The hard facts about Repossession.
We all understand that when you borrow money, you need to pay it back. And if you take out an auto loan, whether it’s with a bank, credit union or other financial institution, if payments are late or missed, the lender has the right to repossess the vehicle.
Signing a loan agreement means that you agree to the terms to repay the money borrowed, plus any interest and fees, within a scheduled period of time. Opting to finance a vehicle is an important decision and carries significant responsibility and financial discipline.
Short Term v. Long Term Effects of Repossession
When the borrower defaults on an auto loan there are serious consequences. Immediately, daily life becomes upset without use of the car. Getting to work or handling routine daily chores, such as food shopping, taking children to school, or attending doctor’s appointments, may present difficulties for the household.
But more important is the long-term consequence. Repossessions can remain on credit reports for seven-and-one-half years, beginning from the date that the account first became delinquent. And, as long as the repossession stays on your report, it can seriously damage credit and impact the calculation of credit scores. Also, negative listings on credit reports may make it more difficult to secure new loans, and existing creditors could alter credit terms by lowering credit limits or increasing interest rates.
Factors that can Damage Credit
- Late payments – every month a payment is missed a negative mark appears on the account’s payment history.
- Defaults – Loan defaults carry negative weight. i.e. charge-off or repossession.
- Collections – Collection accounts appear as negative listings on credit reports.
- Court Judgments – Unsuccessful collection attempts, lead to lawsuits against the borrower to obtain a judgment.
Factors Contributing to the Calculation of a Credit Score
- Payment History – Timely payments made to an account
- Credit Utilization – The ratio of available to used credit
- Age of Credit – The length of time an account has been open
- Types of Accounts – A consumer’s credit mix: mortgage, credit cards, loans, etc.
- Application history – The number of credit applications submitted within a specific period
Legal Protections from a Wrongful Repossessions
Whether or not the borrower defaulted on the terms of the auto loan, State and Federal laws govern how lenders and repo agents are to handle repossessions properly– at the scene and afterwards. When the borrower’s consumer rights are violated, a case could be pursued against the lender, repo agent or both. Repo agents may not threaten the borrower or use physical force. In the course of repossession, the borrower’s vehicle or property is not to be damaged. If police are called to the scene, their job is to keep the peace, not assist with the repossession. If personal items have been left in the repossessed vehicle, the repo agent must permit the borrower to retrieve those items.
AFTER the Repossession
Following the repossession the lender has responsibilities to the borrower. They must provide notices that inform the borrower with steps to retrieve the vehicle and their personal property. Once the vehicle is sold, the lender must inform the borrower of the selling price and present a calculation of any remaining balance owed to satisfy the loan.
Manage Auto Loan Payments and Credit Reporting
Monitor Credit Reports for Errors
Over the course of the auto loan, borrowers should monitor their Transunion, Experian and Equifax credit reports for accurate reporting. If incorrect information is listed, such as a late payment history, a dispute letter should be sent to the lender and the credit bureau to request correction on the report.
Send Effective Disputes
Disputes letters must include documents that show the error, such as cancelled checks, account statements, correspondence with the lender, etc. Also, the dispute must clearly state the requested action, an update, correction or removal of the information.
Keep Accurate Payment Records
As important as it is to make payments in full and on time, we can’t always rely on the lender to keep an accurate record of payments. Sometimes mistakes are made. Incorrect payment amounts could be applied to the borrower’s account, or the payment could be applied to someone else’s account. Borrowers that manage and keep accurate payment records have good documents to support disputes made to the lender and/or credit bureau.
Seek advice from a Qualified Repossession Lawyers
Flitter Milz is a nationally recognized consumer protection law firm that represents consumers in matters of wrongful repossessions and credit reporting accuracy and privacy disputes. When errors remain on credit reports after a dispute, Contact Us for a no cost legal review to determine whether your consumer rights have been violated. Pictured: Cary Flitter (center), Andy Milz (left), Jody López-Jacobs (right).