Serving all of the state of Washington, including Seattle, Spokane, Tacoma, Vancouver, Bellevue, and Everett
The Trueblood Law Firm, located in Seattle, Washington, are experienced consumer repossession attorneys specializing in suing for breach of the peace. We are not bankruptcy attorneys, but instead help you sue the lender and repossession agency for illegal repossessions.
There are significant penalties available to consumers under Washington law for wrongful repossessions. Please call or email us for a low-cost consultation if you identify a potential violation of Washington repossession law in your case. An overview of Washington repossession law is presented below.
Does the lender have to give advance notice of a repo?
No. There is no requirement of advance notice of a repossession in Washington. The lender can repossess your car if you are even one day late on your contract. The exception might be if the lender promised not to repossess upon receipt of certain payments.
Can they repossess my vehicle for a late payment, when I’ve been paying late every month?
This will depend on your particular case. The contracts usually provide that the lender doesn’t waive its rights by accepting late payments. However, there is a body of law holding that a repo can be illegal if the lender has repeatedly held off on repossession after receiving late payments.
What is a “breach of the peace” under Washington law?
Here are some typical breaches of the peace: (1) entering a secured area (gated, fenced, or guarded) without the owner’s permission; (2) entering an underground parking garage by tricking the code or following a car in; (3) breaking or opening any lock, door, or gate; (4) taking the car after an oral objection by the consumer, made before the car is hooked up; (5) damaging the vehicle during repossession; (6) blocking or lifting the vehicle while someone was in it; (6) any violence, pushing, or touching of the consumer; (7) making a public disturbance such as shouting, honking horns, or contacting neighbors; (8) moving other cars that were blocking the towed vehicle; and (9) threatening you with arrest or bodily harm.
Can the repossession agency trespass into my underground garage or secured area?
No. They cannot break into a garage, or trick the code on your gate, or follow another vehicle into the garage. If they did, the repossession agency and lender are liable for wrongful repossession.
Can the repossession agency use force or touch me?
No. The repossession agent cannot breach the peace when taking your vehicle. They cannot use violence or touch or push anyone.
Do I have a right to get back my personal property in the vehicle?
Yes. The tow truck operator must store your personal belongings, and return them to you during normal business hours upon presentation of identification. The tow company cannot charge you any fees to get back your personal belongings, and they may not be sold at auction. RCW 46.55.090. As the registered owner, you also have a right to inspect the vehicle without charge during business hours.
The tow truck operator must also be registered in the state of Washington, with the Department of Revenue. RCW 46.55.020. If an out-of-state tow operator from Oregon or Idaho took your vehicle, that was an illegal repossession and you should call us.
How do I get my car back from the lender after the repossession?
Unfortunately, there is no right of reinstatement in Washington (reinstatement means getting your car back by paying only your past due payments). You are entitled to “redeem” the contract by paying the entire loan balance and taking title. Of course, not many consumers can afford that. You will receive a notice in the mail from the lender. The notice will state that you have a right to “redeem” the contract within ten days by paying the full contract balance, and any repossession fees.
What will I owe if I do not redeem?
If you cannot afford to redeem, or you leased, the vehicle will be sold at auction, generally ten days after issuance of the written notice of the sale. The creditor will apply the proceeds of the sale to your loan balance, and you will owe the rest, which is called a “deficiency balance.” Many people are shocked that they owe so much after the auction sale, because they do not realize that the auction prices are wholesale prices.
I am being sued on a deficiency balance. What should I do?
If you have already been sued after repossession, do not ignore the lawsuit! Seek out a consumer attorney immediately, well before the answer date on your summons, or you might lose your legal rights. You cannot just call or write a letter to the court. You must file an official response in court, by your answer date. The deadline to respond is not the first scheduled court date, but the answer date on your summons. Give us a call to see if you can counter-sue the lender for wrongful repossession. Please don’t ignore the lawsuit, because the consequences are severe.
I bought a car, I am current on my payments, and the car dealer is harassing me to sign a new contract and threatening to repossess. What do I do?
The dealer is doing this because they were unable to find a lender for your contract. That is not your problem, it is the dealer’s. If the dealer notified you within ten days of signing the contract that it wanted to cancel the transaction, then they are within their rights, and you should give the car back and get your down payment/trade-in back. But if the dealer waited more than ten days to notify you that they were canceling, you have the right to keep the car and make payments to the dealer (not to any bank who may have been discussed). The dealer has no right to repossess your vehicle or harass you with phone calls, so give us a call if they do.
Do you handle wrongful repossessions under leases?
Yes. Washington law prohibits breaches of the peace as to leased vehicles. See RCW § 62A.2A-525. Therefore, both the lender and the repossession agency are liable for a breach of the peace. However, in Washington, there are no automatic, minimum penalties for a wrongful repossession of a leased vehicle, as there are for purchased vehicles. Instead, there are penalties available under the federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act ($1,000), and the Washington Unfair Business Practices Act, RCW § 19.86.090 (treble damages up to $25,000).