2021 is expected to see a huge increase in repossession of vehicles because of loan defaults. These defaults are a result of missed monthly payments because of financial hardships caused by COVID-19. A repossession of a car is devastating, as it is typically an individual or family’s essential transportation for getting to and from work and school. Without the car, activities of daily living: going to work, going to school, going shopping, etc., all become very difficult and in some cases impossible.
Often a car repossession starts a snowball effect in people’s lives, as the loss of personal transportation impacts their ability to earn a living and in turn any reduction in income impacts other loans and debt payments. That is why it is imperative that if you are behind on your car payments and your car has not been repossessed or has recently reposed that you seek guidance from an attorney who has experience in dealing with pre-repossession and post-repossession situations.
In Florida Vehicles Can Be Repossessed Without Notice!
In Florida, repossessions fall under Florida statute 537.012, which allows lender to have licensed possession agents take your vehicle without notice to you once you have fallen sufficiently behind on your payments. Many times, folks will wake up look out at their driveway and their car is no longer there. They initially think it was stolen, but eventually find out it was repossessed by the bank. At that point their situation just became much harder, as the loss of personal transportation impacts all aspects of their life and finances.
You Have Options If You Fall Behind On Your Car Loan.
It sounds hopeless, but it is not if you are proactive. First and foremost, if you are falling behind on your car payments reach out to your lender, most will work with you if you give them a chance. If you don’t reach out to them, they will assume the worse and when they are able to do so under the statute, they will initiate a repossession to protect their interests. If your lender won’t work with you, you still have options.
If you are in default on your auto loan in Florida, you are at risk that your car will be repossessed at any time by your lender once they have met all conditions under the statute. Don’t think that COVID-19 will prevent the repossession of a vehicle forever, it won’t. Industry experts are expecting a massive increase in vehicle repossessions as 2021 progresses. Be proactive, before your car is taken or you fall any farther behind on your payments reach out to an experienced attorney who has dealt with pre-repossession and post-repossession situations. They will be able to help you figure out your best options.
Bankruptcy Can Be A Great Option To Avoid Or Deal With A Repossessed Car.
For many individuals who have defaulted on their auto loans, bankruptcy offers a great option to halt a car repossession, as the automatic stay provided once a bankruptcy case is filed requires your auto loan lender to cease all collections activities against you, including repossession activities. Once a bankruptcy case is filed, your auto loan lender cannot call you, cannot file a lawsuit against you, cannot continue to pursue an existing lawsuit against you, or continue attempts to repo your car. They are required to deal with you through your bankruptcy estate and can only take actions that the bankruptcy court allows them to take. Bankruptcy provides a complete stop and an opportunity to keep your car in the right circumstances.
If you are facing a vehicle repossession, timing is everything. If you are behind or expect to fall behind on your vehicle loan, you should speak with a bankruptcy attorney before your vehicle is repossessed or you fall further behind on your payments. It is important to remember that typically the bankruptcy stay will only prevent your lender from taking the vehicle back, but it usually cannot be used to force them to return the vehicle to you if they have it in their possession before you file your bankruptcy.
Chapter 13 Bankruptcy Can Stop A Repossession Under The Right Circumstances
I have only had one case in the last 20 years where I was able to convince the lender to return the vehicle to a client and allow them to catch up and pay off the remainder of their auto loan in a Chapter 13 Bankruptcy. In that case, we were able to get a Chapter 13 Bankruptcy Plan confirmed that allowed for all the past due payments to be paid over a five-year period and we were able to Cram Down the value of the vehicle to it’s actual market value, not what was still owed on the loan and were able to reduce the interest being paid so that on the monthly payments going forward my client could afford to keep their car and in the process eliminate the remainder of their other debts as well.
A Chapter 7 Bankruptcy Can Stop A Repossession Under The Right Circumstances
In other situations, folks who wanted to keep their cars, but could not qualify for a Chapter 13 Bankruptcy were able to use Redemption as a way of keeping their car in a Chapter 7 Bankruptcy case. Under Section 11 U.S.C. 722 of the bankruptcy code, there is a way to keep your car by redeeming it, which is a fancy way of saying get a new loan on it for the value of vehicle as it currently is, not what is outstanding on the existing loan. The key to this process working for you is qualifying under the bankruptcy code to file for a Chapter 7 Bankruptcy and qualifying with 722 Lenders to get the new car loan to redeem your vehicle through your bankruptcy. If you cannot qualify with the 722 Lenders you will not be able to keep your vehicle.
What If You Don’t Want To Keep The Vehicle?
In some cases, you may not want to keep your vehicle and you decided to walk away from your vehicle and let the chips fall where they may, which is a really bad idea. Doing so will result in the vehicle being sold at auction for much less than it is actually worth, and a deficiency balance being attributed to you for the balance of the auto loan that was not paid after the vehicle was auctioned off. The lenders will either go after you directly for this deficiency or they will sell the rights to this deficiency to companies such as Autovest, who make all their profits from going after delinquent auto loan debts. If they cannot convince you to pay the delinquency willingly, they will sue you for the delinquency in court. If you ignore the lawsuit, they will get what is called a Default Judgment against you and it means they basically win their case without having to prove a thing. If the default Judgment stands and a Final Judgment is entered, they then have the ability to use the courts to recover the monies owed by placing liens on property, garnishing non-exempt property, bank accounts or wages.
Don’t let it come to this, before your vehicle is repossessed, or a Default Judgment or Final Judgment is entered against you speak with an attorney who can help you determine what options you have available to deal with this situation on your terms.
Are You Dealing With A Car Repo Now?
If you are, it is important that you speak with a bankruptcy attorney who can help you evaluate your potential options and issues that may impact your vehicle both inside and outside of a bankruptcy. Every bankruptcy case is different, so what has worked for one debtor may not necessarily work for another. If you are in Miami-Dade County or Broward County, Florida, please feel free to contact us to set up a FREE consultation to discuss your specific situation. It is important to be proactive if you are behind on your payments or about to become behind on your payments. Seek legal advice and make the best decisions you can for your specific situation.
This blog post is made available for educational and informational purposes only and to promote a general understanding of the law, and not to provide specific legal advice. Use of this blog does not create an attorney-client relationship. Reading this post is not a substitute for obtaining legal advice based on the unique facts of your situation from an attorney licensed to practice law in your state. No representation is made regarding the current state of the information contained in this post. Examples that may be provided in this post are merely for illustrative purposes; the results in your case may be different and no results are guaranteed