My Car Was Repossessed; What Are My Rights?
Are you delinquent on your car loan? Missing a car payment can result in repossession in a very short amount of time. If you fail to pay your car loan, a lender has the right to repossess your vehicle immediately and they are not required to give you a warning that they intend to do so. However, a repossession agent (repo man) does not have the right to harm your or in any way “breach the peace” to carry out a vehicle repossession.
What a Repo Man CANNOT Do
Repo men are not exactly kind-hearted people. Nonetheless, there are a number of things that they are restricted by law from doing. If they were to attempt to do these things, they would be opening up themselves and their company to liability. Below is a brief list of things repo men cannot do.
Repo men can’t get you arrested
Being delinquent in your payments is not a violation of the law and a repo man has no standing to threaten you with the law at all. They may attempt to threaten you with this, but these aren’t threats they can make good on. A repo man can bring a sheriff to aid in attempting the repossession, but the sheriff will not arrest you impede the process of recovering the vehicle.
Repo men cannot physically threaten you
Technically, repo men may not break any law when attempting to recover a lender’s property. That being said, lenders will purposefully hire seedy or intimidating characters to recover property on their behalf. On the other hand, repo men are wary because, in the course of doing their job, they are often threatened. For that reason, they usually carry side arms. A good idea is to record any interaction you have with the repo man in order to keep them honest.
Repo men cannot break into your garage
Again, repo men are subject to the same laws as everyone else. They cannot break into private property, damage property, or otherwise burglarize your home to recover property. A repossession agent doesn’t have the right to break into your property to repossess your vehicle.
For example, if your car is parked in your garaged or even in a gated community, the repossession agent is not allowed to force open the garage door or tamper with the community gate to gain access to the vehicle. Also, you are not required to give a repossession agent access to your private home or community so that they can carry out a repossession. However, this does not mean that you have the right to attempt to verbally assault or physically stop the repossession agent. If a repossession agent is breaking into your property, please just call the police.
Repo men cannot stop you on the street or highway
A repossession agent cannot stop you on the street or highway or forcibly remove you from your car. If a repossession agent attempts to force you from your vehicle or force you to pull over on a street or highway, they may be criminally liable. Also, you may have grounds for a civil lawsuit.
Repo men cannot pose as law enforcement
And finally, a repossession agent does not have the right to pretend to be a law enforcement agent, physically assault you or even threaten to assault you. If a repossession agent attempts to harm you or verbally assault you, do not engage, get away and call the police.
Can I Hide My Car From Repossessors?
Not legally, no. It’s in your contract. Additionally, there are laws against attempting to hide a car from a repo man. In some places, it is considered a felony. You must also be on your best behavior.
Understanding How Repossession Works
When you take out a loan to purchase a vehicle, the lender puts an automatic lien on the vehicle. The lien secures the vehicle against non-payment and mitigates their risk in the process of loaning the money. If you are delinquent in your payments, the lender has the right to repossess or take back their property in order to either resell the property or force you to pay the outstanding balance.
A creditor has the right to repossess a vehicle the moment you default on your loan. However, what constitutes as “default” will differ from one loan contract to another. You can generally find the definition in your loan agreement. If your loan is in default, your creditor can repossess your car without notice.
Once your lender has your car, they are allowed to resell it but they must notify you first. The must notify you also if they decide to keep the car. Since you still have liability on the debt, the creditor can just sit on the car and not doing anything with it. You can, in turn, demand that the car be sold reducing your liability. You will still, however, owe the difference between what the car was sold for and the value of your original loan.
Can I Stop a Repossession With a Bankruptcy?
You can stop a repossession with a bankruptcy. The bankruptcy gives you an ‘automatic stay’ against all creditor actions including repossession. If you file for Chapter 13, your car loan debt can be rolled into your repayment plan and repaid on a monthly basis. If you file under Chapter 7, you can discharge the debt, but you will lose the car in the process.
However, the repossession can temporarily be halted until the courts process the bankruptcy. This will at least buy you time to make a decision regarding your car while simultaneously giving you access to the car and the right to use it.
I Still Owe Money on a Car I Don’t Own
You have some options here. You can either repay the delinquent balance in an attempt to repair your credit or, in the process, try to negotiate a settlement with the lender to remove the ding on your credit. Since most people who have had cars repossessed are not in a position to repay the delinquent balance, bankruptcy is a viable option.
Once the car is no longer yours, the loan goes from being secured by the car to being unsecured. In that case, the amount you owe can be discharged entirely in Chapter 7 bankruptcy (if you qualify). Most folks who have had their cars repossessed will qualify for Chapter 7 bankruptcy. In bankruptcy, you can discharge the remaining portion of the debt and move forward with your life.
We Can Help You Get Your Car Back
Remember, you do not need to experience a vehicle repossession. Even if you are several months behind on your car payment you may be able to keep your car using bankruptcy. Don’t want to keep the car? Use bankruptcy to return the vehicle and discharge the auto loan. Please speak with a bankruptcy attorney at Allmand Law Firm, PLLC to find out how bankruptcy can help you stop repossession. Contact our offices in Dallas or Hurst today.