Wisconsin law affords consumers a variety of protections related to the repossession process. Some of those legal protections pertain to information a creditor must provide a customer prior to repossessing a motor vehicle. For instance, a creditor is required to send the customer a written notice containing specific information at least 15 days before taking physical possession of the vehicle.
Some of those legal protections prohibit a creditor from engaging in particular activities during the repossession, such as committing a breach of the peace or trespassing on a customer’s private property.
And some of those legal protections relate to post-repossession activities, such as a customer’s right to redeem—that is, pay money to the creditor in order to obtain a vehicle back after it has been repossessed—and the circumstances under which a creditor may obtain a deficiency judgment.
If you believe that your vehicle was wrongfully repossessed—either because your creditor failed to give you proper or timely written notice prior to repossessing your vehicle or because it breached the peace or trespassed on your property during the repossession—or that your creditor failed to comply with Wisconsin’s law regarding redemption or deficiency judgments, call the Auto Justice Law Office for a free phone consultation to discuss your legal rights and options.
Customers who prevail on their claims that a creditor wrongfully repossessed their vehicle are entitled to all of the following:
- Keep the vehicle with no further obligation to pay any amount on the loan
- Recover all the money they paid the creditor pursuant to the loan
- Recover their costs and attorney fees
Prior to repossession
At least 15 days prior to repossession, a creditor must mail a customer written notice that contains, among other things, all of the following:
- The name, address and telephone number of the creditor
- A brief identification of the loan and the vehicle
- A statement that, as a result of the customer’s default on the loan, the creditor may have the right to repossess the vehicle without further notice or court proceeding
- A statement that if the customer is not in default on the loan or objects to the creditor’s right to repossess the vehicle, the customer may, no later than 15 days after the creditor has given notice, demand that the merchant proceed in court by notifying the creditor in writing
- A statement that if the creditor proceeds in court, the customer may be required to pay court costs and attorney fees
In repossessing a vehicle, no creditor may:
- Commit a breach of the peace
- Repossession in disregard of the customer’s oral protest is a breach of the peace
- Trespass on a customer’s private property
Post - Repossession
- A customer is entitled to redeem the vehicle for the 15 days following repossession by giving the creditor, at a minimum, the following:
- All unpaid amounts, including any unpaid delinquency or deferral charges
- Any court costs, filing and service fees and bond premium incurred by the creditor
- Expenses related to taking possession of the vehicle
- The lesser of 3 scheduled payments or one-third of the remaining loan balance.
- With a very few exceptions, a creditor is prohibited from disposing or selling the vehicle for the 15 days following repossession
- In order to obtain a deficiency judgment, the creditor must prove that it disposed of the vehicle in good faith and in a commercially reasonable manner
- A customer is not liable to the creditor on any loan where the unpaid balance at the time of default was $1,000 or less
- If the creditor is entitled to a deficiency judgment, the creditor may recover the balance, if any, remaining after deducting the fair market value of the vehicle from the unpaid balance of the loan
- A customer has the right at any time to voluntarily surrender the vehicle
- The surrender of a vehicle is not voluntary if it is made pursuant to a request or demand, other than the written notice a creditor must send the customer 15 days prior to repossessing the vehicle
- The surrender of a vehicle is not voluntary if it is made pursuant to a threat or other oral statement requesting the customer surrender the vehicle