The recent economic downturn has created financial difficulties for many consumers. As a result, the number of vehicle repossessions has increased in recent years. There is also evidence that a higher number of wrongful repossessions are taking place, which presents problems for consumers who may not fully understand their legal rights and consequently may fail to act when their vehicles are wrongfully repossessed. In most cases, lenders cannot repossess your vehicle unless certain conditions are met; these include:
your loan must be in default at the time of the repossession
if late payments have been repeatedly accepted, the lender must give you advance warning in writing of their intent to repossess the vehicle
Also, some actions taken by the repo company may also be illegal. For example, the repossession company can't threaten you or your family with physical harm or use force against you. Repo companies are also forbidden from breaking into your home or locked garage or using a master or duplicate key to gain entry to a locked area. These acts are considered a breach of the peace and usually lead to a wrongful repossession .
If my vehicle was wrongfully repossessed, what should I do?
If you believe the lender or repossession company acted improperly in repossessing your vehicle, it's essential to obtain competent legal advice about your options. An attorney specializing in consumer credit and repossession issues can advise you about your legal rights, including the right to sue the lender or repossession company for damages. You may be able to collect damages that can sometimes exceed the value of the repossessed vehicle and any deficiency balance you owe.
Document every interaction you have with the lender and the repo company. This information will be important in the event you do end up in court. And if an agent of the repossession company or the lender broke into your property illegally, make sure to report this to the police. Even though law enforcement officials will not usually interfere in repossessions, having the complaint on record can help your case in any legal proceedings you decide to pursue. If you or any of your family members have been assaulted or harassed by the repo company, report these actions to the police department as well.