check out, etc. If they want to cheap out and hire one employee where they should have two or three, that’s not supposed to be my problem. I always return rental cars during business hours and expect there to be someone to check it out. Another time at this very same Hertz location, they had check in staff, at least three of them, and they were horsing around instead of working. I generally get treated pretty well with Hertz but certainly the behavior of the New Orleans location is troubling. The one guy on staff was excellent, but why do they overwork him like that?

  5. I’ve never seen anyone inspect a rental car I’ve returned. None ever had any damage to my knowledge, but if they had ever tried to charge me for damage, I would tell them to blow it out their butt.

  6. Why even bother with them, what are they going to do ruin a woman from South Carolina’s Canadian credit report?

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