What are my rights after a California auto repossession?
In most cases, you have the right to get your car back by paying your past due payments. You also have the right to get back your personal possessions in the vehicle. Take a look at our repossession law page for much more detailed information, and the typical ways lenders and repossession agencies violate the law, such as breach of the peace.
Can a California repossession agency charge me storage fees for the personal possessions in my vehicle?
Yes, but only if the repossession agency sends you a “Notice of Seizure” within 48 hours of the repo, which details the storage charges. In addition, you are not required to sign any release of your legal rights in order to get your stuff back. There is no specific regulation on the amount of the storage fee.
Can they repossess my vehicle for a late payment, when I’ve been paying late every month?
This is an individualized determination, depending on your particular case. The contracts usually provide that the lender doesn’t waive its rights by accepting late payments. However, there is a body of law holding that a repossession can be illegal if the lender has repeatedly held off on repossession after receiving late payments.
What is a “breach of the peace?”
Here are some typical breaches of the peace: (1) entering a secured area (gated, fenced, or guarded) without the owner’s permission; (2) entering an underground parking garage by tricking the code or following a car in; (3) breaking any lock, door, or gate; (4) taking the car after an oral objection by the consumer, made before the car is hooked up; (5) damaging the vehicle during repossession; (6) blocking or lifting the vehicle while someone was in it; (6) any violence, pushing, or touching of the consumer; (7) making a public disturbance such as shouting, honking horns, or contacting neighbors; (8) moving other cars that were blocking the towed vehicle.
DEBT COLLECTION HARASSMENT
See our Debt Collection Harassment page for a list of common violations by debt collectors and creditors.
They are suddenly taking my wages and bank accounts, but I never got notice of their lawsuit. What are my rights?
You have the right to set aside the judgment against you if you were not properly served back when they filed the case. They have to personally hand the summons to you, or to a member of the household at your correct address, or the judgment is void. The first step is to go to the courthouse where the case is pending and get a complete copy of the file. Then give us a call to analyze whether you can set aside the judgment and stop the garnishment.
I get calls about an alleged payday loan from people who don’t identify themselves, threatening they will show up at my house or work with a lawsuit if I don’t pay.
This is probably not a legitimate debt collection agency at work, but a gang of criminals. Ask them for their company name and look them up on the internet to see if they really exist. If not, you know they are just criminals. It’s hard to sue criminals for fair debt collection law violations. The best remedy we can offer is to tell them they are being recorded every time they call, and that you will provide the police with their telephone number and the recordings. If that doesn’t work, give them a piece of your mind every time they call. They want passive victims, not people who get in their face. Whatever you do, don’t pay!
I am being contacted by debt collectors on an old debt from more than four years ago. Should I pay to get rid of them?
No. Especially if the last payment you made on the debt was more than four years ago, you should not pay because the payment could reset the statute of limitations.
Send a “cease all contact with me” letter by certified mail. Keep it simple and don’t use internet forms. After that they can neither sue nor contact you again.
I requested validation of the debt under the FDCPA, and the debt collector either ignored me or sent me irrelevant information.
There is a lot of just plain wrong information on the internet about FDCPA “debt validation.” Truth be told, it is not that important, because a debt collector only has to “validate” a debt if the consumer requests validation in writing within 30 days of the first letter received from the debt collection agency. The vast majority of consumers request validation after the 30 day deadline, and so the debt collector has no obligation to do anything. Moreover, the validation itself can be very conclusory and still satisfy the law. A better strategy is to send a simple “cease contact” letter to the debt collector, by certified mail, in your own words. This triggers the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act’s prohibition on ever contacting you again. Don’t use an internet form, and sorry, please just forget about “validation,” which is not an effective tool.
I bought a car, I am current on my payments, and the dealer is harassing me to sign a new contract. What do I do?
The dealer is doing this because they were unable to find a lender for your contract. That is not your problem, it is the dealer’s. If the dealer notified you within ten days of signing the contract that it wanted to cancel the transaction, then they are within their rights, and you should give the car back and get your down payment/trade-in back. But if the dealer waited more than ten days to notify you that they were canceling, you have the right to keep the car and make payments to the dealer (not any lender who may have been discussed). The dealer has no right to repossess your vehicle or harass you with phone calls, so give us a call if they do.
I bought a car, and I just discovered it was in an accident that I never knew about. What do I do?
First, go to autocheck.com (not carfax.com) and get a report on the vehicle history. Second, take your car to a body shop and have them evaluate the extent of the damage. In particular, you want to know about frame damage. If at the time of sale the dealer told you there were no prior accidents, or showed you a clean Carfax report, and it turns out there were accidents, that is fraud and you should give us a call for a consultation.
I got a bankruptcy discharge but my old creditors are still reporting that I owe a balance on my credit reports.
This is illegal under the Fair Credit Reporting Act and the California Credit Reporting Agencies Act. Once a debt is discharged in bankruptcy, the creditor must report a “zero” balance, and that the debt was discharged. Write a letter to the credit reporting agencies (copied to the creditor by certified mail) and dispute the affected accounts, with a copy of the formal notice of discharge (get that from your bankruptcy lawyer). If that doesn’t cure the problem, please give us a call.
I am a victim of identity theft and my credit is being ruined. How can I get the creditors to cooperate in taking the phony accounts off my credit reports?
The first step is to fill out an FTC Fraud Affidavit, from the Federal Trade Commission website. Send it to the creditor by certified mail with a cover letter explaining that you are a victim of identity theft, and that they should stop reporting anything about the account on your credit reports. Keep it simple, in your own words, and don’t use forms you found on the internet. Include a copy of your police report, if you filed one. If that doesn’t resolve the situation, please give us a call. We have handled many identity theft cases and are experts in this area.
I am trying to clean up my credit after some hard times. How do I do that?
First of all, stay away from “Credit Repair” companies. They are fraudulent scammers, one and all, and if they do anything (unlikely), they will probably only make matters worse. It is a bitter truth that there is nothing you can do about accurate debt reporting, if fewer than seven years have passed since the first delinquency. After seven years however, most derogatory items have to drop off your reports, under the Fair Credit Reporting Act. If you have derogatory credit reporting that is more than seven years old, or reporting that is inaccurate in some way, please give us a call for a consultation.
I have an auto loan deficiency balance reporting on my credit reports, and it’s killing my credit score! How do I get it off?
In this case, you need a lawyer to look at the “Notice of Plan to Sell Property” or “Notice of Intent To Sell Motor Vehicle” that the lender sent to you after it repossessed the vehicle. If that notice was defective under the Rees-Levering Automobile Sales Finance Act, you don’t owe any debt and can get the deficiency balance wiped off your credit report. Please give us a call for a free consultation, once you find a copy of your notice. We are nationally known legal experts in this area, and have wiped out billions of dollars in deficiency balances on behalf of California consumers.