If you are behind on your payments and concerned that your car may be repossessed, there are some steps to take that can help protect your potential rights after repossession. Start by taking the vehicle purchase agreement out of the car. The finance or purchase agreement is critical in determining whether the vehicle was legally repossessed and how much was owed. If the finance agreement is in the glovebox, it will be gone if the vehicle is towed. It might be possible to get the documents back from the repo yard, but items in repossessed vehicles, including documents, tend to disappear.
The lender or dealer also may not cooperate with your request for a duplicate copy of the finance agreement. If you think your vehicle is in danger of repossession, keep the finance or purchase agreement somewhere safe outside the car.
Don’t leave important items behind
Anything valuable or essential should be removed from the vehicle. Do not leave your expensive work tools, your cell phone or jewelry in the car. The same goes for your child’s car seat if you don’t have a back-up. Sure, the repossession company is supposed to hold personal items to allow you to retrieve them for a short time, but if your belongings are missing, the repo company will say that they were not in the car and it will be very difficult for you to prove otherwise
Put your cellphone to work
Take some pictures with your cell phone of the outside of the car from all angles. Vehicles are often damaged when they are towed, and the lender will claim that the vehicle was damaged before the repo. Those pictures will be your evidence that the damage was caused by the repossession.
Don’t rely on the lender’s recording
Lenders and dealers will agree to accept a late payment and then repossess the car anyway. If the lender or dealer gives an extension on the due date for your payment, document that agreement. Ask the lender or dealer to send an email or text verifying the extension. If they refuse, send an email or text confirming the extension or send a confirming letter to the address where you send your payments.
You could also record the phone call confirming the agreement if you are in a one-party consent state, or if you ask for permission from the customer service agent. Do not rely on getting a recording of the phone call from the lender or dealer. While most customer service lines say that the call may be recorded, that doesn’t mean it actually is recorded. Even if a recording exists, it is unlikely the lender or dealer will voluntarily turn over the recording and getting the recording with a subpoena is time-consuming and expensive.
What to avoid
While there is a temptation to hide the vehicle to avoid repossession, that is rarely helpful. If the lender or dealer has a court order for the repossession, you could face criminal charges for hiding the vehicle.
If you have a dealer-installed GPS tracker on your vehicle, do not remove it. Your purchase agreement probably says that removal of GPS tracker is not permitted under the terms of your financing. One of the ways to fight a repossession is by showing that the loan was not in default. If the loan was not already in default, it will be if you remove the GPS tracker.
There are still legal protections even if the payments were behind when a vehicle was repossessed. If you believe that your rights were violated when your car was repossessed, contact Roseman Law Firm for a free consultation.