What Happens to Personal Belongings in a Repossessed Vehicle?

If you lose your car because it has been repossessed due to bankruptcy and had personal belongings inside, you may feel a sense of panic. You will probably also wonder whether you can get those items back.

A car loan lender is certainly entitled to repossess the vehicle. However, a lender has no rights to any personal property that may be inside it. You have a right to get back your personal property in the repossessed vehicle, even in a situation of bankruptcy.

Car Lenders Do Not Have a Right to Personal Property

When a person defaults on a car loan, the lender can legally repossess the vehicle and sell it. The car is considered collateral on the loan, so the lender has every right to sell the vehicle.

At the same time, the lender does not have any rights to your personal property inside the car. When you signed the loan papers, there was probably no clause within that stated that the lender has any right to keep or sell your personal property.

This means the creditor must return your property in the same condition in which it was found. Loose items, such as clothing, CDs, jewelry, iPods, and other items must be returned to the owner. However, if there are items that were installed or fixed to the vehicle, such as custom tire rims or GPS devices, the lender does not have to return them to the owner.

Do You Have to Pay a Fee to Get Back Property?

Most states don’t allow a creditor to charge a fee for storing and returning personal property after a car repossession. Lenders may charge you for storage fees relating to the vehicle, but that’s it. Likewise, the agent hired to repossess the vehicle can’t charge you to retrieve your items, either.

How to Get Back Your Items After a Repossession

If you had personal property in your car before it was repossessed, you may have some confusion about getting it back. Here are some ways to get your items:

Get your property when the repo agent is around: If you are there when the repossession takes place, speak to the repo agent and explain the situation. The agent should allow you to retrieve your personal property.

2. State laws require notice or right to inspection: If you cannot get your possessions before the car is repossessed, you can still rely on other means to get it back. Some states need the creditor to send you a written notice and inventory of any belongings found in the vehicle within 48 hours of repossession. You may also have a chance to view your property at a storage facility and get it back before the vehicle is resold.

3. Check the car loan contract: Look over the car loan agreement you signed. Usually, this document states that you have a limited period of time to contact the lender to make arrangements to get back your property.

4. Immediately contact the creditor: Contacting the creditor immediately is wise because it gets your point across right away. Document your communications with the lender and create an inventory of what you had in the car.

What if You Cannot Retrieve Your Property?

If the creditor refuses to allow you to get your personal property in the repossessed vehicle back, you may file a claim against them. Get in touch with your state attorney general’s office or state consumer protection agency. You can also contact an attorney in your area.

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