US dopers- Q about repossession

I was reading this story:

The car was running and the mother was standing outside it waiting for her daughter when the person jumped in and drove off.

So my questions:
Is it really legal for things to be repossessed like this?

What happens to personal property in the car (what about a pet, a purse, medication: insulin/athsma inhaler/epi-pen)?
If someone died as a result of the repossession would there be any consequences for the repossessor?

It sounds like there will be no charges for the car dealer. How can this be? The mother would have had no idea who had taken the car and her child and I can only imagine what she was going through. I know she was behind with her payments but she sure didn’t deserve having her kid taken however inadvertently.

How far behind in payments does a person have to be before repossession?

Are there any legal procedures involved in repossession?

Are there any law protecting the repossessee?

Can anything be repossessed? Is there anything that cannot be touched?

Not really - but State law may defer. The repo man should have made sure no one was in the vehicle. But that is the only problem with that scenerio given the information above.

Personal property remains the property of the property owner. They may have to retrieve it from the dealer.


The dealer hired the repo man and expected the repo man to act in accordance with the law. Any laws the repo man breaks are his own responsibility.

(this may vary by state)
Techically? 1 second.
Realistically, 3-4 months or more. Its often more profitable to allow someone to catch up on payments than to repo an upside down on its loan car. When the loan holder (not usually the dealer itself) determines there is little chance of getting paid, they then repo.

Yes, yes (maybe), and Yes(with caveats), and Yes( the aforementioned caveats).

You usually have to notify someone that an object (car) will be repossessed and they have x-days to rectify the situation or clear the object of personal belongings and return it.

If you borrowed money to buy something, the loaner can claim ownership of it if you didn’t pay the money back. This is usually an explicit claim such as cars and houses or a claim they have to argue a little such as objects purchased on a credit card.

Items currently being used to sustain life, like medical equipment, cannot normally be repoed if doing so will cause harm.

Car dealers go through quite a few steps of written & phone notices before doing a repossession – they would much prefer to get payments rather than take the depreciated car back. The mother would have been well aware that she owed on the car, and that the dealer was going to repossess it.

I recall someone complaining in a neighbourhood I worked in, that his car was stolen. Turned out it was towed by the repo man.

In most of N. America, they serve papers that you are behind; in some places, registered mail suffices. If you fail to appear or don’t make up the payments, the get an order to repossess. Then, technically they own the car and they can do what they want with it - like jump in and drive away.

Technically, it would have been kidnapping. But nobody’s going to be charged with kidnapping when it’s similar to “She left her baby in my car”.

Anyone who has ever dealt with deliquent loans and late rents and such, knows there’s a class of people who have the most creative excuses, whines, and promises to get things traightened out - only to play you for a few extra days or weeks extension on their mounting problems. Repo guys have probably heard every story. When the person knows their car is being stalked, maybe the only time the repo man can get it is when it’s sitting there waiting to be driven.

IIRC, about the mid 1970’s the feds became concerned about predatory car dealers, and there’s a whole series of rules about how many repo’s you can have before you are a crook. Some dealers were deliberately conning customers into overpriced cars they could not possibly afford, then repossessing them to resell. Nowadays these people sell real estate. Some dealers had repo rates close to 100%.