Repossession is the process of taking back a car after the owner defaults on their auto loan. Each state has different laws and regulations that dictate every step of the repossession process from start to finish. This page will provide an overview of New Hampshire's Repossession Laws and what you should know if you've fallen behind on car payments.
Written by Upsolve Team.
Updated February 27, 2023
New Hampshire has only 17,000 miles of road, but there are over a million drivers in the Granite state, according to the Office of Highway Policy Information. New Hampshire has some rough roads, and driving can take a toll on your car. Unexpected repairs can be costly and can make it tough to make your monthly car payments.
If you miss just one payment, your car is at risk of being repossessed. That means the lender can take the car back if you don’t make your payments, and you could be stuck without a way to get to work or school. The lender has a right to do this because when you buy a car with a loan, the car is used as collateral. The lender (also called a lienholder) has a security interest in the car. This allows them to reclaim and sell the car if you default on the loan. You still have time to get your vehicle back after repossession, and there are ways you can prevent repossession.
How Many Payments Can I Miss Without Risking a Repossession in New Hampshire?
In New Hampshire, by law lenders can’t start a repossession until after borrowers are 10 days late on their car loan payments. While this sets a minimum time lenders must follow, the repossession timeline will also depend on your contract. You probably signed a document called a note and a security agreement when you got your car loan. The security agreement should have the details about when repossession can occur after you miss a payment.
Will I Be Notified Before the Repossession? How?
New Hampshire doesn’t require lenders or creditors to give borrowers notice before repossessing a car. You might receive a notice that you defaulted on your loan, but this isn’t required by law. Instead, it depends on the terms of the contract and the business practices of the financial institution.
How Can I Prevent a Repossession?
You can prevent a repossession in the state of New Hampshire by being proactive when you know you’re going to be late with a payment. Simply call your lender and request a payment arrangement before the due date. If you get one, make sure the new arrangement is put in writing. You should also check the writing on the security agreement for your car loan. If there’s a chance you didn’t sign the agreement, it may not be valid. It’s best to take this up with an attorney and have them review the contract.
If you can’t make your payments according to your car loan agreement, consider refinancing your car loan. If you doubt you’ll ever get out of default and you also have a lot of other debt like high credit card debt, you can consider filing bankruptcy. A bankruptcy will at least temporarily stop motor vehicle repossession.
If you can’t make your car payments or refinance your car loan, consider voluntarily surrendering the vehicle. This is called voluntary repossession. To do it, tell the lender you’d like to surrender your car before it’s repossessed. Then make arrangements to drop off the vehicle. This has two big benefits: You won’t get stuck with the costs and fees involved in repossession, and your car won’t be repossessed while you’re sleeping.
What Can Repo Companies in New Hampshire Do?
When a creditor has a tow company repossess a car without going through the courts it’s called a self-help repossession. This is legal under New Hampshire law, and repo agents don’t need a special license to operate in the state. A repo company in New Hampshire can tow your car at night and can take it right from your driveway. But they can’t enter your locked garage, shed, or storage unit without your permission.
Repo companies and their agents must not create a breach of the peace when repossessing a car for a creditor. This means they can’t cause a disturbance. Repo agents can’t make threats, engage in violent activity, or break your locks to gain access to your car. Of course, you can’t create a breach of the peace either. This means you can’t threaten the repo agent or engage in violence, or you could get into criminal trouble. The courts have held that a repossession agent can’t have a police officer assist with a self-help repossession, but an officer can assist with a court-ordered repossession.
The lender must report your repossession to the police department, so be sure to call if you can’t find your car.
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What About the Personal Property in My Car?
The repossession company and the lender can’t keep your personal belongings. You have the right to get your personal belongings when the repo agent is repossessing your car. For instance, if your car is in a school parking lot with your school books while being repossessed, you can tell the repo agent that you need to get your things and they must let you.
It’s in your best interest to remove your personal belongings from your car before it’s repossessed. If you don’t, you can still get your things, but it will take longer. You can call the bank and repossession company to arrange a time to pick up your belongings.
What Happens After a Repossession in New Hampshire?
In the state of New Hampshire, your car can be sold at a public auction for a commercially reasonable price after it’s repossessed. Commercially reasonable generally means the lender must try to get a fair market value for the car. The details of what is considered commercially reasonable are outlined in New Hampshire’s Uniform Commercial Code.
New Hampshire state law requires your lender to give you written notice before disposing of your car. The written notice will state:
How much you owe,
The name of the creditor,
The date, time, and place of the auction,
Whether the car will be sold in a private sale or at a public auction.
The notice will also state that you can request an accounting of the debt you owe. At the auction, your car will be sold to the highest bidder, even if the bid doesn’t cover the amount of the loan.
The money from the auction will be put toward the total amount you owe on your car loan. The amount you owe will likely include fees, penalties, repossession costs, storage costs, insurance costs, attorney fees, and auction costs — in addition to the outstanding loan balance. The remaining amount you owe after your car is sold at auction is called the deficiency balance. If your car is sold for more than the debt you owe plus the deficiency balance, then the lender has to pay you the surplus. But this isn’t common.
Do I Still Owe After a Repossession in New Hampshire?
Even after your car is repossessed, you still owe the balance on the loan in addition to extra fees. These could include attorney’s fees, towing and storage fees, and insurance. Your fees should be lower if you opted for a voluntary repossession because you won’t have to pay for the repossession. The total amount you owe minus the amount your repossessed car brought in results in your deficiency balance.
For example, if you owed $4,500 on the car loan and it cost the lender $1,000 to repossession the car, you’ll owe $5,500 minus what the car brought in at auction. If the car sold for $3,800 at auction, you’ll owe a deficiency balance of $1,700. If you’d voluntarily surrendered the car, you’d only have to pay a $700 deficiency in this example.
Your lender can sue you to collect on the deficiency balance through methods like wage garnishment or a bank account levy. But you can contact the lender and try to make a payment schedule to pay the balance over time and avoid going to court over it.
Can I Get My Car Back After a Repossession in New Hampshire?
New Hampshire state law gives borrowers the right to redeem their car after repossession. Redeeming your car means getting it back. To redeem your motor vehicle, you’ll have to pay the total amount you owe, plus expenses and attorney’s fees before the car is sold or put under contract to be disposed of. Review your contract for specific terms.
You may not receive notice of your right to redemption, so be sure to call your lender if your car is repossessed and you’re interested in redeeming your vehicle The notice you received about the public auction will have contact information.
Where Can I Find More Information About Repossession Laws in New Hampshire?
Here are some resources about New Hampshire repossession:
New Hampshire Legal Aid – Provides legal advice and legal services for low-income individuals and has a self-help guide for auto repossession in New Hampshire.
New Hampshire Department of Justice – Debt Collection – Information on New Hampshire state laws and debt collection.
The John W. King New Hampshire Law Library – Links to New Hampshire statutes and statutes of limitations.
Legal Aid New Hampshire Consumer Sourcebook – A complete explanation of consumer protection laws in New Hampshire, including car repossession.
New Hampshire Statutes – Link to New Hampshire’s state statutes.