Unlawful Repossessions

A wrongful repossession is when a bank or the repo company fails to follow the law during the repossession, or when they do not have the right to take your vehicle.  

Most repo companies only get paid when they successfully recover your vehicle.  This gives them an incentive to repossess your car even when they know they cannot complete a proper repossession.  As a result, countless lawsuits are filed each year against banks, auto lenders, and the repossession companies that they use.

When repossessing a vehicle, banks and their repo agents cannot “breach the peace”.  In most states, including Florida, Georgia, Tennessee, Kansas, New Mexico, Nebraska, Connecticut, Wisconsin, Kentucky and Indiana, the peace is breached if a repo agent continues to repossess the car after you object to the repossession.  Simply saying “You may not take my car” or “Leave my car alone” is enough in most states to stop the repossession.

Other examples of breach of the peace include:

  • When a repo agent involves the police or law enforcement in the repo;
  • If a repo agent physically assaults or touches you in any way;
  • If a repo agent threatens you, curses at you, or uses fighting words;
  • If the repo agent attempts to lift or tow an occupied vehicle;
  • If the repo agent trespasses on your secured private property, such as a locked yard or closed garage.  In most states, a repo agent may enter an open driveway or open garage in order to repossess your vehicle.  However, they generally must leave your private property the moment you tell them to.

Wrongful repossessions can occur in other instances as well.  In order to repossess your car, banks and their repo agents must have the “present right to possession”.   This means that they must have the right to take your car, at that time.  There are many ways that this requirement gets violated:

  • If a bank or bank or repo company just repossesses the wrong car;
  • If a bank or repo company repossesses your car even though you are not behind on your payments;
  • If the bank does not have a proper lien on your vehicle;
  • If your vehicle is exempt from repossession, such as if you have filed for bankruptcy.

Repossessions are regulated both under state and federal law.  The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act applies to repossession agencies, and allows you to recover statutory damages and actual damages if they illegally repossess your vehicle.  This federal law also allows you to have the repo company potentially pay all of your attorneys fees and costs that is required to bring the lawsuit against them.

Each state has their own specific laws regarding repossessions, usually codified in their version of the Uniform Commercial Code, Chapter 9.  In most states, you can sue the lender or bank when their repo agent illegally repossesses your car and can recover thousands of dollars in statutory penalties, as well as any actual damages that you sustained.

The attorneys at Marcus & Zelman are currently one of the most active and experienced attorneys in the country in bringing wrongful repossession cases.  They are frequently hired by other law firms who need their expertise in handling these kinds of cases.

At present, Marcus & Zelman has litigated cases in the federal courts of every single State in the nation, aside from North Dakota, South Dakota, Hawaii and Alaska.

unlawful repossessions

Frequently Asked Questions

What Is A Repossession?

A repossession is when a bank or lender decides to take back their secured collateral after you default on your loan with them.  In other words, if you take out a loan to purchase your car, you typically provide the bank with a security interest in your vehicle.  If you default on that loan, the bank can decide to take back that vehicle to sell it and recoup their money.

Most types of collateral can be repossessed, including boats, Jetskis, and airplanes, but most commonly, for the everyday person, it is their car being repossessed.

Is A Bank Allowed To Repossess My Car?

If you default on your loan agreement and your bank has the appropriate paperwork, they are generally permitted to have your car repossessed, even without a court order.  

They may choose to repossess your car even if you are only a few days late on your payment.  

However, the banks and their repossession agents must follow strict rules when repossessing your vehicle.  If they do not, they can be sued and you can recover compensation for their wrongful repossession.

What If The Police Get Involved?

Repossessions can often be very tense situations.  They often take place late at night, in your driveway, yard or in front of your home.  Many times, if there is a confrontation or objection at the time of the repossession, the repo agent will call the police to help him complete the repossession.

Repossessions are a civil matter and the police are not permitted to assist or get involved in the repossession.  If they do so, they are breaking the law, and both the repo and the police officers can be held liable if that happens.  That being said, police officers sometimes do not know the law or do not care, and may try to threaten you with arrest or other legal consequences for failing to cooperate with their instructions.

If police are involved in a repossession, you should politely advise that this is a civil matter and that they are not permitted to get involved.  However, you should never put yourself at risk over your vehicle.  If the police officer continues to insist that you allow the repossession or continues to threaten you for failing to cooperate, you should comply with the officer’s instructions.

What Are My Rights During A Repossession?
  • You have the right to object to the repossession;
  • You should record and video as much of the repossession as possible;
  • You have the right to recover your belongings from the vehicle.  However, you do not necessarily have the right to recover your belongings at the time of the repossession itself, and may have to redeem those possessions at the repo yard.
  • In most states, you are not required to pay anything to redeem your personal belongings.
  • You have the right to redeem your vehicle, by paying the necessary amount within the required time period.  Typically this is about fifteen days from the repossession.  You lender must notify you of the amounts needed to redeem your vehicle.
  • You have the right to recover your belongings in the vehicle.
  • You have the right to recover any surplus from the sale of your vehicle.  For example, if your vehicle sells at auction for $10,000, but you only owed $7,500 after all costs and fees are calculated, then you are entitled to the remaining $2,500.
What will it cost me to have Marcus & Zelman evaluate my case?

We offer a NO COST, FREE evaluation of your case to see if there are any errors that we may be able to help you with. If we think you have a case and you decide you move forward, we work on a contingency basis which means we do not get paid unless you get paid. We have over a decade of experience helping consumers assert their consumer rights.

Client Testimony

Imagine calling your mortgage broker and seeking a new mortgage to purchase your retirement home and being told you are currently two months behind on your current mortgage and your credit score has plummeted. Knowing this to be a mistake I called my mortgage company who in short, refused to correct their mistake. My credit was so impacted I couldn't borrow money to do the needed repairs to be completed before moving into our home on the lake. I maxed out ever credit card and depleted our saving to move in. Humiliating! After contacting Marcus & Zelman things began to turn around. The tenacity and unwavering effort they put into my case put me at ease. I felt they would make this wrong - right. Yitzchak and I spoke often and was available immediately to speak to me whenever I called. The firm remained focused on the objective to make me whole again. Today, after receiving my settlement and my credit being restore to an excellent status, my wife and I live comfortably in our new retirement home. We certainly credit this to Marcus & Zelman who I highly recommend to anyone who has been damaged. They are complete professionals who care about the individual.


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