WASHINGTON -- A driver who received a ticket on his rental car for an expired meter got charged twice for the violation, a mistake that highlights the different rules that apply to rental cars and car-sharing services.
Judd Warner received a ticket on Jan. 27 in D.C. for being at an expired meter. He was driving a black Dodge Charger rented from Enterprise while his primary vehicle was in the shop. Warner agrees he was liable for the ticket and wanted to pay the fine.
"Like many drivers, I get tickets in the District and I know I have 30 days to pay. I went and paid it immediately. The city later told me it received the check on Feb. 3. It was presented to my bank for clearance on Feb. 5. In between that, on Feb. 4, I got a letter from Enterprise telling me that the city reported I was delinquent. I was surprised I got dinged on a ticket from the city that was a week old," says Warner.
Enterprise charged his credit card $40 -- both the $25 fine and a $15 processing fee. But when he tried to get answers, he got bounced back and forth between Enterprise and the D.C. Department of Motor Vehicles.
"That prompted me to call Enterprise and say that I paid it. They said you need to get the city to tell us that you paid it. I contacted the city and they acknowledged that I paid it, but since the car was registered to Enterprise, they wouldn't release any records to me. It was handled in a bureaucratic bungled fashion," says Warner.
He contacted Ticketbuster after searching for solutions online.
The DMV immediately acknowledged the double payment.
"Mr. Warner paid the ticket, then Enterprise paid the ticket. Enterprise received a monthly fleet ticket report, which lists all of the tickets issued to Enterprise-owned vehicles. Then, Enterprise pays all of the tickets with one check. D.C. DMV will refund Enterprise $25 for this ticket," says DMV Spokeswoman Vanessa Newton.
Enterprise Spokeswoman Laura Bryant told us moments later that it would reverse the charges, closing Warner's case.
While it's unclear how exactly this happened, the monthly fleet ticket report could have been sent from the District to Enterprise at the end of January. If so, Warner would have been on that delinquency report.
"Participants in the multi-owner fleet program (rental cars and car sharing) have constant access to their company's reports online. Since they can access their company information at any time, Enterprise is the best company to address your question about the time in this case," says Newton.
Warner says he's just pleased that this is over.
"I was on the telephone a number of times with Enterprise and a number of times with the city. Nobody showed any interest whatsoever."
What can you learn?
This case highlights an issue that affects rental car owners and car-sharing services like Car2Go and Zipcar. If you incur a ticket, then your rental agreement says you are automatically liable for the infraction.
While paying the ticket yourself will help you avoid the processing fee that most companies will charge, you want to make sure to contact the company. If there is a problem, then you should send the company a copy of the cashed check.
If you get a ticket on your rental car, or while using services such as Car2Go or Zipcar, and you believe the ticket is wrong, then you must act quickly.
"D.C. DMV advises customers with rental cars who receive tickets while in D.C. to do a walk-in hearing for the ticket, if they believe the ticket was issued in error. The customer would need to have a copy of the rental agreement to show evidence that he or she was renting the vehicle when the ticket was written," says Newton.
"The walk-in hearing allows the customer to adjudicate the ticket prior to it automatically being paid by the rental company when it gets its monthly report. If a customer submits the adjudication request online or in the mail, it is likely that the rental car company will pay the ticket prior to the case being adjudicated."
If that happens, you are automatically found liable and you cannot fight the ticket anymore. While you could fight the rental car company, the standard rental agreement would make such a challenge unlikely to succeed.
If you think you're the victim of a bogus speed camera, red-light camera or parking ticket in D.C., Maryland or Virginia, WTOP may be able to help you cut the red tape. Email us your case -- along with documentation -- to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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