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Help! My Car Has Been Repossessed!

February 3, 2010


Imagine this: you are behind on your car payments. Heck, you are behind on a lot of bills, and perhaps you have been considering bankruptcy for some time. Then one day you walk out the door for work and discover. . .

Your car has been repossessed!

Don’t despair! Bankruptcy can still help. Call an experienced bankruptcy attorney immediately because you may be able to get your vehicle returned to you.

The law in most areas (including the Sixth, Seventh, Eighth, Ninth, and Tenth Circuits) is when a debtor files a Chapter 13 bankruptcy, the creditor must immediately return a repossessed vehicle to the debtor. This is because even though the creditor has taken possession of your vehicle, you are still the legal owner. The Bankruptcy Code states that in a Chapter 13, a creditor in possession of a debtor’s asset must ordinarily relinquish the asset back to the debtor.

However, this begs the question: what if your car is sold at auction or the creditor transfers the vehicle title out of your name? If this transfer is done after the Chapter 13 bankruptcy is filed, it is typically a violation of the automatic stay and the vehicle will be returned. If the transfer is done before the Chapter 13 bankruptcy is filed, you are out of luck. You no longer have ownership of the vehicle.

If the creditor refuses to return the vehicle, or does not return the vehicle in a timely manner, most courts will sanction the creditor. Once your vehicle is returned you must provide “adequate protection” to the creditor to assure that the property will be safeguarded and that the creditor will be adequately compensated. This usually takes place by submitting a Chapter 13 plan of repayment to the bankruptcy court.

If your vehicle has been repossessed, take immediate action! Call an experienced bankruptcy attorney and discuss your options. Your attorney can help you make the right financial choice for yourself and your family.


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