What is wrongful repossession?

When you buy a car or truck on credit, the contract typically gives the lender the right to repossess the vehicle as soon as you default on your loan. The contract will tell you what events lead to a “default” but the most common one is failure to make your monthly payments on time. But the lender has to follow certain steps, otherwise the repossession may be illegal.

2600233823_f9e1561c94First, if your lender has accepted late payments, it cannot repossess the car until the loan is again in default. And the lender has to give you notice, usually in the form of letter, that it will not accept further late payments. In Minnesota, this is called a Cobb letter. If your lender has accepted repeated late payments and then seizes your car without sending you a Cobb letter, it probably has wrongfully repossessed your car.

Second, the repossession agent hired by the lender cannot breach the peace during the repossession. In most states, including Minnesota, the repossession agent has the right to take your car without any notice at any time of day or night. No court order is necessary, as long as the repo agent does not breach the peace. Breach of the peace usually occurs when the repo man has to resort to force or threats of force to take your car. Taking the car out of a locked garage is also usually considered a breach of the peace. Once the repo man breaches the peace, he loses the right to take your car without a court order. If he still seizes the car, he has wrongfully repossessed it.

If your car or truck has been wrongfully repossessed, you have the right the to sue the lender and repo agent for damages. The damages usually include the cash value of your vehicle. And if the repo man physically assaulted you during the repossession, your damages could be much higher. If you live in Minnesota and have had your car wrongfully repossessed, feel free to contact us for a free case evaluation.

(photo: tpauly)