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What You Should Know

What are your rights if your car is repossessed?

When your car is being repossessed by a creditor or lender, what are your rights? Most of us purchase a car by securing a loan from a bank or other lender. While there is still an unpaid balance on the loan, the lender holds a property interest in the car. Unfortunately, sometimes the purchaser of the vehicle becomes unable to pay back the loan and the lender wants the car back – and they have a right to do so. Almost every loan agreement will have certain provisions explaining how many payments can be missed, and what notice must be given, before a creditor has the right to repossess the vehicle.

However, there is a specific Florida law, Fla. Stat. § 537.012, which regulates the rights of lenders and borrowers in the event of repossession. Here are some of the rights and restrictions you may not be aware of:

  1. A lender may take possession of your motor vehicle only through an agent licensed by the State of Florida to repossess vehicles. This means that a bank cannot simply have one of its employees go out and take your car if that individual is not a licensed repossession agent with the State of Florida.
  2. Prior to engaging a repossession agent, the lender must afford the borrower an opportunity to make the vehicle available to the lender at a location that is reasonable and convenient for both the lender and the borrower. So before coming to get your car, the lender must give you an opportunity to voluntarily surrender it.
  3. Prior to taking possession of the vehicle, the lender shall afford the borrower a reasonable opportunity to remove from the vehicle any personal belongings without charge or additional cost to the borrower. The lender cannot take your car with all of your possessions inside it. They must give you an opportunity to clear out your belongings.
  4. After taking possession of the vehicle, the lender has the right to sell the vehicle. However, at least 10 days prior to the sale, the lender must notify the borrower of the date, time and place of the sale AND provide the borrower a written accounting of the principal amount due on the loan, interest accrued through the date the lender took possession of the vehicle, and any reasonable expenses incurred to date by the lender in taking possession of, preparing for sale, and selling the vehicle.
  5. Within 30 days after the sale of the motor vehicle, the borrower is entitled to receive all proceeds from the sale of the motor vehicle in excess of the principal amount due on the loan, interest on the loan up to the date the lender took possession, and the reasonable expenses incurred by the lender in taking possession of, preparing for sale, and selling the titled personal property.
  6. A lender may take possession of a vehicle after default without a court order only if the repossession is done without a breach of peace. This means that if you catch a repossession agent attempting to repossess your vehicle and you tell them to get off your property, the agent must leave immediately pursuant to Fla. Stat. § 679.609. If the agent does not leave and takes the vehicle regardless, the agent has performed a wrongful repossession.

Please keep these tips in mind if you find yourself in the unfortunate situation of having your vehicle repossessed. If you or a loved one would like a consultation regarding your rights, please contact the attorneys at Fasig & Brooks.