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Rounds & Sutter LLP Rounds and Sutter
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Ventura Repossession Defense Attorney

Hundreds, if not thousands, of vehicles, are repossessed by creditors across the State of California every day.  When a lender comes to repossess your car, boat, or other property, what are your options?  What are the legal limitations imposed on lenders?  How can you prevent repossession?  What are your options if they violate your rights?

If you are struggling with debt and facing repossession, or if your car or other property has already been repossessed, the debt relief and repossession attorneys at Rounds & Sutter are here to help.  We will work with you to explore your options for protecting your property, protecting your rights, and finding the right means of debt relief to get you back on the road towards financial freedom.

When Can a Lender Repossess My Car or Other Property?

Creditors generally have the right to repossess property that you buy with a purchase money loan.  The most common form of a purchase money loan is an auto loan, although the same rules apply to any property that is used as collateral on a loan.  If your monthly loan payments become past due, your lender has the right to repossess your car or other property.  They may repossess your car as soon as your loan is past due, even if only one day late, provided they conduct the repossession peacefully and otherwise legally.  Your auto loan contract may include a grace period for overdue payments, so it is important to read your loan documents carefully if you are behind on payments.

Unfortunately, although creditors could seek a court judgment against you for the overdue amounts or for repossession, they are not legally required to do so.  The lender can effect repossession themselves, or they can hire a repossession agency.

You can avoid repossession by reinstating or refinancing your loan, selling or surrendering your vehicle, or by contacting your lender for other options.  You may be able to delay or prevent repossession by declaring bankruptcy, if available and advisable.

Repossession Notice

Creditors must go through an appropriate process to seek repossession of an automobile or other secured asset.  Unfortunately, there is no requirement for advance notice of repossession.  However, after the repossession, both the lender and the repossession agency are required to send you a notice.

The repossession agency must send you a notice within 48 hours of repossession informing you that they have seized your vehicle, and they must include a list of all personal possessions in the car.  If they fail to send you proper notice, you can sue the repossession agency for the amounts they charged for the repossession and for any charges they imposed for returning your personal items that were in the car.

Additionally, the lender must send you a notice of the repossession within 60 days.  Typically, they will send a notice within a week.  The notice will instruct you as to how you can reinstate your contract and get your car back.

It is important to pay attention to whether the lender and repossession agency gave you adequate notice of the repossession.  If they fail to give you proper notice, then they lose out on their ability to pursue you for any additional amounts you would owe after they sell your car.  If the amount you owe is more than the proceeds of the sale, you may still owe those amounts, depending on the nature of the loan.  If their notice is defective, then after the sale, you would owe nothing.

Recovering Your Vehicle After Repossession

Repossession does not have to be the end of the matter.  You are entitled to reinstate your contract by paying your past due monthly payments within a reasonable amount of time.  Your lender must give you the option to reinstate your contract by making your payments current.  If your lender tells you that you have no option for reinstatement, demands the full amount outstanding on your loan, or places other undue restrictions such as requiring a cosigner or references, speak with a repossession attorney immediately to protect your rights.

Improper Repossession Conduct

Lenders are permitted to repossess your car or other property from any publicly accessible place, including your driveway.  Repossession agencies are often, however, not the most scrupulous businesses.  While there are appropriate and legal forms of repossession, there are also many tactics that repossession agencies are not permitted to undertake.  Many harassing debt collection actions are prohibited by the Rosenthal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act.  Despite these restrictions, many collection agents go around the law in order to effect a repossession.

If your rights were violated or if collection agents otherwise run afoul of the law, you might be able to file claims against the repossession agency or even the lender.  You may be able to recover your property, or the value of your property, and even pursue additional statutory damages.

Repossession agents may not do any of the following when effecting a repossession:

  • Trespass into an underground garage or other secured area
  • Use any amount of force, or touch you or your family members physically
  • Use profanity or threats
  • Force you to turn over your keys

If a repossession agent engages in any of these behaviors, or if you have reason to believe you were otherwise mistreated by a repossession agent, call a repossession attorney to discuss your case and consider your options for relief.

Save Your Car.  Protect Your Future.  Call Rounds & Sutter to Explore Your Options

You may have a variety of options to prevent repossession, including lien stripping, bankruptcy, and other legal procedures.  If you are behind on your car payments or other secured debts, or if you are facing mounting pressure from various financial obligations, contact Rounds & Sutter for a free consultation.  We will take the time to listen to your situation and help you decide the best course of action to protect your finances, your family, and your home.

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