Wisconsin Law - Protecting Consumers
Wisconsin law has consumer rights laws on repossessions. These laws are referred to as the "Wisconsin Consumer Act" and apply to a variety of transaction and situations. One specific place they apply relates to vehicle repossessions. These laws apply to vehicle financing and leases where they amount financed is $25,000 or less. You can find this amount on the purchase documents that you signed at the dealership. If you no longer have those documents, there are a few other ways we can assist in figuring that out. Just call for a free consultation and get the process started. Below is some additional information on the repossession process (and your rights) if the Wisconsin Consumer Act applies to your situation. We offer free online scheduling for appointments.
Process to Legally Repossess Vehicles
In order to have you vehicle repossessed, there are some pre-repossession steps must occur. If these steps do not occur, you may have the ability to sue your lender for a "wrongful repossession."
Before your lender can repossess your vehicle, you must be in "default" under your financing agreement. To be in default, your lender must (in almost all situations) send you written notice of the alleged default and give you a chance to "cure" that default. "Cure" is another way of saying that you have brought the loan current. Next, your lender must either: 1) sue you and get a court order for the vehicle, 2) send you a specific notice indicating they want to do a "self-help" repossession. These written "self-help" notices must contain the following:
1) The name, address, and telephone number of the merchant (aka, the lender), a brief identification of the consumer credit transaction (the documents you signed), and a brief description of the collateral or goods (your vehicle).
2) A statement that, as a result of the customer's default on the consumer credit transaction, the merchant may have the right to take possession of the collateral or goods without further notice or court proceeding.
3) A statement that if the customer is not in default or objects to the merchant's right to take possession of the collateral or goods, the customer may, no later than 15 days after the merchant has given the notice, demand that the merchant proceed in court by notifying the merchant in writing.
4) A statement that if the merchant proceeds in court, the customer may be required to pay court costs and attorney fees.
What all this means is that lenders are required to send you a letter stating that you're behind on vehicle payments, and that you have 15 days from the date of the letter to object in writing to them taking your car. If you object in writing the lender then has to sue you. This 15-day window of time is VERY important. If you have received this type of letter, call right away for a free consultation.
However, as simple as this letter might sound, many lenders still break these laws. Some common violations include: a) The letters don't contain the right language, b) lenders don't wait 15 days before doing the repossession, c) lenders send the letter to the wrong mailing address, d) you object to the self-help repossession and the lender fails to bring their repossession request to a Wisconsin court.
Many lenders fail to follow these pre-repossession steps. If your lender fails to follow these steps (or sends you a pre-repossession notice that does not contain the language required by the law), you may have been the victim of a wrongful repossession. If so, we can discuss suing your lender for you. It is important that you act quickly as the law only provides a short amount of time to sue these companies.
Who Does the Repo
We want to talk about how the repossession actually happens - like when, where, and how someone actually came for the vehicle. Did it happen in the middle of the night? Did you have an argument with the repossession? Was the car locked in a garage?
Repossessions almost always physically occur using something called a "self-help" repossession. The law refers to this self-help repossession as a "non-judicial" repossession, as it occurs without the oversight and involvement of a Wisconsin judge. Virtually every single repossession in Wisconsin occurs via this method. And even if your lender has sued you in court (and won), they likely will still do a "self-help" repossession to get the vehicle back. There are many different ways lenders and their repossession agents break the law (even after taking you to court) while repossessing vehicle. The law imposes severe penalties on the lenders and repossession agents for breaking these laws.
How the Repo Occurs
A specific part of the Wisconsin Consumer Act provides that your lender (and their repossession company) must not "breach the peace" when repossessing your vehicle. What does this mean? According to the law, this means that your lender (and their repossession agent) cannot repossess the vehicle over your verbal protest. Just saying "no, do not take my car" is enough - we call this "unequivocal protest" in legal jargon. There's no need to get into a knock-down-drag-out fight with the repossession agent (and expose yourself to danger or arrest). Attorney Nathan DeLadurantey has extensive experience in handling cases where there has been a protest.
During your call with Attorney Nathan DeLadurantey you will spend time going over what occurred during the repossession. Where was the car parked? Was anyone around the car? Was anyone in the car? Were there any surveillance cameras in the area? Did you talk to the repossession agent? Many companies have body cameras on their repossession agents/vehicles, so we'll carefully go over the facts of the case together.
If your vehicle was taken over your verbal protest you may have a case for a wrongful repossession. Call right away to schedule an appointment to discuss filing your case within the short deadline set by the law.
After the Repo
Were you given a written notice that your vehicle had been repossessed? Do you want to reclaim your vehicle? Perhaps you had a number of personal belongings in the vehicle and you'd like to get them back? Many repossession companies will ask you to sign away your rights just to get your personal belongings back. Before signing any documents (which often contain fine print to try and remove all liability for a wrongful repo) call and talk with Attorney Nathan DeLadurantey. A quick call will make sure that someone isn't trying to take advantage of you during this part of the process.
Lenders must sell vehicles in a "commercially reasonable" manner in order for you to be held liable on the balance. If they fail to do so, you may have certain rights and defenses should they sue you for the balance after the repossession. If you've been sued by a lender (or maybe even a debt collector) over a loan balance after repossession, call for a free consultation to explore your legal rights and options.
Should I Bother Calling for a Consultation?
Maybe you're overwhelmed by the stress of losing your vehicle - or maybe you're embarrassed it was repossessed. Some people feel like talking to a lawyer is intimidating - or that they'll get stuck with a large bill. As you can see from the reviews of other people that received a free consultation (or were a client), Attorney DeLadurantey is always welcome to provide free consultations and is easy to talk with. Pick up the phone and make sure your rights are being protected. We provide representation in automobile and vehicle repossession cases in Wisconsin, including Racine, Kenosha, Green Bay, Appleton, the Fox Valley, Milwaukee, West Allis, Waukesha, Walworth County, Dane County, Madison, La Crosse, Eau Claire, Superior, Ashland, and anywhere in-between.