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Know Your Rights: Illegal Repossession Practices

There’s no doubt that many Americans love their cars. For many people, their vehicle is more than just a tool to get from one place to another- it’s also a member of the family.

When you buy a car with an auto loan or when you lease a car, it can be easy to forget that you don’t fully own it. And what happens if you fall behind for some reason on paying off your car loan? The dreaded repo man or woman comes for a visit and you suddenly have no transportation to get you to work, take your kids to school, or get you to the hospital in case of an emergency.

A repossession is a relief tactic used by creditors to take back property which has been used as collateral for a loan or in which they have an ownership stake. Simply put, in the case of your vehicle, if you don’t stay current on your auto payments, you could lose possession of your car.

When a lender has the right of ownership over a car, they don’t even need to get a court order to repossess it; they can simply send a repo service to seize a vehicle. However, auto repossession practices are strictly regulated and, furthermore, often conducted illegally.

It’s important that you know your rights with regard to automobile repossession so that you can protect yourself against a creditor or repo agent taking illicit actions. Below we’ve outlined some illegal practices to watch for. Remember, if you believe you’ve been the victim of wrongful repossession, please contact Bell Law to discuss your options and rights in this regard.

No Default or Right to Cure Letter Sent

If you fall behind on your payments and your creditor is contemplating repossession, they’re required to send you a notice of default and inform you of your “right to cure” the debt. This means you have the right to pay back what you owe to avoid any adverse action being taken against you. You should be given at least 20 days to do so. The creditor doesn’t have to give you notice before actually repossessing the car, but they do have to inform you that you’re in danger of repossession and what you can do to prevent it.

Breach of Peace

Repo agents are required to repossess your car without breaching the peace. This means that agents aren’t allowed to use threats or physical force to repossess a car. The law states that repo agents mustn’t employ verbal intimidation or physical violence in the course of repossessing a vehicle. If they breach the peace, they’re violating the law.


Repossession agents cannot under law break into private property to repossess a car. They’re not allowed to break locks or windows, enter a fenced area, or open a closed garage door in order to repossess a vehicle.

Failure to Supply Repossession Notice

After your vehicle is repossessed, the creditor is required to furnish you with a repossession notice to alert you as to what happened to your car, and to let you know they intend to sell it. It’s illegal if they don’t give you adequate notice before disposing of the vehicle.

If you’ve been the victim of wrongful or illegal repossession practices, you have rights. Just because you’re overdue on debt payments doesn’t mean your creditor gets to act however they please. Call Bell Law and learn more about the rights and options available to you if you’ve been threatened with or subjected to automobile repossession.

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