Serving: All of Wisconsin, including Milwaukee, Madison, Green Bay, Kenosha, Racine, Appleton, Waukesha, Oshkosh, Eau Claire, and Janesville.
The Trueblood Law Firm, with offices in Milwaukee, are Wisconsin consumer repossession attorneys who specialize in repossession law, and suing for breaches of the peace. We are not bankruptcy attorneys, but instead help you sue the lender and repossession agency for unlawful repossessions.
Wisconsin imposes some of the highest financial penalties in the nation for breaches of the peace during repossession. For loans of $25,000 or less, the Wisconsin Consumer Act requires the lender to forgive your entire loan balance, give you title to the vehicle, and pay you back for all previous payments you made on the loan. Wisconsin also imposes substantial cash penalties, even if your loan exceeds $25,000.
Please call or email us for a free consultation if you identify a potential violation of Wisconsin repossession law in your case. An overview of Wisconsin repossession law is presented below.
Does the lender have to give advance notice of a repo?
Yes. The lender cannot repossess your vehicle unless it mails you a written notice stating that they are going to repossess, and informing you of your right to object to the repossession within 15 days. Wisconsin Stat. § 425.205(1g). The exceptions would be if the lender already sued you in court, or you voluntarily surrender or abandon the vehicle. So, in most cases, the lender has to notify you by certified mail before taking your car.
The lender cannot repossess during the 15 days after its notice to you. If it does, the penalties are heavy. The Wisconsin Consumer Act provides that the consumer is entitled to a waiver of their entire loan balance, and repayment of all money already paid on the contract. Wisconsin Stat. §§ 425.206(3) and 425.305.
You have a legal right to notify the lender during the 15 day period that you object to any repossession. You must do that in writing (and preferably by certified mail), not on the phone. Then the lender has to go to court to get your car.
Do they have to give me notice of my right to cure before repossessing?
Yes. The lender has to give you a notice 15 days before any repossession, advising you of your right to cure the default. The lender cannot repossess your car during this 15 day period. You can cure your default within the 15 days by paying the past due payments and late fees. Wisconsin Stat. § 425.105.
What is a “breach of the peace” under Wisconsin law?
Here are some typical breaches of the peace: (1) entering a gated or fenced area without the owner’s permission; (2) entering an underground parking garage by tricking the gate 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; (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 or secured apartment complex. If they do, 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. They cannot ram or lift your vehicle while you are inside. They also cannot threaten violence, or threaten to call the police.
Can the repossession agency take my car after I object?
No. Once you orally object, the repossession agency has to leave and get a court order. Hollibush v. Ford Motor Credit Co., 508 N.W.2d 449, 179 Wis.2d 799 (Wis. App., 1993).
Do I have a right to get back my personal property in the vehicle?
Yes. Call your lender and find out which repossession agency took your car. Then ask the repossession agency for your belongings. You will typically have to make an appointment.
How do I get my car back from the lender after the repossession?
If your original loan was $25,000 or less, you have a right under Wisconsin law to reinstate your contract after repossession. You reinstate by (1) paying your past due payments, late fees, or other charges; (2) paying an additional deposit of three times the amount of your regular monthly payment. Wisconsin Stat. § 425.208. You must reinstate within 15 days of the repossession.
If your original loan was more than $25,000 you can’t reinstate, but you can “redeem.” This means paying off the entire loan balance and taking title to the vehicle.
What will I owe if I do not reinstate or redeem?
The vehicle will be sold at auction. The creditor will apply the proceeds of the sale to your loan balance, and you usually will owe the rest, which is called a “deficiency balance.” In Wisconsin, you do not owe a deficiency balance if the amount is $1,000 or less. 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.
It is definitely worth it to have a lawyer look at the notice of sale that the lender sent you just after the repossession, since under Wisconsin law, you will escape paying the deficiency balance if that notice is defective. You could also be entitled to substantial cash penalties.
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. Give us a call to see if you can counter-sue the lender for wrongful repossession, or to see if you have a defense to the lawsuit. 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 you don’t have a finance company, just pay the dealer your monthly installments by personal check (not money orders). Be sure you make those payments on time, and have proof of mailing! Otherwise, the dealer could repossess.
The dealer has no right to repossess your vehicle or harass you with phone calls, just because they couldn’t find a finance company to take the contract. Often, a dealer will try to trick you into coming into the dealership for other reasons (mechanical service, a free gift, or just to talk), and then they will repossess your vehicle illegally while you are there.
Do you handle wrongful repossessions under leases?
Yes. Wisconsin Statutes § 411.525(3) prohibits breaches of the peace as to leased vehicles. Therefore, both the lender and the repossession agency are liable for a breach of the peace. There are penalties available under the federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act ($1,000), and the consumer can collect actual damages including emotional distress.