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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.

How to locate your car after repossession?

Lenders are not required to notify the borrower in advance of an auto repossession.  However, after a vehicle has been taken, the lender must send a letter to the borrower outlining terms to get the vehicle back — whether the lender is a bank, such as Well Fargo or Bank of America, a credit union, such as Pennsylvania State Employees Credit Union or Erie Federal Credit Union, or a financial institution such as Driveway Finance or PA Auto Credit. The repossession letter, often called a Notice of Intent to Sell Property, details the location of the vehicle and where personal property may be picked up, the amount to be paid to retrieve the vehicle, and the time period in which the borrower must act before the vehicle is sent to an auction or private sale to be sold.

Let’s face it.  Car repossessions never occur at convenient times. A variety of reasons may have caused default on the loan. The borrower may be suffering an illness or from a death in the family, be going through divorce, or had a job loss. Regardless, once the vehicle has been taken, the borrower must take steps to locate it and find out how to get it back. As well, the lender must follow the law.

The Role of the Repo Agent

After the lender has made the decision to repossess a vehicle, arrangements are made with a repo agent who will locate the vehicle and take it, often without warning.  In advance of the repossession, the repo agent must inform the local police department of their intent to seize the vehicle.  The repo agent may come with a tow truck to the borrower’s home or place of employment. Or, they may track the vehicle finding it at another location, such as at a shopping mall, doctor’s office, or the address of a family member or friend. Sometimes at the time of purchase, the dealership may have installed a GPS tracking device or a remote control car disabler.  The repo agent may use these devices to track vehicles that have been assigned for repossession.

In Pennsylvania, a repossession agent has to be licensed with the Department of Banking and Securities of the Commonwealth and may be hired by a bank, credit union or finance company to repossess cars, trucks motorcycles, RVs, powersport vehicles, boats or airplanes. If a vehicle is missing, the borrower should make calls to the local police and the lender to confirm it was not stolen.

Wrongful Repossession by the Repo Agent

        • Breach the Peace
        • Enter a closed garage to get your vehicle
        • Damage your car or property during the repossession
        • Threaten arrest or violence
        • Force you to pull over while driving
        • Involve the police to aid in the repossession

If you feel the repo agent handled the repossession improperly, gather documents that illustrate what happened and when, such as a written statement of events; photographs or video of the scent, and witness statements.  Contact an experienced consumer protection law firm to evaluate whether your consumer rights were violated.

Borrower’s Rights

Borrowers have legal rights, whether payments were missed or not – without filing for bankruptcy.  If you believe your vehicle may have been wrongfully repossessed, review the terms of the loan agreement to understand steps that may be taken after default. In addition, gather all correspondence sent from the lender after the repossession.  Consult with an experienced consumer protection attorney to evaluate whether your consumer rights were violated.

Your signed Loan agreement
If the loan agreement has been misplaced or was left inside the
repossessed car, the borrower could obtain a copy either by
contacting the lender or the dealership where the vehicle was
purchased.

Gather the following documents sent by the lender after repossession.

Repossession Notice from the lender
This notice will state terms to retrieve the vehicle. The lender
may demand full payment of the loan, or accept past due payments
plus late fees, and costs associated with repossession and storage.
When the borrower can not meet the payment terms to recover the
vehicle, the lender will sell it, either at an auction or private sale.

Deficiency Notice from the lender
Once a vehicle is sold, the lender must inform the borrower of the
sale by sending a letter known as a Deficiency Letter which details
the balance to satisfy the loan.

Retrieve Personal Property
The borrower has 30 days from the date of the repossession notice to recover personal property.  Afterwards, the repo agent may dispose of the property.  If you believe your vehicle is at the risk of repossession, it may be a good idea to remove all personal items and paperwork from the vehicle.

Seek experienced consumer lawyers firm

Flitter Milz has the expertise in representing borrowers whose vehicles have been wrongfully repossessed by banks, credit unions and financial companies. Contact us today 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).

 

 

 

Auto Repossession and the Pandemic

During COVID, many consumers experienced wrongful repossession of their cars, trucks, motorcycles, RVs or boats — not just by big banks, such as Wells Fargo, Chase, Capital One or Bank of America, but also by credit unions and subprime lenders. While some lenders claimed to have paused repos, the rate of repossessions during the pandemic still seems to be high.  Indeed, as the Fall and Winter of 2021, a lot of COVID pandemic protections states implemented to help consumers reeling with COVID have expired.

After falling behind, many borrowers requested to have payments lowered  or deferred by their lender. Whether suffering from hardships related to unemployment, child care expenses, or missed work due to the pandemic, vehicles were still repossessed.

When do lenders decide to repossess vehicles?

Lenders don’t care why borrowers are late. They want to be paid. Most decisions to repossess are made automatically by lenders’ computer systems, and sometimes as quickly as missing only one payment.  When the system notices a missed payment, repo orders are sent electronically to the repo agent who is assigned to take the car. These same computers will simultaneously send negative late payment and repo notations to the credit bureaus.

Fallen Behind?  Three Steps to consider.

1. Contact your lender
Call the bank, credit union or financial institution and discuss whether  payments can be postponed.  Possibly, the lender may be willing to negotiate the due date or amount.  Be sure to get any changes to payment terms in writing  – whether it’s a big bank like Bank of America or Capital One, a credit union or a sub-prime lender, you must receive confirmation of any changes to the loan from the lender.
2. Consider refinancing the loan
Contact other credible lenders to see whether your loan can be refinanced at terms that you can meet.
3. Seek legal guidance from Flitter Milz, P.C.
The attorneys at Flitter Milz are experienced in representing consumers against banks, credit unions and financial institutions, as individuals and in class action lawsuits, for violation of their rights after repossession.

MOST IMPORTANT — Don’t ignore the debt.  Seek a solution.

Borrowers have rights after repossession

Are you the victim of a wrongful auto repossession?

Wrongful Repossession:  Was my vehicle repossessed in error?
Breach of the Peace:  Did the repo agent use violence or damage my property?
Police Involvement:  Did the police assist in the repossession?
Improper Notices:  Did the lender provide proper notices after the repossession?
Credit Reporting:  Are there errors on my credit report related to repossession?

Repossessions, Credit Reporting & Credit Scores

Credit Reports
Vehicle repossessions carry negative weight on credit reports.  Consumers must check their reports for accuracy and determine whether the lender has listed the payment history, loan status or balance owed in error.  To obtain a current copy of your credit report from Transunion, Experian or Equifax consumers may write to the credit bureau or visit:  annualcreditreport.com.

When errors appear on credit reports, the consumer must send a written dispute to the bureau.  The dispute must be accompanied by supporting documents that illustrate the error.  The credit bureaus have 30 days to respond to the written dispute.

Credit Scores
Auto loans that have fallen into default, and ultimately the vehicle is repossessed, a negative listing will appear on the borrower’s credit report.  The lender’s tradeline may be listed on the reports for 7 1/2 years from the date the last payment was made. This listing will factor in to a lowered credit score and make it difficult for the borrower to secure favorable terms on loans going forward.

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, trucks, 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).

 

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?

What Can I do if my Car was Illegally Repossessed?

Car Repossession

Illegal or wrongful car repossession typically means that your lender or the repo agent didn’t follow the proper procedures for repossession your vehicle.  Learning about the rights and wrongs of vehicle repossessions can help you determine whether your car was illegally repossessed.  Both the repo agent and the lender must follow the rules.  Whether or not you missed payments, borrowers have rights against the lender and repo agent when a car, truck, motorcycle, boat or RV is repossessed.

Continue reading What Can I do if my Car was Illegally Repossessed?

Can the Police Help with My Car Repossession?

Car Being Towed Repossessed

Borrowers facing repossession may contact the police to have an officer on hand when it’s time to surrender their vehicle. As well, the repo agent may request the presence of law enforcement. But can police assist with the car repossession?

Read on to learn more about the role of law enforcement in the process of repossessing a car, truck, motorcycle, RV or boat.

Continue reading Can the Police Help with My Car Repossession?

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:

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

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.

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.