Can the repo man refuse to return my personal belongings until I pay a convenience fee?

The repo man cannot demand that you pay a fee in order to get your personal items back after your car is repossessed.

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If your car, truck or other vehicle has been repossessed, can the repo man refuse to turn over your personal items until you pay a convenience fee?

Question:

I fell behind on my car payments, so the bank repossessed the car. As the repo man was hooking up my car to a tow truck, I tried to get my things out of the car, including an expensive stereo and my Iphone. However, the repo agent refused to let me get my property unless I paid him $20 as a “convenience fee.” Is that legal?

Answer:

Probably not. While you might be liable for fees related to the repossession and auction of the car, the “convenience fee” is not one of them.

The Car Lender Doesn't Have a Legal Interest in Your Personal Property

This is because you are legally entitled to your personal property. The car loan lender must return that property to you because it doesn't have a legal interest in it (it only has an interest in the car, which served as collateral as payment for the car loan). This obligation extends to the repo agent and anyone else that the bank has hired to repossess and store the car. The repo agent should have let you retrieve your personal property before towing the car.

You Cannot Get Back Fixtures to the Car

The only exception to this rule is if the property was attached in some way to the car. You mentioned wanting to get back your stereo. If the stereo was installed in the car so that you'd need tools to remove it, then you probably would not have been able to take it back, anyway. That's because the stereo became a fixture to the car, and fixtures become part of the car that the bank can legally take and sell.

How to Get Your Personal Property Back After a Repo

If you have not done so, you should call the creditor right away and make arrangements to get your property back. If it refuses, or if the property was lost or damaged during or after the repossession, then you may have a claim against the creditor for damages. You may also use that as a defense if the creditor later sues you for a deficiency judgment after the car repo.

To learn more about your rights, see Can I Get My Personal Property After Repo?

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