If someone fails to make timely car payments, they may face repossession. The company ordering a repossession does not need a court order to do this. But they have to do it legally. State by state the rules vary. Definitions of auto loan contracts usually say the financing company has the right to take their car back, auctioning it off to help settle the debt, leaving the consumer with no transportation. This action is on the rise. Recent statistics estimate over 2 million consumers annually will undergo an auto repossession.
But could some be wrongful repossessions?… Certainly.
Potential Illegal Vehicle Repossession
One mistake made is called a breach of the peace. Even though a failure to make payments can trigger a repossession, the company must still obey the law. Generally, a “Breach of Peace” prohibits them from engaging in conduct likely to cause a disturbance or violence. Some common tactics agents of repossession use are described as follows:
- Starting an auto repossession if the consumer objects. Anything stated that indicate the objection is all that is needed. That means the repo man legally must stop. They may restart the process at a different time. The agent has no protection from the law if he continues the repo.
- Breaking into a locked garage or secured yard. They can cross over into criminal trespassing if this happens. Yes, in some cases, they may face prosecution if they slip up and decide to gain entry in these ways without your permission. Damaging property to take the vehicle — such as doors, fences, or locks is illegal.
- Traffic laws make it illegal to have a passenger in towed vehicles. In most instances, this practice violates more than the motor vehicle law. Hooking up to an occupied vehicle can be charged as battery and moving that vehicle may be considered kidnapping.
- Verbal threats of force or methods to incite fear of consequences. If an agent finds it difficult to retrieve the vehicle, they may resort to threatening the owner with fear tactics or even lose control and escalate to physical or other forms of violence. If heightened tempers cause the possibility to breach of peace, the agent must stop the actions of repossession.
- Repo without legal warning. Many states require “The right to cure” which gives a buyer a grace period to catch up on payments before starting a repossession. Some states require dealers to send a written notice to a buyer whose loan is in default, detailing the right to cure, explaining how it works.
Obviously, in most attempts of vehicle repossession, a company will attempt to take a vehicle when no one is present, and without warning — while the consumer is asleep, at work, or busy away from the property. Out of frustration, occasionally the repossession agent does not want to wait for the consumer to leave the vehicle unattended or cannot access the car without help from the consumer. In such a situation, they may try to have the owner give them access to the vehicle or give them the keys so that they can drive the vehicle away rather than tow it. If there isn’t an agreement, arguments can also lead to a breach of the peace.
Proper communication with police is necessary to ensure the police do not mistake a repo agent for a car thief, resulting in a dangerous encounter between both parties, enabling a misinformed arrest or even accidental shooting. While notifying the police can prevent mistakes, police involvement or aid to a repossession is not legal. Police are to protect the citizens and keep the peace. But it is not their responsibility to help a repossession. No matter what a company’s agent or law officer believe to be proper judgement, there is no place for the police to assist in opening doors or granting access to a repo man. It is illegal.
State by state the rules vary. But the laws are in your favor in many cases, and a repo man can’t fight you verbally or physically. A peaceful repossession is not easy to accomplish. In many states, you need only refuse and they have to change course. Take the power back into your hands. Let us help find out if you have a case.
Protect Your Rights from Illegal Vehicle Repo
If a repo on your vehicle was done by any of these methods, your rights may have been violated. We will help you understand your rights and determine if you have a case for wrongful repossession.
Fill out the form on our contact page or call the offices of Sue the Collector at 877-BAD-REPO to schedule a FREE consultation on your case.