Topic:
MOTOR VEHICLES; BANK LOANS; DEBT; CONSUMER PROTECTION DEPARTMENT;
Location:
CONSUMER PROTECTION - MOTOR VEHICLES;

OLR Research Report


February 26, 2002

 

2002-R-0270

REDEEMING A REPOSSESSED MOTOR VEHICLE

 

By: Daniel Duffy, Principal Analyst

You asked if state law gives a motor vehicle purchaser whose car has been repossessed by the lender the right to redeem the vehicle.

SUMMARY

The law prescribes procedures that lenders must follow to repossess goods. Under it, a lender that does not give at least 10 days notice prior to repossessing goods must give the buyer a right to redeem them.

REPOSSESSION

The law establishes a procedure to repossess goods. If the buyer defaults on his payments, or fails to perform other contractual obligations and the contract expressly makes the obligation a ground for retaking the goods, the contract holder may repossess the goods. Unless the goods may be taken without breach of peace, they must be retaken following legal process. The law specifies that it must not be construed to authorize violating criminal law. If a motor vehicle is repossessed without the buyer's knowledge, the contract holder must notify the local police department or the state police, as appropriate (GGS 36a-785(a)).

Notice of Intent to Repossess

The law allows a contract holder to notify the buyer of the intention to retake goods due to the buyer's default. The notice must be given at least ten days before repossession and may be delivered personally or by registered or certified mail. It must state (1) the default, (2) the date after which goods will be repossessed, and (3) the buyer's rights in a brief and clear way. If the notice is given and the buyer does not act to remedy the default before the stated deadline, the contract holder may repossess the goods and hold them for resale, but without a right of redemption (GGS 36a-785(b)).

Redemption

If the contract holder does not give the notice of intent to repossess, he must keep the goods in the state where they were repossessed for 15 days. During that period, the buyer may redeem the goods, take possession of them, and continue to perform his obligations under the contract if he (1) pays the unaccelerated amount due under the contract at the time of repossession plus interest or performs a contractual obligation stated in the contract as grounds for repossession and (2) pays the actual and reasonable costs of repossession and storage.

The contract holder must, within three days of repossession, provide the buyer with a written statement of the amount due under the contract and the amount due for repossession and storage costs. If the contract holder fails to provide this notice, he forfeits his right to payment for repossession and storage costs and is liable for actual damages caused by that failure.

If the goods are perishable and cannot be kept for 15 days without destruction or substantial injury, these requirements do not apply and the contract holder may sell the goods immediately after repossessing them (GGS 36a-785(c)).

Compulsory Resale

The contract holder must sell repossessed goods if the buyer does not redeem them. The sale must be held from 15 to 180 days after repossession and may be public or private. If the goods were repossessed through legal process, and an answer is interposed, the contract holder may hold the goods for up to 30 days after the final judgment is entered. The contract holder must give the buyer at least 10 days written notice of the time and place of a public sale or when a private sale or other disposition will take place. The notice may be given personally or by registered or certified mail. The proceeds of the resale must be considered as either the amount paid for the goods or the fair cash retail market value at the time of repossession, whichever is greater (GGS 36a-785(d)).

Resale Proceeds

Resale proceeds must be applied (1) to pay the actual and reasonable costs of the sale, (2) to pay repossession and storage costs, and (3) to satisfy the balance due under the contract. The contract holder must give the buyer a written itemization of how the proceeds are disposed. If any money remains after the claims are paid, the contract holder must give it to the buyer (GGS 36a-785(e)).

Deficiency after Resale

Even if the proceeds are not enough to pay the above costs, the contract holder may not recover the difference from the buyer or any surety or guarantor for him, except as described below for certain motor vehicles and boats (GGS 36a-785(f)).

Fair Market Value of Motor Vehicles and Boats

If the contract holder repossesses a motor vehicle with an aggregate cash price greater than $2,000, the prima facie fair market value is calculated by adding the average trade-in value and the average resale value and dividing the sum by two. The average values must be determined according to the National Automobile Dealers Association Used Car Guide, Eastern Edition, as of the date of repossession. The fair market value of boats with an aggregate cash price greater than $2,000 must be calculated in the same way, except the average values must be taken from the National Automobile Dealers Association Appraisal Guide for Boats, Eastern Edition. If the value of the motor vehicle or boat is not stated in the guides, the court must determine the fair market retail value minus reasonable resale costs. Prima facie evidence of value so determined may be rebutted only by direct in-court testimony.

If the fair market value of these motor vehicles and boats is less than the balance due plus repossession costs, the contract holder may recover the difference as a deficiency from the buyer (GGS 36a-785(g)).

Choice of Remedies

If the contract holder repossesses goods or obtains a prejudgment remedy, the buyer is not liable for the balance due, except to the extent described above for certain motor vehicles and boats. If the goods have not been repossessed, the contract holder may seek a monetary judgment against the buyer. Goods purchased under contract cannot be used to satisfy such a judgment. When a judgment is final, the holder's security interest in the goods terminates. If the contract relates to a sale of a motor vehicle that must be registered, the contract holder must comply with motor vehicle law concerning the release of a security interest (GGS 36a-785(h)).

Recovery of Part Payments

The law allows a buyer to recover the greater of his actual damages, if any, or 25% of the amount paid under the contract, if a contract holder repossesses goods and fails to comply with the law concerning redemption, compulsory resale, resale proceeds, deficiency after resale, determining the fair market value of certain motor vehicles and boats, or the choice of remedies (GGS 36a-785(i)).

Waiver of Statutory Protection

The law makes invalid any act or agreement made before, or at the time of, entering a contract in which the buyer waives the law's provisions concerning redemption, compulsory resale, resale proceeds, deficiency after resale, determining the fair market value of certain motor vehicles and boats, the choice of remedies, or the recovery of part payments (GGS 36a-785(j)).

Risk of Loss

By law, the buyer bears the risk of loss or injury after the goods have been delivered and before any repossession (GGS 36a-785(k)).

DD:ro