Car owners in Wisconsin have rights even after they have defaulted on their car loans. Lenders who repossess your car in violation of those rights may have to give the car back and may face even greater penalties, including (under some circumstances) having to repay you all the money you’ve ever paid them.
But those penalties don’t help in the short run if the lender took your car, so to avoid them getting your car in the first place, take these easy steps to delay or avoid repossession.
1. Tell them not to take it. Wisconsin prohibits any repossession when there has been a “breach of the peace.” You don’t have to yell or start a fight to cause a breach of the peace; all you have to do is calmly tell the person trying to take your car that you don’t want them to take it. There’s nothing special you have to say; just say something like “I don’t want you to take my car,” or “I object to you taking my car.” At that point, Wisconsin law requires that the person trying to repossess the car must stop; the only exception is if the person taking the vehicle is a sheriff’s deputy armed with a court order. Keep in mind that even if the repo man leaves at that time, he can always come back later, and most will watch the car for at least a little while.
2. Keep your car in a spot where people aren’t free to go. Repo men can’t enter your house, and may not be allowed to get into places like detached garages or other enclosed spaces, provided that the space is locked. Even a fenced-in area might be safe from intrusion. But be careful, because they can come onto your driveway, and can take your vehicle from any public place they find it. If you see someone taking your car from a parking lot or your driveway, you can always tell them not to take it, and they should stop.
3. Require your lender to proceed in court. If you borrowed less than $25,000 to buy your car, the lender must provide you a notice before repossessing the vehicle, and that notice gives you the option of requiring the lender to get a court order. If you require the lender to go to court, the lender cannot take your car before getting a court order, giving you a chance to argue your case in court or work something out with the lender.
And one final tip to avoid repossession? As soon as you fall behind on your loan, regardless of why you fell behind, call one of Lawton Cates’ consumer protection lawyers. We can help make sure your rights are protected, and can often help you avoid repossession without filing bankruptcy.