The Trueblood Law Firm, headquartered in Los Angeles, California, are consumer attorneys who specialize in car repossessions, reinstatement after auto repossession, and violent repossessions. Over the last 15 years, Mr. Trueblood has been a leader in bringing a series of class actions against lenders in Los Angeles, and throughout California, which successfully challenged the post-repossession notices of virtually every bank in California, and have resulted in hundreds of millions in debt waivers and restitution payments to consumers. An overview of California repossession law is presented below.
What kind of written notices should I have received?
There is no requirement of advance notice of a repossession. However, after the repossession, you are entitled to two separate written notices, one from the repossession agency, and one from the lender.
First, the repossession agency must send you a notice within 48 hours telling you they seized your vehicle, and listing all personal possessions that were in the car. If the notice is not sent, you can sue the repossession agency for the amounts they charged for the repossession and the charges they imposed for returning your personal items in the car.
Second, the lender must send you a separate notice, stating exactly how to reinstate your contract and get your car back. The lender has 60 days to send this notice, but typically they issue it in the first week after the repossession.
Why is the lender’s post-repossession notice important?
Because many lenders fail to comply with the strict disclosure requirements of California law. If the written notice is defective, the legal result is that you owe the bank nothing after they sell your vehicle at auction. In other words, a defective notice means you don’t owe any deficiency balance and should not have the item on your credit reports! We specialize in this area and will give you a free analysis of your lender’s notice.
Can the repossessor trespass into my underground garage or secured area?
No. They cannot break into a garage, or trick the code on your gate, or follow another vehicle into the garage. If they did, they are liable for wrongful repossession.
Can the repossessor use force or touch me?
No. The repossession agent cannot breach the peace when taking your vehicle. They cannot use violence or touch or push anyone.
Can the repossessor use profanity?
No. The repossessor is liable for any use of obscene language under the Rosenthal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act.
Can the repossessor make me turn over the car key in order to get my personal belongings out?
No. You are entitled to your personal belongings without having to hand over the key. If the repossessor tells you that, they have violated the Rosenthal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act.
Do I have a right to get back my personal stuff in the vehicle?
Yes. You must make an appointment with the repossession agent to get your belongings back within 60 days. Only if they sent you the proper 48 hour notice, can they charge you for the storage of personal items. Obviously, the repossessor cannot steal any of your personal belongings. They should all be on the inventory.
Can the repossessor make me sign something to get back my personal belongings in the car?
No. It is illegal to make a consumer waive their rights, in order to get back their personal belongings. Many repossession agencies make the consumer sign waivers, and this is illegal. Our advice is to sign the illegal waiver under protest, get your possessions back, and then call us for a consultation.
Can I get my car back from the lender after a repossession?
You are entitled to “reinstate” the contract by paying the past due monthly payments plus any repossession and storage costs. After paying these amounts, you can get your car back and continue your payments as usual. If the lender tells you that you have no right to reinstate and must pay the full loan balance, or that you need to submit references or proof of income, call a lawyer! We give free consultations on these matters.
How do I go about reinstating?
The creditor must send you a post-repossession notice shortly after the repossession, which itemizes the amounts due, where to pay, and where to get your vehicle back. You should wait until you get this notice to reinstate. Many times, the lender’s collection department will tell you (falsely) over the phone that you have no right to reinstate, but then send you a written notice granting you the right to reinstate. In this case, call us for some guidance, at no charge.
Can I reinstate if I leased?
If you leased, you are not entitled to reinstate, but you are entitled to “redeem,” which means pay off the entire loan balance and get title to the vehicle. If you cannot redeem, you should request a professional appraisal of your vehicle, to occur at least three days before the scheduled sale date. If the lender does not let you do the appraisal, please give us a call.
What will I owe if I do not reinstate or redeem?
If you cannot afford to reinstate or redeem, or you leased, the vehicle will be sold at auction, generally fifteen days after issuance of the written notice of the sale. The creditor will apply the proceeds of the sale to your loan balance, and you will owe the rest, which is called a “deficiency balance.” Many people are shocked that they owe so much after the auction sale, because they do not realize that the auction prices are wholesale prices. But, you will owe nothing after the sale if the lender’s post-repossession notice was defective, which they often are. It is therefore important to have a lawyer who specializes in this area to look at the post-repossession notice. Our firm will do so at no charge to you.
I am being sued on a deficiency balance. What should I do?
If you have already been sued after repossession, do not ignore the lawsuit! Seek out a consumer attorney immediately, well before the 30-day deadline to answer the complaint passes, or you might lose your legal rights. The deadline is not the first scheduled court hearing. The deadline is 30 days after you receive the summons and complaint, to file a response with the court. Don’t assume you have no defenses, because many lenders have sent out a defective post-repossession notice and can’t collect any money from you. Give us a call to determine if your post-repossession notice was defective, or if you have other defenses.