If I am late on my car payments but the manager agreed by phone that I could pay a partial amount, can they repo my car?

UPDATED: Apr 7, 2012

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If I am late on my car payments but the manager agreed by phone that I could pay a partial amount, can they repo my car?

I am 1 1/2 car payments late which is 1 months worth of pay. I asked the manager if I paid part of the amount, could keep the car until my next pay day, she said yes. However, the same day they sent a repo man to get it. Is that legal?

Asked on April 7, 2012 under Bankruptcy Law, Tennessee


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

If the creditor or its collections agency makes a payment arrangment with a debtor--such as agreeing to not repossess if partial payment is made--that agreement is enforceable; so long as the debtor honors his or her obligations under the agreement, the creditor may not take legal or other collections action. That includes not repossessing the car the same day as the agreement was made, since the debtor has  not yet had a chance to honor the agreement.

You may therefore  be entitled to sue for the return of  your car and/or monetary compensation. Be aware that a major issue is whether you can prove the existence and the terms of the oral (over the phone) agreement, if the manager you spoke to doesn't "remember" it the same way you do. In that case, it may come down to your word against hers; and since you'd be bringing the lawsuit, the burden of proof would be on you, giving them the advantage.

That said, it would be worthwhile for you to meet with an attorney to discuss the situation and your options in greater detail.

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