Unpeaceful Repossessions in Wisconsin
Hard times happen and people fall behind on their car payments. There is no shame if this happens, nor have you lost your right to be treated fairly and properly during the repossession. These laws of fairness limit the rights of lenders and their repossession agents (the people or third party companies that conduct the repossession) during their physical taking of the vehicle.
Should your lender decide to take your car without a court order (called a non-judicial repossession), the lender and any repossession agents cannot “breach the peace”. While this phrase may sound a little unusual at first, the terms and application by Wisconsin courts provides a helpful information in protecting your rights.
What does Breach the Peace mean?
In Wisconsin, “no means no.” When you tell a repossession agent to stop taking your vehicle, they must stop. In fact, that is all the law requires – a simple and unequivocal protest of the repossession. What does this mean for you? If you tell the repossession agent to stop taking your car – and he still takes it – he and the lender have broken Wisconsin's strict consumer protection laws. You do not need to yell, scream, swear, throw things, or otherwise bring potential physical harm and violence into the situation. Just a clear verbal request to protest and stop the repossession.
Common Repossession Scenarios
Here are some common scenarios that occur during a repossession:
- You're sitting at home – it's a warm summer night and the windows are open. You wake up in the middle of the night and hear (what sounds like) something going on near your car. You go outside and see someone trying to tow your car. You shout at the person to leave and they refuse, eventually leaving with your car
- You go outside and get into a shouting match with the repossession man. The repossession man refuses to stop and calls the police. The police arrive and threaten to arrest you, unless you stop your protest. You stop your protest (so you don't go to jail) and your car is taken.
- Your car is being repossessed and you climb inside the car and refuse to get out. The repossession agent tries to winch the car onto the tow-truck with you inside. You are scared of getting hurt and exit the vehicle. The car is then taken
- You're at work and someone tells you a repo man is asking for you. You tell the repo man to leave. The repo man states he will involve the police and embarrass you in front of your coworkers unless you give up the keys to the vehicle. You give up the keys and your car is taken.
- You park your car inside a garage, but you don't lock the side entrance door. You wake up one morning and the door is open – and your car is gone.
What to do if Breach of Peace Occurs
The first step is to try and video or photograph what is going on. Having video evidence is very helpful for our review of your case. Otherwise, try and have a witness with you. Look around while the breach of peace is occurring – are there witnesses around that can back up your side of the story? Many repossession agents are wearing body cameras so there may be helpful evidence there as well.
The next step is to call for a free consultation. We'll go over the background facts related to your purchase of the vehicle, communications with the lender once you fell behind, and most importantly the events occurring during the repossession.
What can I expect to receive from my case?
All cases are different, but here are the categories of damages available under the law:
- Return of your vehicle
- Waiver of future payments (you get to keep the vehicle for free)
- Return of all payments made
You can read more about possible outcomes from your case, here.