Repossession law prohibits a repo man from committing a “breach of the peace” during the repossession process. Breaching the peace during an auto loan repossession can include using physical force or threats of force and breaking into locked buildings.
All laws on repossessing cars prohibit breaches of the peace. If one occurs your auto lender or the repo company may be required to pay a penalty or compensate you for any harm done to you or your property during the auto repossession process.
In fact, the repossession company cannot violate any repo laws or other laws during an auto repossession, including during the post repossession procedure. If they do you may be entitled to actual and statutory damages under federal and state law as well as legal representation at no cost.
If you are expecting repossession or have been already repossessed there are things you should know about repossession, including steps to take to mitigate or lessen the consequences of repossession. And except for a voluntary repossession vehicle, a breach of peace while repossessing a vehicle is always a possibility so be prepared.
What if the repo man breaches the peace during the repossession?
You can almost always stop a vehicle repossession peacefully. If you catch a repo man in the act and you want to stop the repossession just unequivocally protest it. Saying something as simple as “you may not take the car” generally suffices under laws for vehicle repos as an “unequivocal protest” and will require the repo man to stop the repo process. If he does’t, he’s likely breached the peace during the repossession.
Video the encounter on your smartphone (or have a family member do so) so that you can prove what happened. If a loud and rowdy confrontation arises, make note of the individuals who witnessed the incident or were affected by it. And you are in fear for your safety you can contact the police. If the police are present at repossession, make sure to get the officer’s name and a copy of any report the officer makes regarding the incident.
If you discover that your vehicle has been repossessed from a locked area of your property, video the scene, focusing on any broken/cut or removed locks or chains, as well as any damage done to the points of entry.
If you believe that a repo man crossed the line in taking your vehicle, or has stolen your personal property from within a vehicle that was repossessed consider contacting a consumer protection attorney.
What happens when the peace is breached during the process of repossessing a car ?
For example, laws for repossessing a car provide the repossession man cannot enter a closed garage to repossess your vehicle (but they can take a car sitting in your driveway). Likewise, an auto repo can’t occur in a gated community or apartment unless they have legal access within the property to start.
Not all repo men are “this nice” when breaking the law. There are repo horror stories out there about repo men really crossing the line.
Repo while the consumer was still in the car
In one case, a consumer caught a repo man in the process of repossessing her vehicle. She protested the repossession, jumped inside the car, and locked the doors. The repo man continued with the repossession, drove the car and the consumer to a repossession yard, and left her there in a padlocked yard patrolled by a Doberman Pinscher guard dog. The consumer was left in the yard until she was later rescued by her husband and the police. MBank El Paso, N.A. v. Sanchez, 836 S.W.2d 151, 152 (Tex. 1992).
Another time a consumer caught a repo man in the process of repossessing her vehicle. She protested the repossession and jumped inside the car along with her daughter. The repo man continued with the repo and drove off with the two women in the back of the vehicle with the doors open. All while the consumer’s family and neighbors screamed and yelled for the repo man to stop. The police finally stopped the repo man and made him return the vehicle to the consumer’s driveway. Smith v. AFS Acceptance, LLC, No. 11 C 5340, 2012 WL 1969415, at *3 (N.D. Ill. June 1, 2012).
Repossessed the wrong vehicle
In yet another matter, a repo man repossessed the wrong vehicle from consumers that were not behind on their loan. At the time the vehicle was taken, one of the consumers had run into her house for just ten seconds, and the repo man quickly took the vehicle. The repo man did not realize he had taken the wrong vehicle or that the consumer’s two children were in the vehicle. The consumer emerged from her home and believed her children to have been kidnapped and she called 911. Sometime later, the repo man discovered that he had taken the wrong vehicle and two children, and returned the vehicle and the children to their mother. Chapa v. Traciers & Assocs., 267 S.W.3d 386, 390 (Tex. App. 2008).
Repo man got physical
Still again, a consumer caught a repo man in the process of repossessing her vehicle and protested the repossession. The repo man grabbed her by the neck, threw her to the ground, and took the vehicle by force. Thereafter, the repo man allegedly set the vehicle on fire and dropped it off his tow truck hoist just before police arrived. Kouba v. E. Joliet Bank, 135 Ill. App. 3d 264, 265, 481 N.E.2d 325, 327 (1985).
These are just a few examples of some of things repo men have been found to do. If you are expecting repossession there are things you should know and steps you can take. And if you’ve already been repossessed and have your own horror story, contact us to see if you can void repo charges or if you’re eligible to receive a cash award.
And even if the peace wasn’t breached, a technical violation of your repossession law rights under the Truth In Lending Act, the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, the Fair Credit Reporting Act, the Telephone Consumer Protection Act, the Uniform Commercial Code and/or other federal and state fair debt collection laws may have occurred. If so experienced consumer protection attorneys may be able to provide you inexpensive or even no cost representation to help save your vehicle or get it back or recover you a cash award.