Having a vehicle repossessed is a stressful situation. A lot can happen during the repossession process, and it can move quickly. If you fear that a repo is on the horizon, it’s important to know what your repossession rights are, as well as what the repo man can and can’t do.
3 Things That Can’t Happen during Repossession
It’s true that once your car has been ordered to be repossessed, the lender can seize your vehicle without giving prior notice. The lender can have the recovery company take it wherever and whenever they want. This means they could even repo your car if it’s sitting outside your home or workplace.
However, there are three specific things that the recovery company isn’t legally allowed to do during the repossession process:
- The recovery company can’t hold your personal items – If you left personal items in your vehicle at the time of the repo, the recovery company isn’t allowed to keep them and must give them back. In many states, the lender is required to provide you with a list of any items found in your car. Regardless of if they do or don’t, though, they can’t legally keep anything.
- Any property can’t be damaged – Private property can’t be damaged during the repossession process. Also, if your vehicle is left inside a covered garage, the repo man isn't allowed to break the door down to seize it. This is considered “breaching the peace” and is illegal.
- You can’t be physically or verbally assaulted – It's illegal if you’re threatened or harmed during the repossession process, and you could take action against the recovery company if that happened. The repo man can’t use any force to take your car away.
Your Rights after Car Repossession
Once your vehicle is repossessed, you have the right to try and get it back. To do this, you have three options:
- Reinstate the loan – In order to reinstate your auto loan, you need to bring your loan current by paying what you owe, plus additional fees such as late payments and repo costs. Not every state offers the option to reinstate, so make sure you double check.
- Redemption – Another, more common option is the right to redeem the car. To do this, you need to pay the loan balance in full, plus any additional fees, all at once.
- Buy the vehicle back – If your car is being sold at auction, the lender is required to send you a notice of where and when it's going to take place. You’re allowed to attend and even bid on the vehicle. If you successfully get it back, you’re still responsible for any amount owed that wasn’t covered by the sale.
Lastly, if any of the three options don’t work, and you’re struggling with other bills, you may want to consider filing for bankruptcy. This should be a last resort option, and not taken lightly.
When you file for bankruptcy, it triggers an automatic stay that temporarily prevents a lender from selling the car or coming after you for payments. Keep in mind that a bankruptcy stays on your credit reports for up to seven or 10 years, and could make it harder to get financing in the future.
The Bottom Line
Sometimes, a repossession is something you can’t prevent. However, that doesn’t mean you don’t have any rights. Know what’s allowed, what’s not allowed, and how you could potentially get your vehicle back.
If you lost your car due to repossession and need a new vehicle, Auto Credit Express wants to help. We can point you in the right direction of a local dealership that knows how to handle challenging credit situations like a repo.
Fill out our auto loan request form to get started today. There's no cost or obligation, so you can begin with confidence!