Secrets of the Repo Man

Secrets of the Repo Man
Gerald McNally

To many people the Repo Man is a creature of legend He repossesses your car!. He appears in the night, and –Poof—your LuxMobile is gone, never to be seen again. Until you receive the bill in the mail from the original lender. So what happens…really?
To begin, you usually have missed more than one payment before your lender decides you are no longer a good risk. Often, it’s a series of missed payments, combined with no insurance. (Not exactly a recipe for getting lenders to believe in you.) Why can the lender take your car, you ask? It’s in that long yellow contract you signed when your bought that shiny car. And no, the lender does not need a court order.
You may believe you have to be given notice before the Repo Man strikes. Not true. Otherwise, you would hide your LuxMobile in the wilds of Fontana, at your biker cousin’s house. Or in your garage, safely locked up and out of reach. While you do have the right to notice in a foreclosure on your home, lenders know what will happen if they give you notice. You’ll hide the vehicle – or worse, vandalize it.
So the Repo Man cometh. At work. At night. In the early morning. He has a key or a device which will open your car, even if you’ve changed the locks. And he knows how to hot-wire your LuxMobile.
There are limits. He can’t break into a locked garage. He can’t destroy your property while taking your car. And if you call the Police, well he has called them first, so officers won’t mistake the repossession process for a car theft. By the way, if you threaten him with your gun, or your attack dog, the Police may come for you!
But, you say, “I have personal property in my car!” Well, you can visit the repo man’s office the next day and retrieve your personal property. They are required to give it back.
Or you want to get back in the lender’s good graces. OK. Sometimes that’s as simple as making up the back payments—plus the repo man fee. (Neither the Repo-Man nor the lender is responsible for any damage done during the repossession.) Other times, if your lender is really fed up, you have to pay off the car to get it back. With a Cashier’s Check and within 5 working days or off the car goes to the auction.
The LuxMobile is sold for much less than it’s worth. Then the lender sends you a bill. How much? Add the total you owed on the car loan, plus the repo-man fees and subtract what the lender got at auction. What’s left is a “deficiency.” The lender can and will take you to court and get a judgment.
So what do I do? Can you make up the payments? If so, that’s your best prevention. Hide the car? How do you get to work then?
Can bankruptcy help? Actually yes, sometimes. If you haven’t been late too often, you can make up your payments as part of a bankruptcy proceeding. If you have sufficient equity, you can even refinance it for what it’s worth now, not what you owe on the loan. And if the payments are just too high, in some cases, I’ve persuaded lenders to reduce the principal, reduce the interest rate and reduce the payments. And if you just want to turn the car in, you can do that with no more bills from your lender.

Gerald McNally is an attorney licensed in the State of California, who specializes in bankruptcies, divorce law, wills and trusts, and tax matters. His office is located in the city of Glendale Calif. For more information call: 818-507-5100 or e-mail