Vehicle repossession laws in Virginia are fairly simple. If you fail to make a payment on your car loan, your vehicle can be repossessed by the lender or a third party authorized by the lender. However, you have rights during this process and there are steps you can take to prevent your car from being repossessed.
If You Can’t Pay, Notify the Lender
If you know you are not going be able to make a payment on time, contact the creditor right away. If your creditor believes, based on your past history, that you will be able to make the payment by the date you give, they may work with you. You may even be able to negotiate a revised schedule of payments going forward that are more manageable for you. If you do manage to negotiate a change to your original loan contract, get the new agreement in writing to prevent problems later. It is always easier to try to prevent a seizure than to get your car back after it is already gone.
Your Rights Under Virginia Law
Your loan contract should specify exactly what constitutes a default that could lead to a repossession. Be sure you understand the terms of your contract before you miss a payment. Some contracts allow for a seizure of your vehicle as soon as you miss your first payment. In Virginia, lenders do not have to notify you prior to repossessing your vehicle. Repossession agents are permitted to come on to your property to take your vehicle, but are banned from doing any of the following:
Using physical force
Threatening physical force
Breaking into a closed garage or gated area
If an agent does any of these things, his employer may be required to pay a penalty and the actions may become a legal defense for you later on. Before your repossessed car is resold, the creditor must notify you of the date and time of the sale to allow you time to make the required payments to get the car back. If the creditor sells your car for more than you owed on it, you may be entitled to a refund. If however, it is sold for less than what you owe, you may have to pay the difference.
Once you have defaulted on a car loan and lost possession of your car, there may not be much you can do to get it back.