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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.

Flitter Milz Attorneys published in widely-used legal treatises

Repossessions

Andy Milz is a contributing author to REPOSSESSION, National Consumer Law Center (10th ed. 2022) Carolyn Carter, Andrew Milz, et. al., considered the leading legal reference book on consumer repossession issues in the United States.  This reference  appears on the shelves of courthouses and law libraries across the country and provides detailed and comprehensive coverage of repossession law throughout all 50 states.

Pennsylvania Consumer Law

Cary Flitter and Andy Milz recently edited three chapters in PENNSYLVANIA CONSUMER LAW, Carolyn Carter, et. al, Geo. Bisel Co., 2d ed. Supp. (2021).  Annually, Flitter and Milz edit chapters on The Law of Repossessions, Attorneys’ Fees for Consumer Litigation, and Odometer FraudThis treatise is considered the leading authority on consumer protection law in the Keystone state.

Flitter Milz is an experienced consumer protection law firm in the area of consumer credit finance and auto repossession law.  The firm has recovered tens of millions of dollars for borrowers who have become victim of wrongful repossessions.  Our attorneys have the experience and knowledge to win your case.   Contact us, for a consultation at no cost.
Pictured:  Cary Flitter (center), Andy Milz (left), Jody López-Jacobs (right).

Can I Keep my car if I file for Bankruptcy? 5 things to know.

Buying a car is costly.  Most people finance the purchase of a vehicle by taking out a loan. The agreement states terms for regular monthly payments to be made until the debt is satisfied. If the borrower defaults on payments, the lender has the right to repossess the vehicle.

Auto Finance Law & Bankruptcy  

However, there is a complicated intersection between auto finance law and bankruptcy. Before taking any action, borrowers must understand the implications of bankruptcy and be able to determine the most prudent steps to take before and after a vehicle has been repossessed. In general, merely having your car or truck repossessed is not enough to warrant filing for bankruptcy.  Let’s try to simplify it.

Repossession = Bankruptcy?  Maybe, maybe not.

  1. Filing a bankruptcy can stop a repossession from going forward.
    When a consumer bankruptcy is initiated, the debtor protections include an “automatic stay.” This means that your creditors are prohibited from taking almost all actions to collect a debt.  This automatic provision can be a powerful way to prevent repossession of the car, but only temporarily.
  2. The automatic stay can last weeks or years.
    The stay begins automatically upon filing and lasts only as long as the Court allows it to, which can be anywhere from weeks to several years, depending on the type of bankruptcy you choose to file. However, if you filed an earlier bankruptcy within a year of the new bankruptcy case, the automatic stay will terminate within 30 days. The judge also has the choice of extending or shortening the time period in certain circumstances. Even if you file for bankruptcy, to keep your financed car you will have to resume a car loan repayment schedule.
  3. Filing a bankruptcy after the repossession will not necessarily get you the car back.
    If the lender already repossessed your car, then the bankruptcy does not necessarily require the lender to return the car.  If the car was already sold by the lender by the time you file bankruptcy, then it is already too late.  However, if the sale has not gone forward, a bankruptcy may stop the lender from selling the car, and perhaps you can get it back by agreeing to ongoing monthly payments. This is something to discuss with your bankruptcy attorney.
  4. If you file bankruptcy, you might have to eventually give up the car, but not always.
    The point of bankruptcy is to help people in debt have a fresh start.  Because of this, there are certain state and federal exemptions you can claim to prevent the car from being lost to the bankruptcy.  For example, under the federal rules, you can claim $4,450 in a motor vehicle as exempt.  This means that if you owe less than that amount on the car, you’ll be able to keep it.  If you owe more, then the trustee may sell your car, pay you $4,450 for the exemption, and distribute the rest among your creditors — unless you make a showing of need before the bankruptcy court, something your bankruptcy lawyer can help with.
  5. Even if you file bankruptcy, you will likely need to continue making car payments throughout the bankruptcy if you want to keep the car.
    This is because the lender has “lien” or “security interest” in the car, which is still recognized in the bankruptcy.  So, if you don’t pay as agreed, or if you default on the car loan in some other way (g. failing to maintain insurance) then the lender may still be able to repossess the car.  Practically speaking, you’ll need to keep paying on the car loan if you want to keep the car through your bankruptcy.

    Borrowers have rights when facing repossession

If your car was already repossessed, you have other rights as a consumer borrower, separate from any bankruptcy proceeding.  Bankruptcy is only one tool or avenue if your car or truck has been repossessed – and it might, or might not, be right for your specific situation. Consult with an experienced consumer lawyer to understand your options outside of a bankruptcy.

Seek advice from an Experienced Consumer Lawyer

If you’re concerned that the lender my repossess your vehicle, or perhaps thinking of filing bankruptcy to get your car back after repossession, contact Flitter Milz for a no cost case evaluation. Our attorneys are knowledgeable of consumer laws that protect borrowers from wrongful repossessions.
Pictured l-r: Attorneys Cary Flitter and Andy Milz.

Are there Advantages to a Voluntary Repossession?

While most repossessions are initiated by the lender, sometimes it’s the borrower that decides to voluntarily surrender his or her vehicle.  Whether or not, after a repossession it’s important for the borrower to understand his or her financial responsibility to satisfy the loan once the lender has taken possession of the vehicle.

Surrendering Your Vehicle

The choice to voluntarily surrender your vehicle is not easy decision. Borrowers understand that the lender has the right to repossess the vehicle if they can’t meet the terms agreed upon in their auto loan agreement.

After payments are missed or late, the lender could come to take the vehicle at any time of day or night. Repossessions are stressful and usually occur at the most inopportune times.

Often, borrowers faced with the possibility of repossession may choose to voluntarily give their car back. A voluntary repossession allows the borrower to have some control and address financial troubles in a less stressful manner, and without the shock of finding the car missing.

Ten Advantages of a Voluntary Repossession:

1. Arranged return of the vehicle – date, time and location
2. Removal of all personal belongings from the vehicle
3. Removal of all important documents from the vehicle
4. Removal of the license place
5. Photograph the condition of the vehicle – interior & exterior
6. Take odometer reading to know precise mileage on the vehicle
7. Contact auto insurance carrier to inform of the voluntary repossession
8. Deliver the vehicle and keys to a convenient location
9. May not have to pay a repossession fee
10. May not have to pay storage fee

Voluntary Repossession Will Not Cancel Your Loan

A voluntary repossession does not dismiss the responsibility that the borrower has to satisfy the loan.  The financial obligation and collection process from a voluntary repossession are the same as a regular repossession.

First, after taking back the vehicle, the lender will send a repossession notice, or Notice of Intent to Sell Property, to the borrower. This letter states the location of the vehicle, terms to get the vehicle back, where to retrieve personal property, and where and when the vehicle will be sold.

Second, once the vehicle has been sold, the borrower will receive a letter called a Deficiency Notice.  This notice informs the borrower of the selling price of their vehicle and shows the calculation of any remaining balance owed on to satisfy the loan.

Collection of the deficient balance may be handled by the lender’s collection department, or the lender may assign this task to a third-party collector. If the collector is unsuccessful in collecting the balance, the lender may choose to file a lawsuit against the borrower to collect this balance.

Repossession and Your Credit Report

Both voluntary surrender and lender-initiated repossession carry negative weight on a credit report.  It’s not just the repossession that is listed on credit reports, but also, the missed or late payments that may have led to the repossession in the first place.

These negative listings can remain on your credit report for up to seven and one-half years, jeopardizing the ability to obtain another auto loan, or one with favorable credit terms.  In addition, repossessions could have other negative consequences such as creditors raising interest rates, the reduction of credit limits, or an overall drop in credit scores.

Seek Legal Help After Repossession

Flitter Milz is a nationally recognized consumer protection law firm that pursues matters against banks, credit unions and financial institutions for the wrongful repossession of cars, truck, motorcycles, RVs and boats.  Contact Us for a no cost legal evaluation to determine whether your consumer rights have been violated.  Pictured:  Cary Flitter (center), Andy Milz (left), Jody López-Jacobs (right)

 

How to Maintain Good Credit During Divorce

Financial Separation is Key

Getting divorced is never easy. Although it is an unfortunate fact of life for more than half of all U.S. couples, parting ways with your spouse doesn’t mean that your credit has to take a hit.

Separating financially is crucial as most married couples share joint assets, such as homes, cars, credit cards and loans. But the division of these accounts can be a messy financial predicament.  It is important for you to protect your credit, and good name, as you work towards an independent life from your spouse.

Credit Impact During Divorce

Joint accounts have joint consequences, and often with the stress of divorce one spouse may have forgotten to make a payment, or assumed the other spouse did. Missed or late payments may result in contact from debt collectors, negative credit reporting and lowered credit scores.  To ensure joint accounts get paid properly and on time take these steps:

1. Calendar payments.
–   Identify accounts: your name v. joint.
–   Create a file for each account.
–   Organize account statements.
–   Calendar payment due dates.
–   Review accounts for payment status.

 

2. Obtain Current Credit Reports.  Transunion, Experian and Equifax are the three main credit reporting agencies. Consumers are entitled to receive one free credit report from each bureau every year.  Sometimes, consumers choose to enroll in a credit monitoring service which enables review of credit reports on a regular basis throughout the year.

How to get credit reports.  We suggest that you send a written request to each credit bureau to obtain a report.  Your letter should include two forms of identification, such as a current driver’s license and utility bill. It takes about two weeks to receive your reports.  While you can also obtain your reports online through www.annualcreditreport.com, this method requires you to agree to terms in a “click” agreement, which could negatively impact your consumer rights.

3. Identify your accounts
Review your reports and identify accounts in your name and those that are joint with a spouse.  Evaluate your reports for errors such as:

            • Inaccurate personal identifying information.
            • Account balance or payment history errors.
            • Duplicate account information.
            • Personal information belonging to someone else.
            • Accounts opened by someone other than yourself.

4. If Inaccurate…Dispute!  After obtaining your credit report, if there are errors, you should send a dispute letter to the credit reporting agency to request that the errors be corrected.  Be sure to enclose documents that support your claim. The credit bureaus have 30 days to respond to your dispute. You may include documents such as, account statements, cancelled checks, court docket information, or collection correspondence that  prove why your claim of an error is valid.

One Dispute Letter Per Error. If you find multiple errors on a credit report, dispute them individually with the bureau. Enclose a copy of the credit report with the error highlighted and your supporting documents. The credit bureaus then have 30 days to respond to your dispute letter.

 

 

The Fair Credit Reporting Act 
The Fair Credit Reporting Act is a federal law governing how consumer credit information can be used and distributed. Consumers have the right to see what’s on their credit reports and dispute errors and inaccurate information. Errors not corrected, may violate the consumer’s rights.

Seek Legal Help

Flitter Milz, P.C. represents people in consumer credit matters related to credit reporting accuracy and privacy, abusive debt collection contact and vehicle repossessions which stem from a pending divorce or separation.  Contact Us for a no-cost consultation.

 

Are You the Victim of a Wrongful Auto Repossession?

Auto repossessionWrongful Auto Repossessions

Auto Repossessions never occur at a convenient time. Without warning, the repo agent may come to take your vehicle. You may be at home, work, out shopping, or visiting family or friends. Even if you anticipated the auto repossession, losing your transportation is frightening.

Continue reading Are You the Victim of a Wrongful Auto Repossession?

Can I Be Sued for Not Paying My Car Loan?

Loan Lawsuit with car repossession

The continuing rise in auto loan debt is placing many consumers in a financially vulnerable position, particularly during the current economic downturn. What if you are unable to pay your car loan? Can this lead to a lawsuit? Knowing the process of repossession can both lessen your stress and help you decide the best course of action.

Continue reading Can I Be Sued for Not Paying My Car Loan?

What Are the Laws Governing Motorcycle Repossession?

Motorcycle on the road

When banks record an increase in credit losses and delinquencies, often there is an uptick in repossessions.  These indicators not only reflect repossessions of cars and trucks, but also pleasure vehicles, such as RVs, boats and motorcycles.

Fortunately for consumers, the laws that protect victims of car and truck repossessions, also apply to motorcycles, RVs and boats.

If you’ve fallen behind on your loan payments and are worried that your motorcycle, or other vehicle, is in danger of repossession, here’s what you need to know.

Continue reading What Are the Laws Governing Motorcycle Repossession?

What notices must my lender 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 provide after repossession?

How Do I Get My Repossessed Car Back in Pennsylvania?

Vehicle repossession is inconvenient and worrisome, but it is possible to get your car back.  After the repossession agent comes, the lender is to send the borrower a repossession notice, frequently called a Notice of Intent to Sell Property.  This notice will inform the borrower of terms to get the vehicle back.  Sometimes the lender will demand a full loan payoff, while other times, past due payments may be accepted.  This notice informs the borrower of the vehicle’s location, the cost of repossession and any storage charges.  The borrower usually has 30 days to arrange for retrieval of any personal property from the repo lot.

Continue reading How Do I Get My Repossessed Car Back in Pennsylvania?