Will My Car Be Repossessed If I Miss One Payment?

Woman making a car payment

It’s a frightening thought: Money has gotten so tight that you weren’t able to make this month’s payment on your car loan.

Now, you’re worried about car repossession, and imagining the day when a tow truck comes to your house and hauls away your only source of transportation.

But can the lender repossess your car after a single missed payment?

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The Lender Sold My Repossessed Car. Why am I being sued?

Car auction car lot

Perhaps the worst thing about having your car repossessed is that even after your vehicle is gone, the lender may not be done with you.

In some cases, lenders hire collectors or file lawsuits against borrowers to recoup what they’re owed. In this blog post, we’ll look at steps lenders may take after repossessing a car. 

Continue reading The Lender Sold My Repossessed Car. Why am I being sued?

Car Repossessed, Now Getting Sued by My Auto Lender

Lawsuit with car repossession

Perhaps the worst thing about having your car repossessed is that even after your vehicle is gone, your lender may not be done with you.

In some cases, lenders may file lawsuits against borrowers to recoup what they’re owed. In this blog post, we’ll look at what’s involved with being sued after a  car repossession.

My car was repossessed.  Now what?

Deficiency NoticeAfter the lender repossesses your vehicle, they will most likely sell it at an auction or through a private sale. The borrower will receive a letter from the lender with details about when and where a sale will occur.  This letter may be called a Notice of Intent to Sell Property.

However, after the sale, the proceeds may not cover the amount to satisfy the balance owed on the auto loan. This amount is known as a deficient balance.  The lender is required to send the borrower a second written letter, called a Deficiency Notice, stating the deficient balance owe, plus any additional charges, such as repo and storage fees. Even if you do not have the vehicle, you still have a financial obligation to the lender until the loan has been satisfied.

Collectors are calling for payment of my loan balance.

Unwanted phone calls from collection agencyAfter the sale of a repossessed vehicle, the lender may choose to collect the deficient balance through a collection agency or collection law firm.  The borrower may receive collection calls or letters demanding payment. Collection contact must comply with the federal law called the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. This law offers protections to consumers from aggressive collection tactics — whether the debt is owed or not.

I’ve received a summons to appear in court.

SubpoenaThe lender may decide to file a lawsuit against the borrower to collect the deficient loan balance. If you receive a summons from the court you must contact the court to let them know of your plan to defend the matter.  You may choose to represent yourself, pro se, or hire an attorney to represent you.

IF YOU HAVE BEEN SUED DO NOT IGNORE THE SUMMONS FROM THE COURT

If you do not show up in court, the case will proceed without you and a default judgment could be entered against you.  This means that a judge has ruled against you in non-criminal court, and you will be required to pay the damages or judgment amount.

A judgment was entered against me.

If a judgment was entered against you, you must address it.  Even if it’s a mistake and the debt doesn’t belong to you, you will need to take action to get it resolved. Just remember, judgments are dangerous. The lender could choose to take steps, such as garnish a bank account, place a lien on the borrower’s personal property, or in some states, garnish wages.

The credit bureaus list the repossession and judgment.

Poor Credit Bureau ReportJust as lenders will report auto loan payment histories to the credit bureaus, repossessions and judgments for deficient balances will be reported as well.  Judgments are considered public records, which  means anyone has access to view those court filings – even prospective auto lenders, existing creditors, or possibly, employers or landlords.

Judgments can remain on a consumer credit file for 7 ½ years from the filing date.  Once a judgment has been paid, a “Satisfaction of Judgment” will be filed with the court and your credit report updated to show that the judgment is no longer owed.

Get Help from a Qualified Consumer Protection Law Firm

Flitter Milz is a consumer protection law firm experienced in representing consumers who have suffered from vehicle repossession, abusive collection contact, judgments from auto loan deficiencies and credit reporting errors listed by auto lenders.  Contact us for a free consultation and to find out how we can help you.

Car Repossesion 101

What Notices Must My Lender Have to Provide After Repossession?

Car repossession

As we’ve written before, consumers dealing with car repossession still have certain rights, regardless of how behind they might be on their payments.

For example, you have the right to be kept safe from an aggressive or abusive repo agent. They can’t break into your garage, damage your property or vehicle, or threaten you with physical harm.

Continue reading What Notices Must My Lender Have to Provide After Repossession?

5 Things to Do After Your Car Has Been Repossessed

Car being towed repossessed

Your car is hooked up to the tow truck. You’d been struggling for months to make payments, and now the thing you feared most has come true: repossession.

And you think to yourself:  What do I do now?  Where is my car?  Is there some sort of car repossession look-up service that can track it down?

Continue reading 5 Things to Do After Your Car Has Been Repossessed

My Car Was Repossessed. Can I Get It Back?

Car being towed, repossessed

One of the worst things about car repossession is that it seems so final.

You’d fallen behind on your payments, and now that the repossession has happened, it seems like you’ll never see your car again.

But in the back of your mind, you wonder: “If my car is repossessed, can I get it back?”

You can. But it’s also important to make sure your rights are protected even if you can’t. Here are three things you can do if you’re dealing with a repossession.

1. Protect yourself 

You might owe money to your lender – the bank, credit union or financial institution – but that doesn’t mean you’ve given up your rights. Under the law, the repossession company cannot:

Garage door
  • Take any personal property found inside your vehicle. Be sure to remove your belongings before the repossession, especially documents related to the purchase and financing of the vehicle.
  • Use physical force – or threaten to do so – in taking back your car
  • Enter your closed garage to access your car
  • Damage the car or your property during repossession

If you think your lender or the repo agent has violated your rights, it’s a good idea to contact a qualified consumer protection attorney to evaluate whether your rights have been violated – even if you had fallen behind on payments or not.

2. If my car gets repossessed, can I get it back?

This brings us to our initial question: If my car gets repossessed, can I get it back?

Writing a check for cr payment

Your first step should be to call the lender. If you were caught off guard by the repossession, you might be able to have the loan reinstated, or get your car back, if you can pay off the balance and any fees that resulted from the repossession, such as towing or storage charges.

Reinstatement means that rather than paying off the balance of your loan, you’d pay enough to make your loan current (plus additional fees associated with the repossession.) In that situation, you’d need to adhere to the lender’s terms and conditions of reinstatement to recover your car.

If you think you’re still going to have trouble making the loan payments – plus all the other costs associated with owning a car – you might not want to contact a consumer lawyer to discuss your options.

Can I buy back my car?

Car auction

Most lenders will sell the repossessed vehicle at an auction or private sale. After the sale, those funds are applied towards the total balance owed on the loan. The lender will provide the borrower with a letter that confirms the selling price and calculate any remaining balance owed to satisfy the loan.

You could always try to buy back your car at the sale or auction, although you will need to pay whatever asking price the auction sets, as well as car repossession fees and storage charges.

Keep in mind that if your car hasn’t been repossessed yet, you should get in touch with your lender as soon as possible and let them know your intent to keep your account up-to-date. If you make an agreement with the lender, be sure to get the terms in writing.

You might discover that the lender offers a hardship program, which can prevent you from having to deal with the repercussions of a repossession – from the loss of your vehicle to negative credit reporting.

3. Find ways to boost your credit

Credit report

A car repossession may leave a black mark on your credit report, which is why it’s important to review your credit report regularly for accuracy. Every twelve months, consumers may request a free report from each Transunion, Experian and Equifax. After checking your report, you may need to send a written dispute to the credit bureaus to request the errors be corrected. Always provide documentation that supports your dispute.

I think the repo agent broke the rules. What now?

If you think the lender or repo agent mishandled your car repossession, the consumer protection firm of Flitter Milz can help. Our attorneys have a long track record of protecting borrowers that face improper repossession practices from auto loans. Contact us today to learn how we can help you.

Repossessions: Know What to Expect – Before, During and After

A Record 7 Million Behind on Car Loans”, The Philadelphia Inquirer, 2/13/19

The Federal Reserve Bank of New York reported that, “A record seven million Americans are 90 days or more behind on their auto loan payments.  Despite a strong economy, economists are warning that Americans are struggling. Although a car loan is the first payment people make because a vehicle is critical to getting to work, when car loan delinquencies rise, it is a sign that many American are under duress.”

BEFORE a Repossession:
1) Prepare yourself.
We all know that when a borrower falls behind on payments or breaks the terms of an auto loan agreement, the lender, whether it’s the bank, finance institution or credit union, is entitled to repossess the vehicle.  These terms are stated in the loan agreement, or Retail Installment Sales Contract, that is signed at the time of purchase.

Repossessions can occur at any time of day or night — while at the supermarket, taking the kids to school, at a relative’s home for holiday dinner, or while  asleep.  Even if a borrower anticipates a repossession may occur, it never happens at a good time.  Prepare yourself.

With a little forethought, you may be able to ease the stress caused by a car repossession.  If you’ve fallen behind and believe your car may be up for repossession, make a plan to handle daily chores for you and your family. 

  • Ask for help.  Contact your family, friends and neighbors and find out who may help. Inquire about their work schedules and daily commitments. Let them know you may have an emergency coming up and need their assistance.
  • Organize carpools and babysitters. Develop a network of friends that can step in to cover demands of the household.
  • Arrange for delivery. Call your supermarket or pharmacy to find out if they are able to make deliveries to your home.  Inquire about the cost and delivery schedule.

2) Clean out the car.  
Before your vehicle is taken, gather items from your car and store them in a safe place.  If your car is taken unexpectedly, you may not have a chance to remove all of your personal items.  Often, the repo man may not allow you time to remove everything. And, remember, once out of your possession, these belongings may be lost – forever

Pre-Repossession Check List
_____ Buyer’s Agreement
_____ Loan Agreement
_____ Odometer Statement
_____ Vehicle Registration
_____ Warranty Agreement
_____ Auto Insurance Policy & Card
_____ Auto Insurance Payment Record
_____ Vehicle Service Records
_____ Loan Payment History from Lender
_____ Loan Payment Records
_____ All Correspondence from Lender             

Vehicle Photographs
_____ Car Interior & Exterior   
_____ VIN# from Inside Door
_____ Odometer Reading
                   
 Removal of all Valuables
_____ Wallet/Purse/Cash/Paycheck
_____ Medications/Prescriptions
_____ Work-related items
_____ Laptop computer
_____ Phone
_____ Child Car Seat

DURING a Repossession:

The lender will hire a repossession company to retrieve vehicles scheduled for repossession. The repo-man cannot use physical force, threaten you, or enter your property without permission.  If you believe the repo-man mishandled the repossession, take steps to document the event.

  • Prepare a written statement with date, time, repo company & agent, & events.
  • Photograph the scene.
  • Repo agent’s truck and license plate.
  • Your vehicle, interior, exterior and odometer reading.
  • Damaged property, i.e. garage door, fence, other vehicles, lawn, etc.
  • Obtain witness statements.
  • Request the police come to the scene. Obtain a police report.

Police Involvement:  Keep the Peace or Breach the Peace?

It’s not uncommon for the police to become involved during a car repossession. Sometimes the repo agent or the borrower will ask the police to be there to diffuse a potentially volatile situation. The police may assist in keeping the peace.  

If the police get involved in the repossession of the vehicle, they may have crossed the line from keeping the peace, to breaching the peace.  The police may not threaten arrest, or damage to the vehicle, or command the vehicle or keys be turned over.  If this occurs, the borrower’s Constitutional rights may have been violated and a lawsuit against the police, repo agency and/or lender may be filed.

AFTER a Repossession:

The borrower is entitled to receive notices from the lender after a vehicle is repossessed.  The first letter is a repossession notice called a Notice of Intent to Sell Property, which details terms for the borrower to retrieve the vehicle.  This notice will detail payments required, the time period for payments to be paid to the lender, and the repo lot location for retrieval of the vehicle and any personal property.

If the borrower is unable to get the vehicle back, the lender will arrange to sell the it at an auction or a private sale.  Once sold, a second notice is sent to the borrower confirming the selling price of the vehicle and any remaining balance due on the loan. This notice is called a Deficiency Notice.  

FREE LEGAL HELP:

Flitter Milz is knowledgeable about the laws governing repossessions of cars, trucks, motorcycles, boats and RVs.  If your vehicle has been repossessed, CONTACT US.  We will review the details of your case at no cost to you, and evaluate whether your consumer rights were violated. 

What Can I Do If My Car Was Repossessed by Mistake?

When you default on a car loan, your lender can repossess your vehicle. Most defaults come from someone failing to make their monthly payments. If you’re up to date on your payments and your car was repossessed, then clearly, a wrongful car repossession has occurred.

But even if you have missed payments, lenders and repo agents need to follow the law. If your vehicle has been unlawfully repossessed, you may be able to sue your lender and the repo agent.

Here’s what lenders and repossession companies need to do to stay within the bounds of the law:

  1. Before they repossess your car, the repo company needs to notify your local police. If you wake up to a missing car, call the police and your lender to confirm whether the car was stolen, or simply repossessed.
  2. Repo agents are not allowed to “breach the peace” while doing their job. This means they can’t threaten you or use physical force. Nor can they access locked/fenced-in areas of your property without permission. Finally, repo agents must leave your property when asked.
  3. Repo agents cannot damage your property. If you see this happen, document it and get statements from witnesses.
  4. After your vehicle has been repossessed, you might be asking “Can I get my car back after repossession?” Your lender is required to send you a notice that outlines what you need to do to recover your car. This is what’s known as a “Notice of Intent to Sell Property.”

Did the police obey the law?

It’s not uncommon for the police to become involved during a car repossession. Sometimes the repo agent will ask the police to be there to defuse a potentially volatile situation. Other times the consumer might call the police on the repossession company.

However, there are limits to what the police can do. They aren’t allowed to assist the repo agent by ordering you to hand over your keys or threatening to arrest you.

If the police do any of these things, they may have gone from keeping the peace to breaching the peace and violating your rights. You may be able to bring a suit against the police, along with the repo agency and your lender.

What should I do while my car is being repossessed?

During the repossession, make a record of everything that’s happening. This includes:

  • Date and time of the repossession
  • The name of the car repossession company and agent and the license number of their tow truck
  • The name and badge number of the responding police officers
  • A copy of the police report
  • Names and contact info for witnesses
  • Photos of any property damage and video of the entire event

Make sure you remove your personal property from your car, as well as any documents relating to the sale of the vehicle, including your retail installment sales contract, buyer’s agreement, and registration and insurance information.

Again, your lender is required to send you the notice of intent to sell your car after the repossession to allow you enough time to recover your vehicle before it is auctioned off or sold to a private buyer.

Your car has been taken, and now you’re wondering “Can I get my car back after repossession?” Let the attorneys at Flitter Milz help you figure out where to go from here.

If your lender or the repo agency mishandled your case, our consumer protection attorneys are ready to fight for you. Contact us today so we can review your case. You’ve tried to play by the rules with your car payments. There’s no reason your lender shouldn’t do the same.

What is a Consumer Law Attorney?

There was a time when consumers in America were essentially helpless when it came to dishonest business practices and defective products.

It was only in the last 40-50 years that we’ve seen the advent of laws like the Fair Credit Reporting Act, Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, the Truth in Lending Act and the Telephone Consumer Protection Act which give a legal voice against the banks and credit bureaus that have the ability to negatively impact a consumer’s credit profile.

And although these laws are designed to help consumers, they aren’t always followed or enforced. That’s where a consumer law attorney can help.

Continue reading What is a Consumer Law Attorney?