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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.

Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA)

Protection from Repossession

The Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA) provides special protections for active service members that have defaulted on car loan payments.  To qualify, servicemembers must have signed the loan agreement, and paid at least the deposit or first installment payment, before entering military service. To repossess a vehicle, the lender must obtain a court order.

Reasons for Repossession

Vehicle repossessions occur for a number of reasons. Most often, a vehicle is repossessed due to missed payments or the lapse of insurance. When a car is repossessed, lenders need to follow the law, whether payments were missed or not. If the lender overlooks the law, the servicemember may bring a lawsuit against the lender.

Requirements AFTER Repossession

After a vehicle has been repossessed, the lender is required to send proper notices to the borrower. Shortly after the repossession, the lender will send a letter called a Notice of Intent to Sell Property, which confirms the repossession occurred and details terms for to retrieve the vehicle. If the borrower is not able to meet the terms, the lender may choose to sell the vehicle at an auction or private sale. Once the sale has taken place, the lender will send a second letter called a Deficiency Notice, which informs the borrower of the sale price of the vehicle and any remaining balance due.  If the borrower is not notified properly, there may be grounds to file a lawsuit against the lender.

Credit Reporting and Car Repossession

If a servicemember’s vehicle has been repossessed, he or she may face loss or denial of a security clearance, or other types of punishment based on mismanagement of their finances.  In addition, credit reports may list delinquencies or the repossession and lower credit scores, which make it difficult to obtain a new loan.

All consumers are entitled to receive one free credit report every twelve months directly from Transunion, Experian and Equifax.  Check your credit reports , and make sure the information is accurate.

Seek Legal Assistance

Servicemembers that have fallen behind on payments for auto loans and are facing repossession should seek the advice from a qualified consumer protection attorney to advise on their consumer rights.  Flitter Milz knows the laws to protect borrowers from wrongful repossession and inaccurate credit reporting. Contact us for a no cost consultation.

How a Voluntary Surrender Impacts your Credit

If you’re behind on your car loan payments, it’s possible that your vehicle will be repossessed by the lender. Your vehicle is considered collateral under the terms of the loan agreement, so the lender has the right to take back the car or truck if there is a lapse in payments or terms of the agreement are broken.

If you’re suffering a financial hardship, often borrowers that have fallen behind on payments may consider whether to voluntarily surrender their vehicle instead of the embarrassment of a repo-man coming to their door.  Either way, the repossession of a vehicle may impact your credit report negatively and make it difficult to get credit approval on an auto loan in the future.

What to Do Before Repossession

First and foremost, if there’s a chance that your vehicle will be repossessed, you should take the following actions in preparation:

  • Remove all purchase and loan documents from the vehicle.
  • Remove all personal belongings from the vehicle.
  • Note the current odometer mileage.
  • Take photographs of the vehicle’s interior and exterior.
  • Request that the lender provide you with a written loan payment history.
  • Request that the lender provide you with a payoff figure.
  • Do not hide or conceal the vehicle to avoid a repossession.

This will ensure that you have all the information you need along with your personal belongings should a repossession take place.

How a Voluntary Surrender and Repossession Affect Your Credit

Many consumers who anticipate a repossession wonder if the consequences will be less negative if they voluntarily surrender the vehicle to the lender. The only significant difference between the two is the way they appear on your credit report; a voluntary surrender will be listed as such, but the negative effect will be about the same as a repossession. It’s possible, however, that the lender will be more willing to enter a loan agreement with you in the future if you voluntarily surrender the vehicle.

A repossession can stay on your credit report for up to seven and a half years. It’s a negative listing that lowers your credit score and it can make it more difficult to secure a new auto loan or line of credit.

Discuss Your Options with Your Lender

If you are having difficulty making payments, contact your lender as soon as possible. They may offer deferred payments, which are applied to the end of the loan. This can help you avoid repossession or voluntary surrender and prevent your credit from taking a further hit.
Facing a Car Repossession? Get help from an experienced Consumer Lawyer

Whether you have fallen behind on your car payments or not, there are legal protections for borrowers from lenders and repo agents that wrongfully repossess vehicles.  Learn more about your rights and contact a qualified Consumer Protection Law Firm.

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.

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.

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.

Was Your Car Repossessed? Follow These Steps.

Whether you are behind on payments or not, the lender must follow a number of rules before and after a car is repossessed. These rules detail how and when they can initiate car repossession, what kind of notices must be given, and how any auction or private sale must be handled.

If any rules were overlooked during or after the repossession of your vehicle, you may be able to take legal action against the lender or car repossessor, even if you were behind on payments. If your car or motorcycle was recently repossessed, do the following.

Confirm the Repossession 

Call the lender or local police department to confirm that the vehicle was repossessed and not stolen. Ask for details, such as which repossession company called the police and when.

Gather Repo Documents

Gather all purchase, loan, and repossession documents. These include your car purchase agreement, retail installment sales contract, notice of intent to sell property, deficiency notice, loan payment history, and any collection letters claiming a deficient balance is owed.

You should receive a Notice of Intent to Sell Property from the lender after your vehicle is repossessed. This notice explains how you can retrieve the vehicle, how much you must pay, the location of the vehicle, and the time and location of a private sale or auction. You should receive this notice before the vehicle is sold at private sale or auction with enough time for you to get the car back.

The lender must also provide a notice that confirms the sale price after a vehicle is sold, called a Deficiency Notice. If the sale price does not pay off the balance that is owed on the loan, you will owe the remaining balance, even if the vehicle was voluntarily given back.

Don’t Sign a Waiver

Do not sign any waiver or release agreement to get your vehicle back. Signing a waiver could negate any legal claim for wrongful actions by the lender. The law does not require you to sign documents to retrieve your vehicle, even if the repo agent or storage yard asks for one.

Get Legal Help

If you believe your vehicle was wrongfully repossessed, gather all of your documents and contact Flitter Milz for a free evaluation of your case.

What Happens if I Default on my Car Loan?

An unexpected occurrence like illness or loss of employment can leave you struggling to pay bills on time. If you are unable to pay your car loan on time, the lender may choose to repossess your vehicle. However, the lender must handle the repossession properly – whether you have fallen behind or not.   

Seek a Deferment Before Default 

Contact your lender before you default to see if a deferment is possible. A deferment will postpone your payments while you catch up with finances. These postponed payments are then applied to the end of the loan.

It is important to receive written confirmation from the lender showing this change to the original loan agreement. Since the terms of the loan have, in effect, been extended, the consumer needs to see how the lender has calculated any additional money to be paid at the end to satisfy the loan.

A deferment will likely still appear on your credit report, but the effect on your credit will not be as negative as a default.

Prepare for Repossession

If your loan is in default, understand that the lender has the right to repossess your vehicle. If you think a repossession is coming:

  • Remove all important car vehicle purchase and loan documents from your vehicle
  • Remove all personal items.
  • Note the current odometer reading 
  • Take photographs of the vehicle – interior and exterior.
  • Request that the lender provide you with a written loan payment history and a payoff figure.

Get Your Vehicle Back

The loan agreement that you sign at the time of purchase details your rights if the vehicle is repossessed. If you financed through the dealership, this document is called the Retail Installment Sales Contract or RISC. It will state whether you must pay off the full balance of the loan, pay only past due payments, and pay for towing and storage fees.

After the repossession, you are entitled to receive a notice that details the terms for you to get your car back. This notice may be called a Notice of Intent to Sell Property. You should receive this notice before the vehicle is sold.  Once the vehicle is sold, the lender is to send a Deficiency Letter which confirms the selling price of the vehicle and any remaining balance owed on the loan.

Seek Legal Assistance

If your vehicle has been repossessed within the past six years, whether you fell behind on payments or not, you may have a case to pursue against the lender for wrongfully repossessing your car, truck, boat, motorcycle or RV. Contact Flitter Milz for a no-cost consultation.

Is Your Vehicle at Risk of Repossession?

Your hours may have been reduced at work.  A family member may be seriously ill.  You may be going through a divorce.  Any number of life situations may impact your ability to keep up with your car payments.

If you believe that your vehicle may be at risk of repossession, follow these steps:

1) Gather Important Documents 

Remove all car purchase and loan documents from your vehicle immediately. Keep these documents in a safe place in your home, not in your car. In most cases, auto lenders are not required to contact you in advance of a repossession. If your car is repossessed, gather all car purchase and finance documents for a qualified consumer protection attorney to review.

2) Request a Loan Payment History from the Lender

Contact the lender for a complete Loan Payment History which reflects all payments from the date the vehicle was purchased to the present.

If the payment history does not agree with your records, you may dispute the errors with the lender. If you defaulted on your payments, the payment history will show late fees, interest, or other charges added to your account. Be sure that the lender’s calculations are correct.  If any payments were not recorded properly or were misapplied, send a written dispute to the lender with documents that support your dispute.

3) Photograph the Condition of Your Car

Take photos that show the current condition of your vehicle, including the interior, exterior and odometer reading.

4) Do Not Hide Your Vehicle

It is illegal to hide your vehicle if the lender is attempting repossession. Review your signed loan agreement for the terms of your loan.

5) Secure Any Agreement to Defer or Avoid Repossession In Writing

If you have an understanding with the lender to permit you to catch up on payments or defer a repossession, be sure to get that agreement in writing. Whether you get a letter from the lender, have an exchange of emails, or send your own letter detailing the terms, it is important to create a document which confirms the agreement.

6) Seek Legal Help

Contact Flitter Milz for a free evaluation of your case.  Whether you have fallen behind on payments or not, the lender must follow the law.

Co-signing a Loan: All Risk, Little Reward

Co-signers lend their names and good credit histories to the primary borrower, usually when the other borrower cannot obtain credit on his or her own.  For example, a parent may co-sign for a child who does not yet have a credit history. Or, someone may be asked to co-sign by a friend or relative whose credit is tarnished, has negative marks in their credit history, or a low credit score.

Co-signing a loan does not mean that you are serving as a character reference for someone else. Here’s what you should know before you co-sign a loan.

You’re Liable

When you agree to co-sign on a loan, you are liable for payment of the loan. You risk having to repay any missed payments immediately, or having to pay the full loan balance if your co-borrower defaults.

If the co-borrower defaults on the loan, the lender can use the same collection methods against the co-signer, such as demanding repayment of the entire loan, filing a lawsuit, and garnishing bank accounts after a judgment.

Credit scores may be impacted negatively by any late payments or defaults by either co-borrower. If the primary borrower dies, loses a job, goes through divorce, files bankruptcy, or otherwise fails to make payments, all responsibility for meeting the terms of the account generally transfers to the co-signer.

In some cases, the person who thought they were merely a co-borrower or guarantor was really listed in auto finance documents as the primary borrower. Be aware that if your co-borrower is primarily irresponsible for timely monthly payments, your credit score could suffer if he or she pays late, even if the lender did not give you a timely notification of the missed payment.

You Could Be Sued if Payments Aren’t Made

Failure to pay on the loan (or another breach of the loan agreement, like not keeping up the car insurance) means the lender can come after you for the entire balance. The co-signer often gets sued first because their credit is stronger and the bank believes they’re more likely to repay the debt.

It’s Difficult to Remove Your Name from the Loan

Once the account is opened, it’s very tough to remove a co-signer from the loan. We often hear stories of car buyers being told by the salesman to return after four to six months, at which time the dealer will supposedly remove one of the borrowers from the paperwork. This is not true, but rather a tactic to sell cars. Both the primary borrower and co-signer need to satisfy the loan in order to terminate the loan agreement, or obtain the lender’s express permission to remove one of two co-borrowers.

Tax Consequences of Settled or Unpaid Debt

The lender might not want to go through the trouble of suing you, so they agree to settle a post-repo deficiency balance for less than the balance owed. This means that you could have tax liability for the difference.

For example, if you owe $10,000 and settle for $4,000, you may have to report the remaining $6,000 as “debt forgiveness income” on your tax returns and pay tax on it. Settling on the account for less than the full sum may also leave a negative mark on your credit report. You may need to seek professional tax advice on this.

Co-signing Could Make it More Difficult for You to Get a Loan

Before you co-sign for someone, think about whether or not you’ll need to use your credit for your own needs. A lender may deny a credit application if there is too much credit in your name or the balances are too high relative to your income.

Seek Legal Advice

Flitter Milz is a nationally recognized consumer protection law firm representing people in matters against lenders, debt collectors and the credit bureaus.  Whether you or the co-borrower has fallen behind on payments or not, Contact Us for a FREE evaluation of whether your consumer rights have been violated.