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We hope the articles below help you understand your rights as a consumer. You can scroll through the titles, or sort by Practice Area or Topic. You can also use the search feature to locate information by keyword.

Flitter Milz represents people with a variety of problems involving consumer credit and collections. If you have a particular question or believe your consumer rights have been violated, Contact Us for a no cost consultation.

Why You Shouldn’t Co-sign a Loan

When friends or relatives can’t secure a loan on their own, they may ask you to help by co-signing. A co-signer is often required for someone to secure a loan if they have poor credit history, or a lack of credit history.

Deciding whether or not to co-sign on someone else’s loan is a personal decision. However, there are some red flags to be aware of, and it’s important to understand that co-signing carries significant risk without much reward. Here are five signs to look for if someone asks you to co-sign a loan.

1) The person in need of a co-signer has a history of late payments

Individuals often need a co-signer when their own credit has too many negative marks to secure the credit on their own. Generally, this means that they have had difficulty making payments on time in the past and their credit has taken a hit as a result.

If you know that the person making the request has recently struggled with timely bill payments, it may not be a good idea to co-sign. If payments are missed, you’ll be liable to repay missed payments immediately and risk having to pay the full loan balance if the co-borrower defaults.

2) You anticipate needing a loan of your own in the upcoming months

Co-signing also affects your debt-to-income ratio. Even though you’re not the primary borrower, the loan will appear on your credit report. You’re liable for the payment of this loan, so it could affect your ability to secure a loan of your own. Before you co-sign, consider your current financial situation and whether or not you’ll need your credit for your own purposes.

3) You don’t have backup savings in case anything goes wrong

If the primary borrower misses any payments, you’re liable for those payments as the co-signer. Co-signers need to monitor the status of the loan and make sure all payments are made on time. They should also have backup funds in case the primary borrower lapses in payments.

4) You’re worried about your own credit

If you have concerns about how co-signing will affect your own credit, it’s probably not a good idea. If the primary borrower defaults, this could harm your credit, and it can be difficult to rebuild.

5) Your instincts are telling you not to do it

Plain and simple: if you have a bad feeling about it, don’t co-sign. It’s likely not worth the worry and risk, especially if the primary borrower has a troubled credit history.

Seek Legal Advice

Flitter Milz is a consumer protection law firm that pursues matters against lenders, debt collectors and the credit bureaus.  If you have co-signed a loan and the primary borrower has defaulted, it’s possible that a repossession has occurred, collectors are contacting you, or your credit has been affected.  Contact Us for a no cost consultation to discuss whether your consumer rights have been violated.

Are You Haunted by a Repossession on Your Credit Report?

Just when you think you’re getting your finances in order and want to apply for a new line of credit, a vehicle repossession from long ago can come back to bite you. What happens after your vehicle is repossessed, and how does it affect your credit report and credit score moving forward?

What happens after the sale of your car?

1) Collection

Once the lender sells a repossessed vehicle, you’ll receive a letter that includes the vehicle’s sale price and any remaining balance owed on the loan. This letter is called a deficiency notice.

The lender may proceed with collection of the deficient balance through their collection department. However, the lender will often assign the collection of any deficient balance to a debt collector, and the borrower will begin to receive calls and/or letters from them.

Whether you owe the deficient balance or not, collectors must follow the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act when they contact you about debt. Borrowers have rights, whether the balance is owed or not.

2) Lawsuit

After a period of time, the lender may choose to file a lawsuit against the borrower for the deficient balance. If the lawsuit is ignored by the consumer, a default judgment will be entered against the consumer.

Judgments can be dangerous! Bank accounts can be attached. Wages can be garnished. Property can be seized. Judgments can be listed on the consumer’s credit reports and impact the ability to be approved for new credit.

If you have been sued, contact a qualified consumer protection attorney to discuss your rights.

3) Credit Reporting

Vehicle repossessions negatively affect your credit report and lower your credit score. They can remain on your report for seven and a half years after the original delinquency date. The negative reporting could impact existing accounts by increasing interest rates or decreasing credit limits. The repossession could also affect your ability to be approved for new credit, whether you’re applying for a new credit card, car loan, or mortgage.

Negative credit information may also impact your ability to be promoted or hired for a new job or get approved as a tenant for an apartment. The Fair Credit Reporting Act offers consumer protection for the accuracy, fairness, and privacy of reported information. You can get a FREE credit report every twelve months from Transunion, Experian, and Equifax.

Steps to take

If you are haunted by negative reporting from a vehicle repossession, take the following steps:

  • Gather your car loan and repossession documents
  • Gather all correspondence that the lender sent AFTER the repossession
  • Gather all collection letters received for collection of a deficient balance
  • Obtain current credit reports from Transunion, Experian, and Equifax
  • Gather supporting documents such as:
    • Loan Denial Letters
    • Account statements showing interest rate increases
    • Account correspondence stating credit limit reduction

Seek Legal Advice

Flitter Milz is a consumer protection law firm that pursues matters against the credit bureaus for inaccurately reporting information.  Contact Us for a FREE case review.  We will evaluate whether your rights have been violated by the lender, debt collector or credit bureau.

What to Do If You’re Sued for a Car Loan Deficiency

Vehicle repossessions are worrisome and stressful enough, but what happens when the lender files a lawsuit against you after the repossession? Learn about what a deficiency lawsuit is, and what you should do if you’re being sued.

Auto Loan Deficiencies

When auto loan lenders repossess a car, truck, motorcycle, boat, or other vehicle, they sometimes sue the borrower for the deficiency. The vehicle is considered collateral according to the loan agreement, but the sale price after repossession often does not meet the total amount owed on the loan. The deficiency is the amount leftover after the lender has sold or auctioned your vehicle.

For example, let’s say you still owe $20,000 on your auto loan and the lender sells or auctions the vehicle for $15,000. The deficiency amount that you are still required to pay would be $5,000.

The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act

The lender may attempt to collect the deficient balance through a collection agency or collection law firm. Collection calls or letters must comply with the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, the federal law governing debt collection.

A qualified consumer rights attorney can evaluate all collection contact for compliance with the law. If the collector’s tactics have violated the law, you can sue the collector, even though the deficient balance may be owed.

Deficiency Lawsuits

After trying to collect, the lender may initiate a lawsuit to recover the deficiency amount. If you are being sued for a car loan deficiency, do not ignore it.

You still have an obligation to the lender for the deficient balance, even if you don’t have the vehicle. If you disregard a summons to appear in court, the case will proceed without you and a default judgment could be entered against you for the balance of the debt.

Judgments are dangerous. Once the lender gets a deficiency judgment, wages or bank accounts could be garnished, or liens could be placed on personal property.

Seek Legal Help

Contact a consumer rights lawyer to discuss your rights. You may be able to negotiate a settlement or payment plan with the lender.

Remember, repossessions and judgments carry negative weight on your credit report. Your credit score could drop, affecting your ability to obtain a new car loan or any new credit. As well it could impact your existing credit by lowering the amount of available credit or increasing the interest rate.

Are You the Victim of a Wrongful Vehicle Repossession?

If you fell behind on payments and your vehicle was repossessed, you may feel powerless. But not all repossessions are handled lawfully, and you may be able to take action against the lender or repossession agent.

When is a repossession wrongful?

Once a borrower defaults on terms of his or her auto loan agreement, the lender may repossess the vehicle. The agreement details events that lead to a default. For example, failure to make monthly payments on time, or in full, are common defaults. Lenders are not generally required to notify the borrower in advance of a repossession.

Lenders usually contract with a third-party, such as a towing company or forwarding service, to handle the repossession. The repo agent is provided with home and work addresses, and any other useful information to help locate you and your vehicle.

Without warning, the repo agent comes to take the vehicle from your home, place of employment, a location in your neighborhood, or even the store where you shop. Some vehicles, often those bought from a used car lot that also accepts payment (called a buy-here, pay-here lot), may have a location device or a kill-switch installed.

Lenders and their hired repossession agents must follow the law when taking a vehicle. If a car or truck has been wrongfully repossessed, the borrower may have the right to sue the lender and repo agent, even if the borrower missed payments or defaulted in some way.

Did the lender repossess your vehicle by mistake?

If the lender did not have the right to repossess your vehicle but did so anyway, a wrongful repossession may have occurred.

First, gather your loan agreement and review the terms for default. Second, review your payment records for amounts paid, payment date, form of payment, (such as check or money order), and the date the payment was applied to your account.

Did the repossession agent follow the law?

If the repossession agent didn’t follow the law when they took your vehicle, it may be considered unlawful vehicle repossession.

  • Repossession agents must inform the local police of their intent to repossess a vehicle. If you find that your vehicle is missing, contact the local police or the lender to confirm whether your vehicle was repossessed or stolen.
  • Repossession agents may not “breach the peace” in taking a vehicle. This means that they can’t use physical force or threaten physical force. They also can’t access a fenced or locked area on your property to retrieve the vehicle, unless permission was given. The repo agent is required to leave your property if asked.
  • Repossession agents are not allowed to damage personal property. If damage occurs, be sure to take photographs or get statements from witnesses.
  • Did the lender send you full and proper notice immediately after the repossession, and again after any auction or sale of the vehicle? If not, your consumer rights may have been violated.

Did the police “Breach the Peace?”

Vehicle repossession often takes the consumer by surprise. Confrontations may develop, and either the borrower or repo agent calls the police for assistance. The police are to aid in keeping the peace. They may assist in diffusing an altercation between the repo agent and the borrower.

The police are not supposed to enable a repossession, or order the borrower to “step aside” or “turn over keys”. They may not threaten arrest or command the borrower to turn over the vehicle. At this point, the police may have crossed the line from keeping the peace to breaching the peace. This could be a violation of your constitutional rights, enabling you to bring a lawsuit against the police department, the repossession company, and the lender for a wrongful repossession.

Steps to take

During the repossession, take written notes of the events that occur. Be sure to include:

  • Date and time of day
  • Name of repossession company, agent name, and license plate of tow truck
  • Police officer name, department, and badge number
  • Police report and number
  • Witness names and contact information
  • Photographs of damage to the vehicle or property
  • A statement detailing events, or take a video on your cell phone

Gather and remove all personal property and car loan documents from the vehicle, including:

  • Car purchase and finance documents: Retail Installment Sales Contract, buyer’s agreement, insurance and registration
  • Family items: pay checks, medication, school books, clothing, etc.
  • Work items: computers, briefcases, equipment, etc.

After the repossession, the lender is required to provide certain notices to the consumer. First, a Notice of Intent to Sell Property is to be sent and received in advance of the vehicle’s sale or auction. It states terms to get your vehicle back, along with date and time of sale or auction. As well, this notice will state the location of your vehicle so that you can retrieve personal property.

Second, a Deficiency Notice is sent after the vehicle’s sale. This notice presents the sale amount of the vehicle, subtracted from the balance owed on the loan, and states any deficient balance or surplus. Even larger banks or credit unions make mistakes in these documents. At times, this could make the repossession illegal.

If your car, truck, or motorcycle was repossessed, you should contact a consumer rights lawyer who is experienced in car repossession law. You may be able to pursue a case for wrongful repossession.

Who Took My Car?

You leave your house in the morning to drive to work and suddenly realize that your car is gone. Follow these steps to find out who took your car and how you can get it back.

Confirm whether it was repossessed or stolen

If you were behind on auto loan payments, it’s possible that your vehicle was repossessed by the lender. Even if you make a payment after several months of falling behind, your account may not be up to date.

Call your auto loan lender or local police department to confirm that your vehicle was repossessed and not stolen. Repossession agents should inform the local police department before the vehicle repossession takes place.

If your vehicle was repossessed, ask for specific details, such as which repossession company it was, where they are located, and when the police were notified.

Gather any auto loan and repossession documents

Locate the loan agreement that you signed when you purchased the vehicle. This agreement should provide details about your rights if your car is repossessed.  If you financed through a dealership, this is called a Retail Installment Sales Contract, or RISC.

If any of your documents were inside the vehicle at the time of repossession, you should be able to retrieve them by following these steps.

Your loan agreement will say whether you have to pay off the entire balance of the loan, or only the past due payments. In addition to these payments, the lender may also ask you to pay for any storage or towing fees.

You should also receive a notice after the repossession, called a Notice of Intent to Sell Property, that provides further information on how you can get your car back. The lender should send this notice before your vehicle is sold and give you enough time to satisfy the terms to get your vehicle back.

If the vehicle is sold, the lender will provide a Deficiency Notice that will tell you whether or not you still owe, or if the sale or auction of the vehicle has fully paid off your auto loan.

Know your rights

Remember, whether you were behind on payments or not, repossession agents have to follow certain laws when they repossess your vehicle. If you think any aspect of your case may be considered an unlawful vehicle repossession, Contact Flitter Milz, for a free legal evaluation of whether your vehicle was wrongfully repossessed.

How to Avoid a Bank Repossession After Purchasing a Car

The decision to purchase a new car is exciting. Vehicles provide independence and mobility. Whether you’re purchasing a car for the first time or not, having the means to drive is liberating. You can go anywhere, whenever you like.

Buying a vehicle that suits your needs and your budget can be a challenge. Often, the vehicle that we would like to drive may not be the vehicle we can affordBefore going to the dealership, take some time to shop around for a vehicle as well as the credit you’ll use to purchase the vehicle. You want to make a purchase with financial terms that are right for you.

Auto Loan Default

Bank repos occur when the borrower does not meet the terms of a signed loan agreement. If the borrower defaults, the bank, credit union, or lending institution can take the vehicle back at any time. Repossessions often take place when a borrower:

Car Repossession

Once your vehicle has been repossessed, the bank is required to provide you with a notice detailing terms to retrieve your vehicle. If you are not able to meet those terms, the bank may sell your vehicle at a private sale or auction.

After the sale, the bank will send a notice to confirm the amount of the sale. That amount will be deducted from any balance owed on the loan. If there is a deficient balance, the bank will inform the borrower of that amount and take steps to collect.

Avoid Bank Repo

Always shop around and consider your options before your buy a new vehicle. Be sure to choose a car that you’re confident you can afford. Get all the details of your car loan agreement in writing and ensure that you’re aware of the terms of the agreement. Always pay in full and on time to avoid default.

If you think your vehicle may be repossessed, follow these steps.

Seek 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 and evaluate whether your consumer rights were violated.

How to Find Out If Your Auto Loan Account is Current

A key aspect of financial wellness is to avoid spending above your means. It may be tempting to apply for an auto loan to buy a more expensive vehicle, but keep in mind that falling behind on payments not only harms your credit, but also leaves your vehicle at risk for repossession.

It’s important to stay up to date on all payments. Be sure to pay in full and on time each month. Remember, if you are late or miss a couple payments there may be additional interest or late fees owed to bring your account current. Until these fees are paid, your account is still overdue, even if you pay your next payment in full and on time.

Follow these steps to ensure that your account is current.

Request Payment History 

Contact the lender and ask for a complete loan payment history. You may be able to access this information online, otherwise, you can write a letter to the lender.

The lender’s records will show the amount of each payment you have made, the date on which they were applied to the account, and any additional charges, such as interest or late fees. Review the records to ensure everything appears accurate. Address any overdue payments and late fees as soon as possible. If your account is delinquent, the lender can repossess the vehicle without prior notice.

Keep a Record of Auto Loan Payment History

Moving forward, keep a detailed record of your auto loan payments. Your personal records should include the payment date, amount, method of payment, and the date it was applied to the account. Detailed records will keep you on track with payments to ensure you don’t fall behind, and are also useful in the event that the lender makes an error.

What to Do if You Fall Behind on Payments

It’s common to experience financial hardship, whether it’s due to job loss, divorce, health issues, or a death in the family. If you’re having difficulty making payments in full and on time, contact your lender. The lender may be willing to defer your payments and apply them to the end of the loan.

Be sure to request the lender provide you with a letter that confirms any changes to the original loan agreement. For example, if the lender agrees to defer payments to the end of the loan, additional costs associated with the deferment will have to be paid to satisfy the loan. It’s important to have a record of any changes in terms and any additional charges you may endure due to deferment.

What to Do if Your Vehicle is at Risk for Repossession

If you determine that your account is past due and think your vehicle may be repossessed, follow these steps and contact your lender. It may still be possible to avoid repossession if you’re able to pay off some of the overdue balance.

Seek Legal Advice

Contact Flitter Milz, an experienced consumer protection law firm, for a no cost consultation to discuss your rights if you believe your vehicle may be repossessed.

How to Get Personal Belongings Back After a Vehicle Repossession

A car repossession can make you feel powerless, as if you don’t have any rights regarding your property. The consequences of a repossession are difficult enough without having to worry about the personal items that were in your vehicle at the time it was taken.

Protect Your Personal Items BEFORE the
Repossession

If you suspect that your car may be repossessed, remove all personal items from the vehicle, glove box, and trunk. This includes:

  • All car purchase and loan documents. Keep these documents in a safe place.
  • Work-related items, such as briefcases, laptops, or tools.
  • Family-related items, such as personal mail, car seats, school work, or clothing.

Follow these steps prior to the repossession.

When Can a Lender Repossess a Vehicle?

When you sign a contract to finance a vehicle, the car is considered collateral. This means that the bank or credit union has the right to take back the vehicle if the borrower defaults on the terms of the contract.

Terms for default include missed payments, partial payments, or late payments, or lapse in auto insurance for unpaid premiums. Specific terms for default are listed in the loan agreement that you signed.

How to Get Personal Items Back AFTER a Repossession

After a vehicle has been repossessed, the lender will send a letter to the borrower that details terms to retrieve the vehicle. This letter, frequently called a Notice of Intent to Sell Property, states the location of the repossessed car so that the borrower knows who to contact to reclaim any personal items.

You may be unable to retrieve attached fixtures, such as a stereo or rims, but any loose items are yours to claim. The borrower typically has 30 days to get their possessions from the car.

Damage to Your Personal Property

When the repo agent arrives to take your vehicle, you may request to remove your personal items. Car repossession laws prohibit repo agents from damaging your personal property.

If your property is damaged, get the name of the repo agent, repossession company name, phone number, and license plate number of the repo truck. Inform the lender of any damage caused by the repo agent.  As well, contact the police to file a report. Be sure to take photographs of the damaged property, and gather witness statements.

Seek Legal Advice 

Flitter Milz is knowledgeable about the laws governing the repossession of cars, trucks, motorcycles, boats and RVs.  If your vehicle has been repossessed, Contact Us for a NO COST review and evaluation of whether your consumer rights have been violated.

Don’t Get Caught in a Car Loan You Can’t Afford

It may seem easier to get a loan for the car of your dreams these days, but more people are falling behind on payments and becoming delinquent on their loans. When it becomes easier to get an auto loan, auto loan delinquencies are more common.

What does this mean?

The rise in delinquencies comes at a time when unemployment is low and borrowers typically should be able to make their payments. However, lenders may have loosened their credit standards and let borrowers take on more debt than they can afford.

Always read the information in any loan application to make sure that the information is accurate! Consumers should pay attention to whether their income is stated correctly on the auto loan application. If you find errors on your application, do not proceed with the purchase.

My car was repossessed. Now what?

Once delinquent, the lender may be able to repossess the vehicle without warning. If you think your vehicle may be repossessed, we recommend that you remove all car purchase and loan documents, and all personal items from the vehicle.

Once the vehicle has been repossessed, the lender will provide you with a notice detailing the terms for you to get your car back and where to retrieve your personal possessions from the vehicle. Follow these steps.

Does your credit report list the repossession inaccurately?

Check your credit report to see whether your loan payments were reported accurately. Consumers are permitted to receive one free credit report from each bureau within a twelve month period.

If the lender has reported your payment history inaccurately, send written disputes to the credit bureau.

Be sure to provide supporting documentation that shows why the information is not listed accurately on your credit report. The bureaus have 30 days to respond to your dispute. If the errors have not been corrected, contact us.

Police Involvement in Car Repossessions

In most states, repossession agents have to inform the local police department of their intent to seize a vehicle before the repossession takes place.

During the vehicle repossession, the police may be contacted by the borrower or the repo agent to come to the scene. Whether it is the borrower or repo agent who contacts the police, the officer must follow specific guidelines so he or she doesn’t violate the borrower’s constitutional rights.

What is the Role of the Police During a Vehicle Repossession?

The police are there to help keep the peace. If the situation becomes volatile, they should assist in diffusing the confrontation between the repo agent and the borrower.

The police are there to protect you and keep anyone from being harmed. It is not the police’s role to assist the repo-man in taking your car.

What Type of Police Involvement is Unacceptable?

The police should not assist or enable the repossession.

Unless the lender has taken the unusual step of obtaining a court order, the police should not order you to turn over your keys or to “step aside” and let the repo man take your vehicle.

If the police threaten you with arrest or command you to turn over the vehicle, they may have crossed the line from keeping the peace to breaching the peace. This could violate your constitutional rights.

While you obviously may need to yield to the command of an armed law enforcement officer, make it clear that you protest the repossession.

I Think the Police Crossed the Line. What Can I Do?

You may be entitled to bring a lawsuit against the police department, the repossession company, and the lender for wrongful vehicle repossession.

Gather statements from witnesses, if any, and obtain the police report that details the incident. Take a video of your interaction with the repo agent and/or police officers.  Photographs the scene, including your vehicle and any damaged property. Write a statement, including the date and time, of what happened. Seek legal help from a consumer rights attorney.