What Happens To Personal Belongings In A Repossessed Vehicle?

What Happens To Personal Belongings In A Repossessed Vehicle?Here’s the usual situation:  Someone falls behind on their car payments, and then the car is repo’d at a time when the person had several personal belonging in the car.  How do you get the stuff back?

My advice is to see if the car purchase contract or other agreement requires the lien-holder to provide notice to the buyer, according to Section 348.407 (Retention Or Disposition Of Nonattached Personal Property) of the Texas Finance Code.  If so, the required notice/procedure was not followed, then you may have grounds to complain in court.  If the procedure was followed, then you may not be able to do anything about it.

Here are some practical tips: Contact the repo company AND the lien-holder.  Request the release of your personal belongings, and provide them a list of the personal belongings that were in the vehicle at the time of the repo.  If the loss of your stuff includes personal information, like your Social Security number, then you will want to report that to the credit reporting agencies so that there is so sort of fraud alert on your credit report.  That should make it harder for anyone to use your information to open new lines of credit.

My advice to clients that are behind on payments on a vehicle: Don’t leave any personal belongings in the vehicle, or else you risk losing them at the time of repossession of the vehicle.

Here is Section 348.407 of the Texas Finance Code:

Sec. 348.407.  RETENTION OR DISPOSITION OF NONATTACHED PERSONAL PROPERTY.  (a)  If a retail installment contract authorizes the holder or a person acting on the holder’s behalf to retain or dispose of tangible personal property acquired in the repossession of a motor vehicle that is not attached to the vehicle and not subject to a security interest, the contract or another writing must require the holder to send written notice of the acquisition of the property to the retail buyer in accordance with this section.

(b)  The notice must be mailed or delivered to the most recent address of the retail buyer shown on the records of the holder not later than the 15th day after the date on which the holder discovers the property.

(c)  The notice must:

(1)  state that the retail buyer may identify and claim the property at a reasonable time before the 31st day after the date on which the notice was mailed or delivered;  and

(2)  give the location at which and reasonable times during the period that the retail buyer may identify and claim the property.

(d)  If the property is not claimed before the date described by Subsection (c)(1), the holder may:

(1)  retain the property subject to any legal rights of the retail buyer;  or

(2)  dispose of the property in a reasonable manner and distribute any proceeds of the disposition according to applicable law.


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