New Law Requires Car Rental Companies to Repair Recalled Vehicles
As of June 1, 2016, federal law now requires all car rental companies with fleets of at least 35 cars are now required to have recalled cars repaired before they can be rented out to consumers.
The new law is known as the Raechel and Jacqueline Houck Safe Rental Car Act. Raechel and Jacqueline Houck were killed in 2004 after they rented a PT Cruiser from Enterprise, which began leaking steering fluid, causing them to lose control of the car. The car then crossed a median and crashed into a semi truck and caught on fire. Daimler Chrysler had issued a recall for the car a month before the accident because the power steering hose had the potential to leak fluid and cause a fire. Enterprise did not have the repairs made to the car and that exact car had been rented out to three other customers while it was under recall before it was leased to the Houck sisters. The parents of the Houck sisters filed a lawsuit against Enterprise and were awarded $15 million in damages in 2010.
Raechel and Jacqueline Houck were not the only people to be killed as a result of rental companies allowing dangerous vehicles to fall into the hands of consumers. Alexander Brangman, who lost his 26-year-old daughter Jewel when she was killed in an accident caused by a defective car she had rented, told the media, “If this law was in existence when my cherished, beautiful daughter Jewel rented a car, she would still be alive today.”
Under the law as it passed, fleet owners have 24 hours after being notified of a recall to have the car fixed or it must be grounded until the repair can be made. The Houck family has spent years lobbying lawmakers to enact legislation like this. Senator Barbara Boxer of California has long been a supporter of the Houck family’s efforts and introduced several different versions of the bill before it finally passed in its current form.
Senator Chuck Schumer of New York said of the bill, “This law is going to save lives, period. Families heading out for vacation or business people on travel should never have to wonder if their rental car is under recall when they drive it off the lot. Thanks to this bill, the millions of people who rent cars every year will have peace of mind that rental companies can’t rent or sell cars that they know are unsafe.” The law was passed with support from many of the largest car rental companies, including Hertz, Enterprise, Avis, Dollar Thrifty, and National, as well as the American Car Rental Association.
Although prohibiting companies from renting defective vehicles to unsuspecting consumers is certainly a step in the right direction, there are some aspects of the new law that not everybody is happy with. Many safety advocates had wanted the new law to also ban used car dealerships from being able to sell vehicles that had outstanding recalls on them, but that did not make the approved bill. The law also does not apply to loaner cars from car dealerships. Cally Houck, mother of Raechel and Jacqueline, and other automotive safety advocates say they are going to continue fighting to close some of those loopholes and keep drivers safe.