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Car Repossession

You can fight back against unlawful vehicle repossession.

Flitter Milz has the experience and expertise in this very specialized area of auto finance law that few firms can offer.  Our lawyers "write the book" on vehicle repossession practices, teach repossession law at area law schools and have recovered tens of millions of dollars for borrowers.

Contact us for a no-cost consultation about your repossession. And if we accept your case, we charge you no fees out-of-pocket.

State and federal laws determine how banks and lenders handle repossessions, the notices they are required to provide to borrowers and how the lender handles sales of a seized vehicle.  These laws protect the borrower, whether you were behind on payments or not.

What Should I Do If My Car is Going to Be Repossessed?

If you think your vehicle is about to be repossessed, take these steps:

  1. Remove all personal belongings and purchase/loan documents from the vehicle.
  2. Make a record of the vehicle: note the mileage on your odometer and take photos of the interior and exterior of the vehicle.
  3. Ask your lender to provide you with a written loan payment history and a payoff figure.
  4. Don’t try to hide your vehicle to avoid repossession.

My Car Was Repossessed. Now What?

The first thing to do is to make sure your car was in fact repossessed – and not stolen – by calling your lender or local police.

Find out which repossession towing company contacted the police and how you can contact the repo outfit.  From there, make sure you have these documents:

  • Your retail installment sales contract or auto loan agreement
  • Any "buyers order" or similar agreement to purchase from the dealer.
  • Notice of Intent to Sell Property or Repossession Notice sent from the lender after repossession.
  • The Deficiency Notice sent from the lender after sale of your vehicle
  • Your loan payment history
  • Any post-auction documents you've received.

Never sign a waiver or release agreement to get your vehicle back. Signing a waiver could give up your legal claim of wrongful actions by the lender or repo agent. 

What Rights Do I Have After a Repossession?

No matter the circumstances that led to your vehicle being repossessed, the lender must still adhere to the rules. These rules govern how and when they can repossess a car, what type of notices they need to give and how they can auction off or sell your vehicle.

If they’ve ignored any of these rules, you might be able to take legal action against the lender or repossession company, even if you had fallen behind on your payments.

How Do I Know If the Repo Agent Broke the Rules?

Repo agents do not have free rein when it comes to taking possession of your car, truck, motorcycle, etc. They can’t use physical force, threaten to use force, or enter your property with your permission.

This means they can’t enter your home without your invitation or accessed a locked garage or fence unless you give them the OK.

If you believe that a repo agent broke these rules or the repossession was improperly carried out, take these steps to document the process and contact us for further information:

  • Prepare a written statement explaining how the repossession unfolded: time, date, name of the repo company and agent, and description of events.
  • Photograph the repo agent’s truck, including company name, contact information and license plate.
  • Photograph the interior and exterior of your vehicle.
  • Record the current mileage on your vehicle by photographing the odometer.
  • Document any damaged property, such as lawns, gates, garage doors, other vehicles.
  • File a police report detailing the incident. Get the names of the officers who responded to the scene.
  • Gather witness statements with names and contact information.

Police Involvement in Vehicle Repossessions

Keeping the Peace

The police may be contacted by the repo agent or the consumer during a vehicle repossession. When law enforcement comes to the scene, they are to help in keeping the peace.  If a situation were to become volatile, the police are to assist in diffusing the confrontation. The police are there to protect everyone from harm.

Breaching the Peace

The police are not to assist the repo agent in the repossession of your car.  They are not to threaten you with arrest or command that you turn over the keys or your vehicle to the repo agent.  Once the police become involved in the repossession, they have crossed the line from keeping the peace to breaching the peace, which may be a violation of your constitutional rights.

The U.S. Constitution is very clear.  Police cannot take sides in a civil dispute between private parties. In a recent federal lawsuit against a Pennsylvania State Police trooper, the jury awarded $500,000 in punitive damages to our client for violation of her civil  rights when the officer assisted a local repo man in the repossession. To learn more, click the Court's decision below:

Angela Hyman v. Bryan Devlin  U.S.D.C. W.D.Pa. No. 3:17-cv-00089 (KRG)

How Can I Get My Car Back?

A bank, credit union or finance company can repossess a vehicle if there’s a default – late payments or partial payments – a lapse in car insurance coverage or following the death of the borrower.

The loan agreement you receive after buying your car explains the rights you have during repossession. This document is known as a Retail Installment Sales Contract, which says whether you need to pay off the entire balance of your loan to recover your car, or simply pay your past due payments.  In New York, for example, you are usually permitted to get your car back just by making the past due payments and any repo expense.

The lender may also require you pay the cost of towing and storing your vehicle in addition to satisfying your loan payments.

After the repossession, you are entitled to a notice that explains what you need to do to retrieve your car. This document is often called a Notice of Intent to Sell Property. You should get it with enough time to get your car back before it is sold. The notice will often be sent to you by regular or certified mail.

And if any of the laws governing repossession were broken, you may be able to take legal action against the lender or repo company -- at no cost to you.

If you think your lender may have mishandled your repossession or violated your rights as a borrower, turn to the law firm of Flitter Milz. We are a consumer protection law firm that has helped people like you fight wrongful repossession by problem lenders. We can review your case and determine whether the finance company and repossessor acted lawfully and if you can take legal action.

If your car, truck, RV, boat or motorcycle was repossessed, contact us today  or call, 888-668-1225 for a free evaluation.

Learn more about Car Repossession