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Repo Law

feldman_amy Amy Feldman
Amy E. Feldman is a business commentator and legal business...
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By Amy E. Feldman

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) - Someone unlocks your car on your driveway in the middle of the night and drives away with it. Sounds like grand theft auto, but it’s not a crime if done legally by a repo man. How can that be?

Native Philadelphian Ken Cage has made a $100 million business out of high end repossessions, including outsmarting the security systems on yachts and captaining them away or distracting private jet owners while he flies the plane away. And while it’s really hard to feel bad for the former 1 percenters who now will have to fly coach, there were 1.3 million car repossessions last year of people who fell behind in their payments.

How can a person can grab your car without your knowledge and drive it away legally? When you buy a car, unless you pay cash, you get a loan and in those loan documents you give the bank or dealership the right to take the car if you stop making payments.

There are laws governing repossession, most importantly that the repo man can’t use bodily force or threats and if confronted can’t risk a confrontation with you that would result in a breach of the peace, he can’t break into a locked garage but he can lawfully take your car in the middle of the night if it’s on the street or even in your driveway.

If you’re behind on your car payment, be it on a used beater or a fully loaded limo; call the bank to work out payment terms rather than ignoring it and then watching it go away.