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 West Virginia's Repossession Laws and what you should know if you've fallen behind on car payments.
Written by Upsolve Team.
Updated May 11, 2022
If you’ve fallen behind on your auto loan payments, your lender may choose to repossess your car or truck.Repossession involves taking back the collateral thatsecures a loan when a borrower defaults. In this case, your car or truck itself serves as that collateral.
When West Virginia borrowers fall behind on their auto payments, the repossession process is governed by state law. Read on to learn more about what happens during repossession and therights and responsibilities of borrowers and creditors alike.
How Many Payments Can I Miss Without Risking a Repossession in West Virginia?
Depending on the terms of your auto loan agreement, your account could beclassified as in default if you’re even one day late in making a payment. However, West Virginia law doesn’t allow creditors to seize a vehicle until they’ve notified you of your delinquency and given you 10 days to catch up on your missed payment(s).
Auto lenders don’t usually like to go through the hassle of repossessing a vehicle if you can make up the balance you owe in a reasonable amount of time. If you suspect that you may need to miss a payment or you’ve already missed one, talk to your lender. Ask if they have options that allow you to catch up.
Will I Be Notified Before the Repossession? How?
The prior notice requirement in West Virginia mandates that lenders send out a formal notice at least 10 days before repossessing a vehicle. This notice must be made in writing and must detail how much you owe, including your overdue balance, late fees, etc. It must clearly state that if you don’t pay this balance within 10 days your vehicle could be repossessed.
In West Virginia, a lender can’t repossess a vehicle without first giving the borrower at least 10 days to bring their account current. If the delinquent account is made current within this 10-day window, the lender can’t repossess the vehicle and sell it at auction. If you don’t repay your balance or make alternative arrangements with your lender during this 10-day period, they may choose to accelerate your loan.
How Can I Prevent a Repossession?
If you pay your overdue balance before the 10-day notice period has expired, you’ll prevent your vehicle from being repossessed. You may also be able to work out a deferment with your lender or renegotiate the terms of your loan to make repayment more manageable. Finally, you might be able to refinance your loan. This allows you to pay off your existing loan and get a new one with different loan terms like a lower payment or interest rate.
Basically, in order to prevent a repossession, you need to:
Take action to bring your account current,
Pay your total balance off, or
Work with your lender to ensure that your car is no longer in danger of being seized because your account is in the red.
It’s important to be proactive when trying to prevent repossession. If your vehicle is repossessed — even for a day before you pay off your balance and get it back — yourcredit score will take a hit.
If you’re concerned about your credit score and your auto loan is no longer manageable, talk to your lender aboutvoluntary repossession. Choosing to surrender your car allows you to get rid of the debt burden of your auto payments. This may be an especially attractive option if your car loan isupside down and you won’t be able to make regular payments anytime soon.
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What Can Repo Companies in West Virginia Do?
The state of West Virginia doesn’t requirerepo companies to give delinquent borrowers formal notice before seizing their vehicles. In West Virginia, repossession services companies don’t have to be licensed, so it isn’t always easy to know whether you’re dealing with a legitimate party while a repossession is taking place.
Still, repo agents can’t trick you, mislead you, or use violence when seizing a vehicle. If someone uses these tactics when trying to take your vehicle, you’ll want to speak with an attorney. Don’t attempt to keep your vehicle by force or otherwise breach the peace, as doing so can get you in trouble with the law.
As long as a repo man doesn’t breach the peace, they may lawfully take your vehicle from public places and may generally take it from private locations that are unlocked. You won’t be able to avoid repossession by storing your vehicle in a locked space, as West Virginia repossession companies can seek a court order to repossess it from wherever you have parked it.
What About the Personal Property in My Car?
If your vehicle hasn’t yet been repossessed but you’re behind on your payments, take time to remove your personal property from your car or truck. Although car repossession agents aren’t allowed to keep your personal property after seizing your vehicle, getting your possessions back can be costly and time-consuming.
Toretrieve your personal property from a repossessed vehicle, connect with the company that took your car or truck and ask about their retrieval policies. The company must return your possessions, but they may charge you a fee for doing so. Note that any improvements to your car (such as a bike rack or an upgraded stereo system) that can’t be removed without tools can’t be retrieved post-repossession. Car improvements attached to the vehicle aren’t considered “personal property.” They’re considered to be part of the car itself.
What Happens After a Repossession in West Virginia?
After a repossessor takes your vehicle, you’ll either need to redeem it or work with your lender to reinstate your loan, or you’ll no longer be the owner of your car or truck. In West Virginia, a creditor may choose to keep your vehicle as payment in full for your loan, or they may sell it at a private or public auction. Your creditor must provide you with written notice if they intend to sell your vehicle. If they do, the proceeds from the sale will be used to repay your outstanding balance and any costs incurred in the repossession process.
Do I Still Owe After a Repossession in West Virginia?
If your car is repossessed — voluntarily or involuntarily — and is sold at auction, the proceeds of that sale will be applied to your outstanding loan balance. If the sale proceeds aren’t enough to cover the balance due, you may or may not be held liable for thedeficiency balance on your account. Remember that the amount you owe will likely include the original balance of the loan, as well as repossession fees, late fees, storage fees, and/or attorney fees.
In West Virginia, a borrower isn’t held liable for a deficiency balance if the total balance they owe after the sale is $1,000 or less. If you owe more than $1,000, your lender may seek adeficiency judgment if you don’t repay your deficiency balance voluntarily.
Can I Get My Car Back After a Repossession in West Virginia?
West Virginia residents benefit from a “right of redemption.” This means that after a car is repossessed, but before it’s been sold at auction, the borrower has a right to pay off the full balance they owe and assume ownership of the vehicle. The full balance owed will likely include the balance of the loan plus late fees and auto repossession costs.
Alternatively, your lender may be willing to reinstate your loan if you can pay your past-due balance and repossession fees. This happens at the lender’s discretion. It’s not required by state law. Lenders are generally more open to negotiating with borrowers before a vehicle has been repossessed, but if you hope to keep your repossessed car, attempting to negotiate a solution may be worth your time.
Where Can I Find More Information About West Virginia Repossession Laws?
Additionally, you may find some of the resources listed on the American Bar Association’sWest Virginia Free Legal Answer Page to be helpful.