200+ Say Renting From Hertz Caused Repo or Arrest

NBC Bay Area Responds to a South Bay man who had an incredible rental car hassle. Consumer Investigator Chris Chmura has been looking into it and found a much bigger story

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Pat Calhoun was stunned to see his Hertz rental car being towed from his Sunnyvale home, in the middle of his rental, by Hertz.

“I have a repo man knocking on the door saying, ‘I want the keys or I’m just going to take the car and charge you for the keys,'” Calhoun said. “So, I thought, ‘OK. Here are the keys.’”

A Hertz repo man towing away Pat Calhoun's Hertz rental car. (Photo: Pat Calhoun)

Surprise Tow, Surprise Bill

How did Pat get here? He says his personal car needed dealer service for 40 days. The manufacturer arranged a Hertz rental with an open-ended contract. “They were putting a hold on my credit card every day,” Calhoun said “So, they had a valid credit card, as well.”  

Nonetheless, Hertz towed the car. Then, Hertz sent Pat a bill.

“It was a charge of $1,000 for the repo man,” he said. $1,070, to be exact. “They basically let me know that I am on the hook for paying. There is nothing they can do.”

Pat’s case pales compared to some other Hertz customers – who say their rental car got them arrested. “It’s about as shocking as it can be,” said attorney Francis Malofiy. 

It’s probably thousands...

Francis Malofiy, Attorney

Malofiy says he represents more than 200 Hertz customers.

His law firm has posted several testimonials online, including people like Bakersfield resident Howard Junious. “I was in jail 60 days,” Junious said in his testimonial.

'Stolen' Rentals Trigger Arrests

Court records show Junious was arrested and accused of "embezzling" a Hertz rental that he says his car insurance company had arranged. “I did not steal the vehicle. The vehicle was fully paid for,” Junious explained in the video.

I was in jail 60 days.

Howard Junious, Bakersfield, CA

Court records show Kern County prosecutors eventually dropped the charge against Junious.

Malofiy says his clients’ cases show that when Hertz lost track of a vehicle, it would sometimes just report it stolen – rather than look for it.

Malofiy said Hertz sometimes reported stolen cars that were parked on their own lots. “Often,” he said.  

Hertz CEO Responds

Appearing on CNBC to talk about something else, Hertz’s new CEO, Stephen Scherr, recently took a question about all this. 

We have changed our policies...

Stephen Scherr, Hertz CEO

“Hertz is going to deal, properly, with people who were affected,” Scherr said. He did not share specifics, but noted: “We have changed our policies to avoid the possibility of this happening," he said.

Scherr continued, "I think, to put context to it, if you look at the several hundred people impacted, we engage in 15 million transactions a year. This is one one-hundredth of a percent of those transactions.”  

Malofiy, the attorney, rejected Sherr’s math.

“One is too many. And it’s probably thousands,” Malofiy said.  

A federal inquiry?

U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal recently wrote Hertz a letter, calling its recordkeeping “abysmal.”

“We are demanding Hertz do the right thing here,” Blumenthal said in an interview with NBC Washington’s Responds team. If Hertz does not deliver on its own, Blumenthal signaled a broad federal inquiry. “The magnitude of incompetence here is eye-popping. It is nationwide,” the Connecticut senator said.   

Back in Sunnyvale, Pat just took an extraordinary step after a simple car rental.

“I did call the police department to see if there was an arrest warrant against my name,” he said. “They couldn’t find anything. And I hope it continues that way.” 

We asked Hertz headquarters about Pat’s situation and the $1,070 he owes. It responded right away. A rep said his rental car was not reported stolen. However, Hertz acknowledged it did a “recovery” of the car because there was “some miscommunication” with the auto shop that flagged the car “overdue.”

Pat's Case: (To Be) Closed

Hertz told us it would “resolve and refund” Pat’s $1,070 towing fee.

“Well, I appreciate your help,” Calhoun said. 

Hertz says it’s making changes. Still, we want to help you protect yourself. Here’s what we recommend:

How to Protect Yourself

First, whenever you pick up, extend, or return a rental car, get your contract on paper and by email. snap photos of the paper contract as a backup. Then keep everything.

Then, when you return a rental car, do not leave until you have something from the agency that clearly states what car you returned, where, and when.

I’ve also just made an archive folder in my email and saved every old rental receipt I could find in my inbox. You should too, just in case you ever have to prove you did not steal a rental car.

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