Can a Repo Agent Go in Your Garage?
In most states, a repo agent is allowed to enter your property to seize the vehicle provided they do nothing to cause a breach of peace. This means they are not allowed to engage in physical force or make threats. A repo agent is also forbidden to break into a locked garage or any other storage facility.
If you lock your car in your garage, you can avoid repossession for a short period, but in most cases, the creditor will, at some point, pursue legal avenues to obtain possession of the vehicle. This action is called replevin and means they will obtain a court order demanding you turn over the vehicle. If you refuse to turn over the vehicle after being served with the replevin order, it is a violation of a court order. At that point, the repo man/woman can return with the police to force you to comply.
What Happens to my Personal Belongings Inside a Repossessed Car?
If your auto loan goes into default, the lender is allowed to pick up and sell the car. However, the creditor is not allowed to take possession and sell any other property unless the loan agreement states differently. The lender is also required to take reasonable precautions to ensure others do not cause damage or loss to any of your property. There are some limits to these rights, however.
- The lender is required to return any items that are loose. He must preserve those items and return them upon request. This includes items such as tools, jewelry, clothing, and cell phones, for example.
- The lender is not obligated to return any items that must be uninstalled. For example, the creditor has no obligation to return sound systems, stereos, GPS devices, or tire rims. You may be unable to retrieve any items that require disassembly, and the creditor is allowed to sell those fixtures as part of the car.
Most states do not allow the creditor to charge for storing any personal property—the only fee they can charge is for the vehicle itself. What this means is the repo company that towed your car is forbidden to charge you any kind of fee to retrieve your personal property from the car.
Getting Your Property Back
There are several ways you can arrange to get your personal property back such as the following:
- The best thing to do is retrieve your property while the repo agent is there. If he does not provide the opportunity for you to enter the car to retrieve your personal property, you need to ask immediately.
- If you are unable to retrieve your property before the repo agent takes your vehicle, there are other methods open to you. Some states require the creditor to notify the debtor in writing of the repossession and listing of any personal property that was in the vehicle. They must do this within a specific period of time as defined by the law in that state. They may also be required to allow you to inspect the vehicle where it is being stored and collect your property prior to it going to auction.
- Read your contract. It may specify a specific period of time for you to arrange to retrieve your property.
- Make certain you get in touch with the creditor immediately. Do not wait for a notice from the creditor. You also need to document all communication you have with the lender and maintain an inventory of the personal property you put in the vehicle—if you can provide photographs, it’s even better.
If you are unable to retrieve your items from the vehicle or if it is damaged or missing, you may be able to bring charges against the lender. In some cases, there is a possibility it is a crime for the creditor to sell or destroy your personal belongings. If this happens, contact the attorney general’s office or consumer protection agency in your state.
While a repo man cannot go into a locked garage to repossess your car, he can still enter your property provided he does so in a legal manner—no violence and no threats. Yes, you can avoid repossession for some time by keeping the car locked in your garage, but there will come a time when the creditor files legal action to gain possession of the vehicle. When that happens, you must turn over the vehicle or be in violation of a court order.
Unless the contract states otherwise, the creditor is not allowed to retain possession of your personal property. You have a legal right to retrieve your property from the vehicle prior to the auction and sale. It’s best to do it when the repo man is there if you are home, but if that is not possible, plan right away to retrieve your property.
You have rights in the event the creditor is uncooperative when it comes to allowing you to retrieve your things from the car. Your contract should define any time limitations, and local laws will define anything else.