California Car Repossession Questions & Answers

The Hanson Law Firm can help. Here are some Repossession Lawyer Tips. This is not intended to be a substitute for getting prompt legal advice, however. If your car has been repossessed or you are being sued, you should contact an attorney to discuss the California repossession laws immediately. Delay is dangerous.

A.) Do you still have the vehicle? If yes, read 1-4. If no, then go to section B below.

             1.) Are you being threatened with repossession?

If so, call us for immediate help. Our consultation is free, and we take cases for free or on a limited contingency.

If you think a repossession is coming, take all your personal belongings out of the car. Once the car is repossessed, you will lose them or may be required to pay to get them back. Do not conceal the vehicle or interfere with a repossession.

             2.) Papers are key; don’t leave them in the car!

Keep your purchase documents in a file. Do not use the glove compartment to store your papers. When the car is gone, you will lose them.

Any letters, notes of conversations with the bank or finance company must be kept in the file, too.

             3.) Write down what they tell you on the phone!

If your lender is calling and saying you owe them money, keep a written log of the telephone calls. Be aware that the person on the other end is typing notes into a computer as you speak. Sometimes those notes are not accurate. Write down who you talked to, when, and what was said. Even if the person on the other end of the telephone is rude, you should always be polite and responsive.

             4.) Get to the bottom of any mistakes and write letters!

If there was a mistake in their record keeping, write them a letter and tell them so. Ask them to investigate and correct the problem.

B.) VEhicle already gone?

             1.) Figure out if you bought or leased.

Leases and sales of vehicles are treated very differently in California. As a general rule, you have far more rights with a sale than with a lease.

If you bought, here are some suggestions (if leased, the following may not apply):

             2.) Call an attorney, as time is of the essence.

If your car has been repossessed, you should contact an attorney immediately.

3.) Get your papers together.

If you received a NOTICE OF INTENT TO DISPOSE OF VEHICLE, keep it. After repossessing your car in California, the bank or finance company will send you a letter called, a NOTICE OF INTENT. It may be called by a different name, but it tells you that they are going to sell your car, and what you can do to get it back.

4.) Read them closely.

The notice letter must state “either that there is a conditional right to reinstate the contract until the expiration of 15 days from the date of giving or mailing the notice and all the conditions precedent thereto or that there is no right of reinstatement and provides a statement of reasons therefore.

The notice of intent must tell you precisely what to do in order to reinstate your contract, including stating the amounts due, to whom they are due, the addresses and/or contact information for those parties, and any other specific actions the buyer must take.

This is perhaps the most important piece of paper in the whole process. Read it carefully. The bank or finance company has to comply with the repossession law. If they do not, they may have committed “conversion” by selling your car, and they may be liable.

             5.) Take Action!

If you do not redeem or reinstate the contract, you may be sued by the bank or finance company. Typically, they will sell the vehicle for much less than you owe on it, and sue you for the difference. This is called a “deficiency.” If you are served with legal documents you should contact an attorney immediately.

Remember, most consumers have rights and good defenses to these collection suits. If the Notice of Intent does not comply with the law, then the bank or finance company is not entitled to the deficiency.