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Car Repossession - What are my Rights when the Repo Man Comes?

CNBC reports that the tough economic times have taken their toll on the Repo Man as well. The creditors who hire the repo men have been trying to cut costs, which has led to a decrease in revenue and jobs in the automobile repossession business. Even though delinquent auto loans are at a record high, creditors are desperate to keep present loans serviceable primarily because the values for repossessed cars (and used cars generally) have fallen, just like real estate prices have during this Great Recession.

While many creditors will extend payment terms for consumers during the economic downturn, consumers should be aware of their rights if their cars are repossessed. As the Federal Trade Commission sets forth, once your vehicle has been repossessed, your creditor may decide to either keep it as compensation for your debt or resell it in a public or private sale. In some states, your creditor must let you know what will happen to the car. For example, if the car will be sold at public auction, state law may require that the creditor tell you the time and place of the sale so that you can attend and participate in the bidding. If the vehicle will be sold privately, you may have a right to know the date of the sale.

In any of these circumstances, you may be entitled to redeem or buy back the vehicle by paying the full amount you owe (usually, that includes your past due payments and the entire remaining debt), in addition to the expenses connected with the repossession, like storage, preparation for sale, and attorney fees. Or you could try to buy back the vehicle by bidding on it at the repossession sale.

Some states have consumer protection laws that allow you to reinstate your loan. This means you can reclaim your car by paying the amount you are behind on your loan, together with your creditors repossession expenses. Of course, if you reclaim your car, your future payments must be made on time, and you must meet the terms of your reinstated contract to avoid another repossession.

Any resale of a repossessed vehicle must be conducted in a commercially reasonable manner. Your creditor doesnt have to get the highest possible price for the vehicle or even a good price. But a resale price that is below fair market value may indicate that the sale was not commercially reasonable. Commercially reasonable may depend on the standard sales practices in your area. A creditors failure to resell your car in a commercially reasonable manner may give you a claim against that creditor for damages or a defense against a deficiency judgment.

Regardless, consumers should be sent a Notice of Sale by the creditor prior to the sale of their repossessed car. Any missing information in a Notice of Sale may allow a consumer the right to obtain substantial damages from the creditor. A consumer fraud attorney can help you understand your rights in connection with your cars repossession.