Car repossessed by mistake

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

Last spring, The Chicago Tribune published a story on “The Surprising Return of the Repo Man.”

The story chronicled an unexpected boom in the repo industry fueled by “souring” subprime auto loans.

“So much of America is just a heartbeat away from a repossession – even good people, decent people who aren’t deadbeats,” Florida repo agent Patrick Altes told the Post.

In fact, some people who have their cars repossessed don’t deserve it at all. It’s not just that they’re good, decent people. It’s that the repo company was in the wrong.

Can I get my car back after repossession?

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:

  1. Before they repossess your car, the repo company needs to notify your local police. If you wake up to a missing car, call the police and your lender to confirm whether the car was stolen, or simply repossessed.
  2. Repo agents are not allowed to “breach the peace” while doing their job. This means they can’t threaten you or use physical force. Nor can they access locked/fenced-in areas of your property without permission. Finally, repo agents must leave your property when asked.
  3. Repo agents cannot damage your property. If you see this happen, document it and get statements from witnesses.
  4. After your vehicle has been repossessed, you might be asking “Can I get my car back after repossession?” Your lender is required to send you a notice that outlines what you need to do to recover your car. This is what’s known as a “Notice of Intent to Sell Property.”

Did the police obey the law?

It’s not uncommon for the police to become involved during a car repossession. Sometimes the repo agent will ask the police to be there to defuse a potentially volatile situation. Other times the consumer might call the police on the repossession company.

However, there are limits to what the police can do. They aren’t allowed to assist the repo agent by ordering you to hand over your keys or threatening to arrest you.

If the police do any of these things, they may have gone from keeping the peace to breaching the peace and violating your rights. You may be able to bring a suit against the police, along with the repo agency and your lender.

What should I do while my car is being repossessed?

During the repossession, make a record of everything that’s happening. This includes:

  • Date and time of the repossession
  • The name of the car repossession company and agent and the license number of their tow truck
  • The name and badge number of the responding police officers
  • A copy of the police report
  • Names and contact info for witnesses
  • Photos of any property damage and video of the entire event

Make sure you remove your personal property from your car, as well as any documents relating to the sale of the vehicle, including your retail installment sales contract, buyer’s agreement, and registration and insurance information.

Again, your lender is required to send you the notice of intent to sell your car after the repossession to allow you enough time to recover your vehicle before it is auctioned off or sold to a private buyer.

Your car has been taken, and now you’re wondering “Can I get my car back after repossession?” Let the attorneys at Flitter Milz help you figure out where to go from here.

If your lender or the repo agency mishandled your case, our consumer protection attorneys are ready to fight for you. Contact us today so we can review your case. You’ve tried to play by the rules with your car payments. There’s no reason your lender shouldn’t do the same.