Car Repossession Attorney Serving Wisconsin
If your assets have already been repossessed, creditors may be attempting to recover money from you. This is most common when an asset is sold at auction. For example, if you default on a vehicle loan, your creditor may sell your vehicle at auction. If your creditor does not get enough money to cover the amount of your loan, you will be held liable.
Our Milwaukee car repossession attorney may be able to prevent the repossession of your car, truck, or other assets. Contact Miller & Miller Bankruptcy if this has occurred to you. Our legal firm has offices all around Wisconsin. We may be able to assist you if your vehicle or other item has not been repossessed, but you have fallen behind on your loan payments.
There are alternatives open to you. If you are concerned that your assets may be repossessed soon, consulting with a repossession defense attorney is your greatest chance of keeping your possessions as quickly as possible.
What is the Wisconsin Repossession Law?
Consumer rights laws apply to repossessions in Wisconsin. These statutes, known as the “Wisconsin Consumer Act,” cover various transactions and circumstances. Vehicle repossessions are one area where they are used.
These regulations apply to automobile loans and leases with a loan amount of around $25,000 or less. This figure may be found in the purchase agreement you signed at the dealership.
If you no longer have such paperwork, our experienced car repossession attorney can help you figure it out in a few other ways. Simply contact for a free consultation to begin the process.
How Do Car Repossessions Work?
Auto lenders can confiscate your vehicle without warning if you fall behind on your payments in most areas. They can’t, however, break the peace in the process. Usually, breaking the peace entails using or threatening to use physical action against you to reclaim the automobile.
It may also just include reclaiming the vehicle from your locked garage. You might be entitled to damages or use it to defend against a deficiency lawsuit if your lender violates the law.
What Are the Common Repossession Scenarios That Might Happen to You?
Following are some circumstances that commonly occur during a repossession:
- You’re at home, enjoying a lovely summer night with open windows. You awaken in the middle of the night to the sound of (what appears to be) something happening near your automobile. When you step outside, you notice someone attempting to tow your vehicle. You yell at them to leave, but they resist, finally driving away with your automobile.
- You step outside and start yelling at the repossession officer. When the repossession agent refuses to stop, the police are called. The cops approach and threaten to jail you if you don’t stop protesting. Your automobile gets stolen after you cease protesting (to avoid going to jail).
- You climb inside your car while being repossessed and refuse to come out. The repossession agent tries to hoist the automobile onto the tow truck with you inside. You exit the vehicle because you are afraid of being wounded. The car is then hauled away.
- When you hear that a repo man is looking for you, you’re at work. You instruct the repo man to get out of here. The repo man threatens to call the cops and humiliate you before your coworkers until you hand up the keys to the car. Your automobile gets taken after you hand up the keys.
- You put your automobile in a garage but leave the side entry door unlocked. When you wake up one morning, your car is gone with the door open.
What Are Your Different Options to Avoid Car Repossession?
Make Up the Late Payments
You are not immediately in default because you are late on a payment. If you are one day late with a payment, certain agreements stipulate that you are in default. Other agreements may specify that you are not in default unless you are more than 30 days late. Even if you are late, the loan may not be in default until the creditor informs you, generally in writing, that it is.
You can avoid repossession by bringing your loan current if you are not currently in default according to your loan terms. Carefully read your loan agreement. Be careful to include all relevant late fines and penalties when making late payments. If you don’t, you risk defaulting because you didn’t make all of your payments on time.
You may be putting yourself in danger if you are frequently late with payments. On the one hand, the creditor may have legally forfeited its power to declare a default if it continuously accepts payments. On the other hand, relying on the creditor’s acceptance of future late payments is never wise since the creditor may change its mind.
Reinstate the Loan
Even if you’re in default, you might be able to get the loan reinstated. If you restore the loan, you can avoid repossession or get the automobile back if it has already been repossessed.
You bring the loan current with reinstatement by making all past due payments in one sum, including applicable penalties and late charges. The “right to cure the default” is another name for this. However, not everyone is eligible for reinstatement. Some state regulations allow you to get your auto loan reinstated.
Even if your state does not recognize this privilege, your loan agreement may indicate that reinstatement is permitted. You only get one bite at the apple in many cases when reinstatement is possible. If you default again, you might not be able to get the loan reinstated.
Redeem the Car
You typically have a right of redemption after repossession. This implies you can get the automobile back if you pay off the total outstanding sum on the car loan. Repo fees, storage charges, and sometimes even attorney fees are typically included in the redemption amount, or “payoff.”
You don’t have much time to get the automobile back. When the car is sold, your right of redemption expires.
- Cons. Redemption isn’t always a possibility. If you can’t afford the installment payments, you probably won’t be able to repay the loan. Also, if the payment is greater than the car’s value, redemption may not be in your best interests.
- Pros. If the loan debt is low or the payback is less than the car’s value, you may be better off redeeming the vehicle. This is especially true if the automobile is sold for less money elsewhere.
Negotiate With the Creditor
You might be able to approach the creditor and negotiate a different method of getting the automobile back or reducing or eliminating the debt. Some possibilities include:
Sell the Car Yourself
A creditor would usually sell the automobile in a public auction or a private dealer sale, which may or may not recoup the entire worth of the vehicle. This may be the best option if you can find a buyer prepared to pay more than the creditor is expected to get in a dealer’s sale or auction. This alternative may be acceptable to creditors since it reduces resale costs such as advertising and storage fees.
Because you only have a limited time, this might be a challenging option to implement. The buyer must be able to pay cash or obtain financing quickly. You also require the participation of the creditor. The creditor might refuse to consent to the sale for the wrong reason, an arbitrary reason, or no reason at all.
However, if the creditor sold the automobile for less than what your private buyer was willing to pay, you may be able to use its unwillingness to comply as a defense against any shortfall claim.
Surrender the Vehicle
If you’re behind on payments or just want to get out from under the auto loan, you may want to consider surrendering the vehicle to the lender. Ideally, the creditor will agree to waive or decrease the shortfall for you relinquishing the automobile—the creditor benefits from the time and money saved by not having to repossess the vehicle.
It would be best to relinquish the automobile once you’ve reached a written agreement to resolve the deficit. If you relinquish the car without first getting a deal with the creditor, the creditor may pursue you for the whole debt.
On the other hand, if the expenses of repossession will be passed on to you, it would be wiser to relinquish the automobile even if you don’t reach an arrangement with the creditor to reduce your overall debt. Whether or whether you should relinquish the car depends on your personal and financial circumstances.
Bring Your Complaints to the Bargaining Table
You do not need to wait for the creditor to file a lawsuit before attempting to settle. You may informally use your defenses (and potential counterclaims) to persuade the creditor to give the car back, reinstate the loan, redeem the vehicle, or forgive or reduce the amount of the deficiency balance if the creditor violated your rights regarding the repossession and sale of the property.
Refinance the Car Loan
The creditor (or you) may propose refinancing the debt for a longer term. You could also discover another lender ready to refinance this loan with you. While this may appear to be a tempting alternative, especially if the new installment payments are less than the previous installments, it may not be in your best interests in the long term. Some items to think about:
- Is the interest rate lower than the original loan?
- Cars depreciate, usually rapidly. Is it worth refinancing a loan for another three to five years if the vehicle is already four or five years old?
- Will you have to make an upfront payment on the new loan?
- What are the other costs of the refinance: penalties, fees, costs?
Because of their overall financial situation, filing for bankruptcy may make sense for some people. Bankruptcy will be temporarily halted:
- collection actions on the deficiency balance
- deficiency judgment lawsuits
- bank attachments or wage garnishments arising from deficiency judgments
While bankruptcy under either chapter will prevent you from being sued for the deficiency sum, neither will enable you to keep the automobile without making some sort of payment arrangement.
Breach of Peace: What to Do?
“No means no” in Wisconsin. When you instruct a repossession agency to halt, they must comply. In truth, the law just demands a straightforward and clear protest of the seizure. What does this imply for you? If you instruct the repossession agent to stop removing your automobile, he and the lender have violated Wisconsin’s strong consumer protection laws.
If a Breach of Peace occurs, the first step is to film or photograph what is happening. Video footage is highly beneficial to our examination of your case. Otherwise, attempt to bring along a witness. During the breach of peace, look around to see if any witnesses can corroborate your statement. Many repossession agents wear body cameras, so there may also be helpful evidence.
The next step is to contact our experienced car repossession attorney. We’ll go through the circumstances behind your car purchase, discussions with the lender when you fell behind, and, most crucially, what happened during the repossession.
What Are the Options to Keep Your Car in Chapter 7 Bankruptcy?
You can keep the significant property, such as a car, truck, motorbike, or other vehicles, if you file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy. However, it’s possible to lose your car, especially if it’s a high-end model with a lot of equity or if you can’t make your payments.
Protecting Your Car Equity From the Chapter 7 Bankruptcy Trustee
When you file for bankruptcy, you can “exempt” goods you’ll need to work and live from your case, including your automobile, by using your state’s bankruptcy exemptions.
Look for the motor vehicle exception while studying your state’s exemptions. It’s designed to safeguard automobiles in Chapter 7 bankruptcy. If it isn’t enough to cover your vehicle’s equity, look for a wildcard exemption. You might be able to combine the two.
You’ll clear the first obstacle if you can exclude all of the equity in your automobile. It will be impossible for the Chapter 7 bankruptcy trustee to sell it for the benefit of creditors. If you can exclude the majority of the equity, the trustee will “abandon” it if selling it won’t net you any money.
If you have considerable nonexempt equity that you can’t preserve, the trustee will do the following:
- sell the vehicle
- pay you the exemption amount
- deduct sales costs and fees
- subtract the trustee’s fee for selling the car
- distribute the remaining funds to creditors
Some trustees will let you keep the automobile if you pay off the nonexempt equity. The trustee will usually reduce the sum you’ll pay by the amount saved on sales charges.
Of course, you’ll have to use monies that aren’t part of the bankruptcy. Most people rely on post-filing earnings or a gift or loan from a relative or friend.
Protecting Your Car When You Have a Car Loan
If you financed your vehicle and still owe money, you should be current on your payments when you file. Why? Because you agreed that the automobile would secure the car loan when you acquired it, making it a secured debt. If you don’t pay, the lender can use lien rights to seize your vehicle
The automobile lien does not go away in Chapter 7 bankruptcy, which may seem weird at first. Because Chapter 7 doesn’t have a mechanism to assist you in making up for missing payments, you’ll have to pay as promised to maintain it.
Because the lender can repossess the automobile during Chapter 7 bankruptcy by requesting the court to lift the automatic stay, you should be current on your payments when you file. Alternatively, the lender might wait until the Chapter 7 bankruptcy is completed before proceeding. If you fall behind on your payments and cannot reach an agreement with your lender, you will lose your home.
If you absolutely need the automobile and are behind on payments, consider filing for Chapter 13 instead of trying to work something out with the lender.
How Can Chapter 13 Bankruptcy Help With a Vehicle?
You may be able to keep your car if you file for Chapter 13 bankruptcy. If you’re behind on your vehicle loan payments, your Chapter 13 plan can help you catch up. Even better, if you owe more on your automobile loan than it is worth, you may be able to negotiate a lower payment.
Chapter 13 bankruptcy has several advantages that might help you maintain or get rid of your property. Here is a handful that pertains to automobiles.
You Can Stop a Repossession
Because of an order known as the “automatic stay,” most creditors must cease collection attempts against you if you file for Chapter 13 bankruptcy. An auto lender cannot repossess your vehicle if you have previously filed for Chapter 13 bankruptcy. If your automobile was repossessed soon before you filed for Chapter 13, you might be able to get it back.
You Can Give a Car Back to the Bank
If you can’t afford your vehicle payment, or if you’re making payments on a car that’s unreliable or requires expensive maintenance, it might be time to let it go. You can get out of the payment under Chapter 13 by surrendering the automobile.
You Can Catch Up on Your Car Payment
Provided you file for Chapter 13 bankruptcy while behind on your automobile loan or lease, you can keep your car if you pay the arrearage (the amount you’re behind) through your repayment plan while making your monthly car payments. The lender cannot repossess your automobile as long as you are currently on your car loan and payments schedule.
You Might Be Able to Reduce Your Car Loan
Suppose the amount of your auto loan exceeds the value of your car (which is not unusual given how rapidly cars degrade). In that case, you may be eligible to lower your loan amount in Chapter 13 bankruptcy (called a cramdown). Essentially, you may reduce your debt to the same amount as the car’s worth.
What’s left is unsecured debt, which is treated the same as your other unsecured obligations (your disposable income is used to pay this form of debt—more on that later). The only stipulation is that you must have purchased the vehicle more than two and a half years before filing for bankruptcy.
Do You Need a Lawyer If Your Car is Repossessed?
Yes, you should schedule a free appointment with our experienced car repossession attorney. Your repossession rights may have been violated, you may not have gotten adequate notice of the repossession, there may have been police involvement, or the repossession was carried out unlawfully.
Miller & Miller Bankruptcy represents clients in automotive and vehicle repossession disputes across Wisconsin and beyond. Request a free consultation by phone or online.
Get in Touch With Us If You Believe Your Vehicle May Have Been Unlawfully Repossessed
The Wisconsin Consumer Act offers extensive relief to consumers who have been subjected to illegal repossessions. You could be eligible for:
- keep your vehicle without any obligation to make further payments under the loan
- recover all prior payments you have already made under the loan, including any down payment
- recover your attorneys’ fees and costs
Get in touch with Miller & Miller Bankruptcy’s experienced car repossession attorney to discuss your situation.