A Toronto man says he was asked to pay more than $8,000 for damage to a rental car he says he didn’t cause.
Sandy Soufivand, a medical lab technician, told CBC Toronto that he picked up a vehicle from Enterprise Rent-A-Car in September.
Two weeks later, the car broke down and now the rental company is blaming him. The situation has caused a number of sleepless nights, Soufivand said.
“It was just a lot of stress, just so much stress,” he said. “Unable to think, unable to sleep. Just an overwhelming amount of stress.”
Soufivand rented the car following a collision with his personal vehicle in August. The rental was paid for by his auto insurance company, Aviva, but after the car broke down a mechanic found a damaged transmission and evidence of impact to its undercarriage. Though Enterprise is holding Soufivand responsible for the damage, Aviva agreed to cover the bill after CBC Toronto reached out.
Though the bill is no longer a problem, Soufivand wants to warn others to fully review any rental agreements they sign.
He signed Enterprise’s agreement which included a statement that the renter received the vehicle in “good physical and mechanical condition.”
Soufivand feels that this is unfair given that he does not have the expertise of a mechanic.
“The overwhelming majority of people that rent a car from them are not going to be car mechanics,” he said. “You cannot sign off saying that every mechanical component in the car is in good condition because you cannot verify that … They don’t have a mechanic there.”
In an email statement to CBC Toronto, Enterprise Holdings, the company that owns Enterprise Rent-A-Car, stated, “we follow a maintenance schedule with our vehicles based on the manufacturer’s recommended requirements.
“This includes regular oil changes, tire inspection and rotation, brake, suspension, exhaust, vehicle fluids checks, and a general vehicle inspection. We also perform regular visual vehicle inspections for safety items, such as tires and warning lights, as well as changes in vehicle condition.”
The statement reaffirmed that Enterprise believes Soufivand is at fault, “as [the vehicle] would not have been drivable if the damage existed earlier.”
Jennifer Marston, a lawyer with Pro Bono Ontario, told CBC Toronto that people need to carefully read any rental agreements they sign.
Even so, if this issue did go to court the terms of the contract would likely be up for debate, she said.
“If there’s an onerous term of a consumer contract buried in the fine print then the company can’t necessarily rely on that to enforce its rights,” Marston said.
A judge would also likely take into consideration the power imbalance between Soufivand and the rental company, she said.
“The business has had months and years and the benefit of legal advice in developing this contract and the consumer is often in line at the counter and with other people waiting behind them and being asked to sign on a dotted line quickly to get the transaction complete,” Marston said.
She added that the bill could be fought in court but Soufivand said hiring a lawyer would cost him around the same as the bill itself.
Now that the insurance company has agreed to cover the cost, he’s just happy to move on from the situation.
But he does have some advice for other renters.
“Before you get in the car, when the adviser is there doing the walk around, ask questions,” he said.
“When was the last time that a mechanic took a look at it? What happens if I’m driving it and I’ve done nothing wrong and the car breaks down? Will I be held responsible for it? Ask all of those important questions and make sure that you’re not driving away in a vehicle that has been previously damaged.”
Based in New York, Stephen Freeman is a Senior Editor at Trending Insurance News. Previously he has worked for Forbes and The Huffington Post. Steven is a graduate of Risk Management at the University of New York.