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Illegal Repossession Tactics

Illinois law states the repossession of a car or truck is illegal if the consumer is not actually in default on the loan or if the creditor doesn’t have a valid security interest in the vehicle. But a valid repossession can become illegal if the repossessor used tactics that “breach the peace” when seizing the vehicle. What constitutes a breach of peace is open to interpretation, but through the years, the courts have given us some parameters.

A repo man has a limited privilege to trespass on private property for the sole purpose of effecting the repossession. He may not hop a fence or pick a lock or break into a locked garage. He can remove a car parked in a driveway or even, in some cases, an unlocked garage.

Physical force or threats of violence are prohibited. The Illinois Appellate Court sets the bar for a breach of peace way below any kind of physical altercation, requiring only that there be “conduct which incites or is likely to incite immediate public turbulence, or which leads to or is likely to lead to an immediate loss of public order and tranquility.” So, if you are in (or on) your car, a repo man cannot physically remove you to effect repossession.

Illegal tactics are illegal. This should go without saying, but a repo man cannot do something which is otherwise illegal and excuse it as a means to effect repossession. So, he cannot claim to be a police officer to effect repossession, because impersonating a police officer is against the law. He cannot destroy a debtor’s personal property to effect repossession.

The repo man cannot request police assistance to effect repossession. Repossession is a purely private matter. If there is a breach of the peace and the police are called, their job is to restore order, not to assist the repo man in taking a vehicle. Threatening to call the police to help take the car is also prohibited, as is the use of obscene or profane language, since such threats violate the federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act.

A repo man who uses illegal repossession tactics can be liable to the debtor for monetary damages. To find out more about your rights and possible solutions to your debt problems, speak to an experienced bankruptcy attorney at 800-440-7235 or contact us online to schedule a free consultation. We are DebtStoppers, and we can help you get a fresh start.

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