Repossession agents (“Repo Men”) have unusually dangerous jobs. In fact the Repo Times (yes, there is an online publication dedicated to repossession news) has an entire “News” section that reports on the various incidents involving people attacking repossession agents. So, it’s important to remember that these are just people doing their jobs. They may be working on the behalf of banks, but they are just guys in uniforms, and interfering in their work won’t change the bank’s mind about repossessing your property.
Most often, repo men come for vehicles. Cars often secure the loans taken out to pay them, and usually they’re worth something to the bank. That said, there are some nonviolent options for stalling the repo men so you can keep your vehicle. For one, it’s important to know the powers repo men have and do not have. Repo men aren’t police, nor are they agents of the police. They cannot commit crimes against you or your property, which includes things like executing warrants or trespassing on your property beyond what’s reasonably necessary to repossess the property. If they do anything like that, including breaking locks or things like that, they have committed crimes, and you should call the police. This won’t necessarily result in you getting your property back, but it will ensure that the repo men don’t act above the law.
One tip, then, is to keep your car locked in your garage. Of course, you won’t be able to use it, but it does buy you time until you can reach an agreement with your bank. If you do leave with the car, or if you store it in an accessible garage, then the repo agents can take the vehicle. Keeping the car at home might help if you don’t want to be left in the parking lot with a cart full of groceries without a car.
Aside from that, the bankruptcy code does afford car owners options for dealing with their vehicles. First, the automatic stay halts repossessions, but this is a temporary measure. Those who file in Chapter 7 can redeem their vehicles from the lender by paying a lump-sum price based on the market value of the vehicle. People filing in Chapter 13 can “cram down” the value of the vehicle if it’s more than 910 days old. A Cram down reduces the auto loan’s value to the car’s current value, and it reduces the interest rate on the loan as well. The Chapter 13 option can save debtors quite a bit of money—and their cars.
So if you are having trouble making payments on a vehicle and it looks like the bank is about to repossess it, talk to a bankruptcy lawyer instead of becoming an article in the Repo Times.
For answers to more questions about cars, auto repossession, bankruptcy, the automatic stay, effective strategies for dealing with foreclosure, and protecting your assets in bankruptcy please feel free to contact experienced bankruptcy trustee Bruce Weiner for a free initial consultation.