Automobile Repossession Laws in Florida

By Mike Bell
It, your car, it
yellow car, a honda japanese sport car model image by alma_sacra from Fotolia.com

The creditor retains many rights until you finish all your payments on your car loan in Florida. Be upfront in discussions with your creditor, because it can be very difficult to get your car back after it is repossessed. Get any agreements (such as a creditor allowing a late payment) in writing, in case your creditor tries to go back on its word.

Grounds for Repossession

A creditor is legally allowed to take your car as soon as you default on your loan, which could happen as soon as you miss a payment. It is important to note that your creditor does not have to give you any notice and could repossess your car while it's sitting in your driveway, although your creditor isn't allowed to use physical force to take your car from you.

Voluntary Repossession

You can decide to voluntarily give your vehicle back to the creditor in hopes of eliminating the creditor's expenses of repossessing your car (which would be passed onto you), and this act could help lessen how much you owe. Be aware, however, that you're still liable for paying any amount left on the loan, and the creditor can still report this as a repossession, which will hurt your credit report.

Personal Property

Creditors aren't allowed to keep or sell your personal property, even if it's in your car when the vehicle is repossessed. Any add-ons to the car itself are usually exceptions, such as an add-on radio. You can be eligible for compensation if your creditor doesn't allow you to get your possessions back.

Auctions

Your creditor can resell your car after taking it back from you, and it must let you know that it is doing so and whether it will be a public or private auction. In fact, you can demand your car be sold after repossessed (usually a good idea if your car is worth more than the remainder of your loan). If the creditor chooses to auction it publicly, it must tell you the date. Be sure to track the sale of your repossessed car, because if sale below under market value, you may have a case in court.

Lawsuits by Creditors

After reselling your vehicle, your creditor may sue you for a "deficiency judgment" -- the difference between the amount earned by the sale of your car and the amount left on your loan. If your creditor files suit, you will be allowed the chance to fight it in court, and you will want to strongly consider hiring an attorney to help you at this hearing.

About the Author

Mike Bell has been writing professionally since 2006. He wrote for and edited the "Independent Florida Alligator," and has also contributed to the "St. Petersburg Times," "Orlando Sentinel" and "Miami Herald." With a Bachelor of Science in journalism, Bell is now a student at the University of Florida Levin College of Law.