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Answered 2014-04-18 19:05:00

Personal Property in the Vehicle

According to the FTC:

Regardless of the method used to dispose of a repossessed car, a creditor may not keep or sell any personal property found inside. In some states, your creditor must tell you what personal items were found in your car and how you can retrieve them. Your creditor also may be required to use reasonable care to prevent anyone else from removing your property from the car. If your creditor can't account for articles left in your vehicle, you may want to speak to an attorney about your right to compensation.

Check your state laws before you assume anything. Each state has different rules and regulations. As far as California goes, all personal property in a vehicle is removed and a complete inventory is made of all personal property that is NOT attached to the vehicle. In California any repossession company can and will charge a fee to get your personal property back, so my advice to you is handle it the day your car is taken and don't take long because fees increase daily.

You will not be allowed in your vehicle, all property is taken out for you.

Advice from other contributors:

  • Most repo agents will give you little or no info, but the longer they have your personal effects, the more money they will charge you for "storage". Call your local sheriffs department, and they will sometimes give you the name, address, and phone number of the repo agent who has picked up your car. You will not be allowed to remove anything attached to your car, like stereo equipment, bug deflectors, etc. Then you'll just have to wait it out at their office or lot.
  • As far as auctioning it off, they normally remove your personal items and "inventory" them (also known as snooping and throwing uninteresting items in a paper sack), for which you are also charged a fee. Don't sign the inventory sheet until you are absolutely certain everything has been given to you. They will not allow you to get items out of your vehicle yourself, so make a list of what was in your truck before you go, and insist on receiving all items. Good luck!
  • First off, the company was in the wrong. We cannot stop you from taking your personal items, for one simple rule, they are yours, and do not belong to the car. When we repo a car, we are there for the car, not your stuff. You should have the right to get your personal items out of the car. If your car was taken in the night without you knowing, call your bank and they do know where your car is. Sharon is correct about the stereo and such, they are physically attached to the car. As for storage, it is the car itself, not the items inside. If the car goes to auction, your stuff goes with it, and it's up to the auction company what they do with it. Your best bet is to get your stuff yourself as soon as possible.
  • Please check with your state laws. in some states the repossesor is not allowed to take any personal items out of the car or the creditor will be held responsible for those items missing. for more info go to ftc.gov
  • My car was repossessed over 9 years ago, so I don't know if the laws have changed, but when mine was repossessed, the tow truck company told me that I had to pay them their "fee" in order to even access the car, let alone the items. I had my leather jacket, my boyfriend's, and my friend's in my car, since I had just returned from a trip up North, and they said they had the right to keep and sell the things in it. I also had a camera, and luggage in there, as I had just gotten home from my trip.
  • Most State Case Law provides that no condition may be put on the return of personal items. This means no one should make you sign any release or pay storage fees. The return of your items must be immediate upon request and unconditional. Further, most case law has held "if it's made to go on, it's made to come off." This means things you put in the vehicle, such as speakers, stereos, bed mounted tool boxes, after-market parts (including the engine compartment), etc. are personal property.
  • Now, let's get down to reality. Most recovery companies would not let you remove items that are "attached to the vehicle". However, if it's financially worth it for you, they can be held liable in a civil case.
  • Most state case laws are silent on the matter of personal property contained in repossessed vehicles. I have been in this business 25 years, we repossessed almost a thousand cars last month alone, so trust me on this one. The only states that I am aware of that contain statutes regarding personal property in repossessions are CA and FL, and both allow for charging for return of personal effects. Other states have seen challenges regarding the right to charge for handling of personal property, and the judges have ruled in favor of the recovery company, stating it is not reasonable to expect the recovery company to be responsible for handling personal property free of charge. Also, anything attached to the vehicle becomes part of the vehicle. Even if there is a lien on the accessory (like wheels and tires), the courts have ruled the lien on the whole takes precedence over the lien on the part. We had a guy sue us in small claims court over an aftermarket radio we refused to remove. He lost. We had a wheel rental company sue us over wheels and tire they financed. They lost. I try to have the debtors clean out their property when I pick up a car, I don't want to spend an hour or two bagging and tagging their stuff. The best advise here is that if your vehicle is out for recovery, take whatever you want off and out of it.
  • My car was repossessed with my belonging still in it. and was sold three weeks later without sending out a letter telling me, the time or date of sale is there any thing i can do about It.
  • The repo company cannot charge you for getting your personal property from the car they can charge you a fee if they actually do something like inventory and bag your personal property.
  • Repo companies can charge for your possessions as if you voluntarily give the car back to the lien holder you can clean out the car yourself if the repo man has to hunt you down and then pay someone to clean your belongings out they recoup that cost by charging the debtor as far as the kid in the car comment in most states its a far greater crime/issue to leave a child unattended in the car if you leave your kid in the car a repo is the least of your worries
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