Cars have become a necessary part of life for most Americans. You can’t meet the demands of daily life without transportation. So, if you have defaulted on your car loan, you are probably wondering if you can hide a car to avoid repossession. Although it may buy you some time, there are also long-term consequences for getting caught. Rather than facing harsher penalties down the line, here are a few things you should know to help prevent you from legal action and expensive repercussions.
When Can Repossession Occur?
Lenders and creditors can repossess a vehicle when you default on the loan. However, when you enter default status depends on the terms of your loan. For some, it is immediate. Others may go into effect 30 days past due. While most companies do not take immediate action, it is more likely to happen if you avoid them.
You may be able to delay repossession to avoid defaulting on your loan. If you can work out a payment plan or make arrangements that show your intent to pay, you can also improve your chances to hold onto the vehicle. Believe it or not, most lenders prefer to work with you to avoid the hassle, cost, and paperwork it takes to repossess a vehicle. Reviewing your contract will give you a better idea of your legal stance and general rights during repossession.
Know the Laws of Car Repossession
It usually takes time to reach such extreme measures. However, if you miss too many payments or dodge their attempts to contact you, they may take action. And, lenders are well within their rights to seize the vehicle since it is often used as collateral to secure the loan. This means that the creditor doesn’t require judgment, or even notice in some states, to repossess the vehicle. Until you make the final payment, they retain certain rights to the car.
When the lender can’t reach you and believe you no longer intend to pay the loan, they have every right to hire someone to repo the vehicle. However, they cannot enter your property to recover the car since it is a breach of the peace. This means they cannot break locks and chains, use physical force, cause property damage, or make threats. Many people use this law to hide a car to avoid repossession. They may keep their vehicles locked in garages or behind closed gates where repo men can’t access them.
But, be warned that it’s a crime in many states to intentionally hide the vehicle to defraud the bank. And, if they are unable to get the car, they can file against you for collection. The laws vary between states, but if you refuse to comply they can bring officers to enforce the court’s order.
Know Your Rights During a Car Repossession
Even though they have a right to the vehicle, they also have to respect you and any property that they don’t have a claim to. For example, repo men can’t use physical force to enter. If there has been any harm to your or your property, they will have to pay compensation.
After the car has been repossessed, there are also a few more legal obligations. The creditor must notify you when the car goes to auction or a private sale has been arranged if you wish to attempt to reclaim the vehicle.
For those who live in a state with consumer protection laws, you might be able to “reinstate your loan” to get your car back. When these laws are in place, you can reclaim the vehicle once you catch up on loan payments and the repossession expenses paid by the creditor.
However, if you are facing dire financial circumstances, declaring bankruptcy would also protect you from seizure. Bankruptcy protects debtors and their assets with an automatic stay. It would also buy you time during the proceedings to determine if you have to repay the loan or can keep it as a necessity for work. Before taking such drastic actions though, consult with a bankruptcy attorney or financial advisor to determine if this is the best option.
What Happens If You Hide Your Car to Avoid Repossession?
When you try to play hide and seek with the repo men, it will cost you even more money. Repo companies charge the creditors higher fees since it takes more time to repossess the vehicle. Meanwhile, you would be responsible for those charges and the storage fees until it is sold.
It is still a crime to hide your car to avoid repossession in many states. And, it could lead to more legal action against you. Hiding the car is not a long-term solution. It may buy you time, but will ultimately hurt you more in the long run. No matter how long you delay, the lender can file a replevin which requires that you allow the repo men to collect the vehicle. If you interfere or resist, it is a violation of the court order and could lead to civil and criminal charges.
How Can You Avoid a Car Repossession?
The best way to avoid repossession is to be proactive. Contact the creditor or lender to discuss your situation. They may allow you to skip a payment, agree to a repayment plan, or offer deferment programs. As previously mentioned, they prefer to work with you because they will get the money faster. And, they don’t need to pay for the time and expense of outside services. It is common for debtors to make arrangements and even settle for substantially less than the total debt.
Another option is to pay back the loan. Some people try to obtain another loan to achieve this. However, people more often sell the car to pay it off. You can pay back a larger percentage of the loan since are more likely to get a better price than the creditor would get at an auction.
When all else fails, you can always surrender the car. This will save everyone a lot of time, trouble, and expense. Furthermore, it allows you to do it on your time and your terms. You would have the opportunity to clear out all your things and turn the car over when it is convenient for you.
However, if you feel that there has been an illegal repossession or that your rights have been violated, get expert advice. Seeking legal counsel could help protect your credit and your assets.
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Jenny Smedra is an avid world traveler, ESL teacher, former archaeologist, and freelance writer. Choosing a life abroad had strengthened her commitment to finding ways to bring people together across language and cultural barriers. While most of her time is dedicated to either working with children, she also enjoys good friends, good food, and new adventures.