Notices You’ll Get in a California Car Repossession

In California, the repossessor must send you certain notices after a car repossession.

If your car loan lender repossesses your car in California, you‘re not entitled to any notice before the repossession. But the car lender must provide you with certain notices after taking the vehicle.

Read on to learn about what the lender must tell you after the repossession, when you'll get these notices, and what to do if the lender doesn't send them. (To learn more about car repossession in California, including how they work, see Car Repossession Laws in California).

Notice of Seizure

Under California law, the repossession agency must give you a notice of seizure within 48 hours of taking the car. But if the 48-hour period includes a Saturday, Sunday, or postal holiday, the repossessor gets 72 hours to notify you. If the 48-hour period includes a Saturday or Sunday, and a postal holiday, the repossessor gets 96 hours to notify you. (Cal. Bus. & Prof. Code § 7507.10).

The notice must tell you the name and contact information for both the lender (the legal owner of the vehicle) and the repossession agency. The notice must also disclose the charges for storing the vehicle and any personal effects. (Learn about different ways to avoid a car repossession.)

Inventory of Personal Effects

After a repossession, you’re also supposed to get an inventory of personal effects, which includes a list of the personal property found in the vehicle when it was repossessed, as well as information about how to get this property back and the cost of storage fees. The inventory generally must be provided not later than 48 hours after the recovery of the car. But if the 48-hour period includes a Saturday, Sunday, or a postal holiday, the repossessor gets 72 hours to notify you. If the 48-hour period includes a Saturday or Sunday, and a postal holiday, the repossessor gets 96 hours to send you the inventory. (Cal. Bus. & Prof. Code § 7507.9).

The repossession agency has to store your items for at least 60 days. After that time expires, the agency can discard your belongings. Be aware that if you’ve installed or affixed personal property to the car, like a sound system, you aren’t entitled to recover that property. If you want it back you’ll need to work out a deal with the lender. (Cal. Bus. & Prof. Code § 7507.9).

While a repossession agent isn’t required to let you remove your personal items from the vehicle at the time of the taking, you may ask for permission to get your belongings out of the car. (To learn what the repo man can and can't do when repossessing your car, see How Motor Vehicles Are Repossessed.)

Notice Before the Sale

Before selling the car, your lender must provide you with a notice at least 15 days before the sale date. In order to collect a deficiency, the notice must be given within 60 days of the repossession, and must include certain information, including your rights regarding reinstating the loan or redeeming the vehicle. (Cal. Civ. Code § 2983.2).

Reinstating the Loan

To reinstate a car loan, you must catch up on all past due payments and pay certain costs and fees. Under California law, you can reinstate a car loan once every 12 months and a maximum of twice over the course of the loan. If you reinstate, you get the car back and continue making car payments under the original contract. There are a few instances where you're not allowed to reinstate the loan; if the lender claims you don’t have the right to reinstate, it must set forth the reason on the notice. (Cal. Civ. Code §§ 2983.2. 2983.3).

Redeeming the Vehicle

You redeem the car by paying the entire loan balance, plus certain costs and fees. If you redeem, you get the car back. Because you paid the loan off, you now own it free and clear. (Cal. Civ. Code § 2983.2). (To learn more about reinstating or redeeming to reclaim your car, see Can I Get My Repossessed Car Back?)

In California, you have the right to request a 10-day extension of time to redeem or reinstate.

The notice must also inform you that if you don’t reinstate or redeem and the lender sells the car, it has the right to sue you for a deficiency. The notice must comply with several other requirements as well, such as providing you with an itemized contract balance. (Cal. Civ. Code § 2983.2).

Getting Help

You should consider consulting with a lawyer if you didn’t receive one of the notices discussed in this article, you think a notice you received doesn't contain all of the correct information, or the lender didn’t comply with the timing requirements. A lawyer can help you raise the issue, either directly to the lender or by filing a lawsuit in court. You might be able to get your vehicle back or perhaps raise the failure to comply with the law as a defense in a deficiency lawsuit. (Read about different defenses to deficiency suits.)

Even if the lender complied with the notice requirements, you might want to consider talking with a lawyer to find out if you could make any other claims against the lender.

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