Do they have to tell me before they take my car?Usually no. Unlike some other states, California does not require the finance company to notify you before they repossess your vehicle. There are some exceptions to this rule. For example, under some circumstances, co-signers must be given a written notice of delinquency prior to the repossession. However, most of the time, if you are behind on your contract (or otherwise in default), they can repossess your vehicle without telling you first.
Can they repossess my car?A financial institution can only repossess your vehicle if there is a “default” and that the financial institution has a good faith belief that the prospect of payment or performance is impaired. Usually, vehicles get repossessed for a failure to make payments or failure to maintain automobile insurance on the vehicle. However, check the back of your contract for all of the ways that you can be considered in “default.” You may be surprised what you can and cannot do.
I was only a few days behind on my payment and they repossessed my car, is that legal?Unfortunately, in California, there is no automatic grace period that you get before they can repossess your car. However, this does not necessarily mean that a financial institution can or will repossess your vehicle if you are only a few days behind. There are some exceptions to the rule. For example, if the financial institution has always allowed you to make your payments late, they might not be able to repossess your vehicle if you are only a few days behind.
What should I do if I know my car is going to be repossessed?Take everything out of your car. Especially make sure to get all of your paperwork out of your glovebox. The repossession agent can charge you a personal property fee in order to get your belongings back. And even if you pay the fee, belongings tend to get “lost.” It is better to avoid the hassle if you can.
My car was repossessed, how do I get it back?In California, if you finance your vehicle purchase, usually through a retail installment sales contract, you have a right to get your vehicle back by “redemption.” This means paying the entire remaining contract balance, plus fees, and getting title to the vehicle. Most people cannot afford this, but may be able to exercise the conditional right of “reinstatement.” This means, curing the default, getting the car back, and continuing to make payments. Your right to redeem the vehicle or reinstate the contract will be set forth on a document that the financial institution is required to send you after the repossession called a Notice of Intent or “NOI.”
Technically, the financial institution has up to 60 days to send out the NOI, but most send it out within a week.
If your vehicle has been repossessed, call the financial institution right away to see what you have to do to get the vehicle back. Make sure to take notes and write down what they tell you to do.
If you have any more questions, feel free to give us a call.