So a guy in Cos Cob lists his Subaru on Craig’s list: 2007, take over lease, low mileage etc. My brother in Maine spots the ad, knows I’m looking for a car for my daughter, sends it me and there you have the new commerce model, internet style: car in Cos Cob, send ad 500 miles north to Maine, return it to Riverside and buyer and seller, two miles apart, meet. Pretty cool.
But that’s not why I’m writing. The lease this fellow has is with Chase Auto Finance. Paragraph 35 of the lease says “you may not assign or sublease this agreement without the prior, written consent of Chase. Chase may refuse to permit such assignment or sublease if in good faith it believes that such assignment …may jeopardize its security” blah blah blah.
First call to Chase yields a nice young man with a working, if primitive command of the English language. “Chase doesn’t permit assignments of leases” he says. Period. We eventually bump our way up to his supervisor, Chealsea, who does employ English as her native tongue but she too speaks only the party line: Chase doesn’t permit assignments. ‘What about Paragraph 35?” I ask. “Chase doesn’t permit assignments.””” “What about that bit in Paragraph 35 that says Chase can refuse only if it in good faith feels its security threatened?” Same answer. “So you’re telling me,” I ask, knowing that the call is being recorded,”on the record, that without any investigation into our credit history you in good faith feel that your security interest would be jeopardized by a sub-lease, in which the original lessor remains liable on the lease?” “Chase doesn’t permit assignments”.
Chase offers only one choice to lessees who want to end a lease: pay the entire balance due, period. No assignment,no sublease. This position is completely at odds with its contractual obligations under the lease instrument Chase drafted and Chase imposes on its customers. Chelsea practically begged me to sue them secure in the knowledge that she was speaking on behalf of “a very large bank”. And I’d love to do it. Would they lose? In a heartbeat. Are they violating Connecticut’s consumer protection/unfair trade practices acts? Absolutely. Of course, Chase slipped in a binding arbitration clause so a defrauded lessee probably can’t take his case before a jury but he would certainly win on the law, regardless of who tried the case. The real reason for the arbitration clause is to shield Chase from a class action suit. I’m no fan of such suits but here, where Chase is deliberately breaking its own word to squeeze newly-unemployed customers, I’d kill to bring one.
Will I sue? No – it’s not my car, and the lessee leaves the country tomorrow. We can probably arrange a work-around and consummate the deal, but Chase emerges unscathed. How many people can no longer afford their leases? How many people is Chase fleecing by refusing to let them assign their leases? We’ll never know. Are these crooks on the government bailout giveaway list?