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Reclaiming a car that was bought for an ex

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  #1  
Old 06-06-07, 06:14 AM
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Reclaiming a car that was bought for an ex

I bought a car for my ex-girlfriend around 2004. We split in 2005 and had an agreement that she would play monthly for the car and its insurance. From then, until now, she has been paying $100.00 less than the agreed monthly payment.

Later in 2005, I met someone else, got married, bought house, started a family, etc... Yet, these payments are still being sent to me from my ex and at the low amount it will be another two years before she has it paid off. Had she paid the other $100 per month, it would have been paid off by now.

The problem is, when I tried to recently purchase a new car, my normal bank would not finance it because I already had two vehicles financed through them. One of which, is the car I bought for my ex.

I am listed as the owner of the car, my name is on the bank loan and on the insurance. She just pays the monthly notes. I want to be out from under this deal and move on with my life. Had she paid as we agreed, I would be.

There is also a potential I will be relocating due to my job, so cashing the checks that she sends will be a bit of a hassle as the bank would not be local.

My question is... Would it be legal for me to request that she pays the balance by a certain date and if not, retake ownership of the car? A few things to consider: 1) She has been -$100 monthly on the agreed upon price, 2) Her parents are financially able to help her, they could pay the lump sum, then she could repay them, 3) I am listed as the owner of the car.

If it would be legal for me to reclaim the car, how would I go about legally getting it back being that she is about 70 miles east of my current location. If she is unwilling to meet the payoff deadline, would it be legal for me to locate the car and just take it back.

If I were to get it back, I would turn around and sell it for what is owed on it. I already have a potential buyer and have no need or desire to keep it.

Any suggestions?
 
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  #2  
Old 06-06-07, 07:57 AM
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If you are the registered owner, it is YOUR car. Just go get it.
 
  #3  
Old 06-06-07, 10:06 AM
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I agree, it's in your name, just go get it.

Ask the police in that jurisdiction to accompany you, for everyone's protection. If she gets angry and refuses to give you the keys, the cops will pretty much force her to surrender them (or risk arrest). Don't tell her you're coming, she might decide to make it difficult for you to find the car.

Tell her you will hold the vehicle for two weeks, she can redeem it for the
amount owed.

If she doesn't, you will sell it for whatever you can get, keep the amount she owes, and give her the balance.
 
  #4  
Old 06-06-07, 11:20 AM
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I agree. Hopefully you have a key to it? If not, it gets a little trickier as aq_guy outlines. If you have a key, figure out where it will be (home/work) and a time when you can simply get in it and drive off. Having law enforcement on scene definitely a plus. Among other things, the police could document that the car was not stolen, especially if you take possession of it when she is not present. You could conceivably simply go to her work place, for instance, jump in with a key and drive off. If you're of a mind to do it that way, your first stop should be the nearest police station where you could show them your ownership papers. Then when the ex goes out to the parking lot and calls the police to report it stolen, you won't get pulled over at gunpoint.
 
  #5  
Old 06-06-07, 08:15 PM
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Fill us in a little more on this agreement. Is it in writing? I'm inferring that had she followed the agreement, she has paid for the car... Was there an agreement that the car would be transferred at the end of the payment plan? Was there anything in the agreement about missed or late payments or short payments?

I think in cases of car loans, where banks have all the outcomes covered in the fine print, it's pretty clear and if there was nothing more than a verbal agreement, you may even be able to get away with screwing her over if she had followed the payment agreement. A loan is a contract, and banks giving car loans can reposess cars of people who miss payments because the contract states that.

Absent anything in a written agreement about short payments, late payments or missed payments, if there is a written agreement and cancelled checks documenting that she has been making payments, even if they've been less than originally agreed, and you've been accepting them, presumably without notice or complaint, does that give her some claim?

If your work place has any kind of employee assistance program, often such programs include a referral for a free limitted lawyer consultation.. I don't know what you do, but where I've worked as an engineer it has been available. It might be worth a 30 minute consultation if a written contract exists that doesn't clarify the situation.
 
  #6  
Old 06-06-07, 08:48 PM
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Thumbs up stuckee

You pose a very complicated set of facts, more of which might help get a better answer. (Good bar exam question).

If your name is on the title the car is yours. Ditto the bank loan and insurance. All are indicia of ownership. There are two problems however. One is possession, which you don't have. And the other is payment on the loan. It is not clear on the latter issue if she is paying you and you are then paying the bank and also making up the $100.00 difference.

If she will not voluntarily give you possession, I would not make any attempt to take the car with or without the use of force, even if you have a key. You are potentially opening up yourself for some civil liability. She can ever wreak a little havoc on you by claiming you stole (your own) the car. Rather than risk those possiblities, you are best off to use the legal system.

Frankly, I doubt you would get law enforcement to participate in getting the car back without legal process (I'll explain). They don't like to witness or particpate in what might later be deemed to be criminal activity. If you ask them to come along to the repossession they likely will tell you to take two aspirin and call them when a crime has been committed.

All that being said, you can file a petition in your local courts asking that the car be returned to its rightful owner - you. Assuming you can convince a court that the car is yours, the court will issue an order or writ of possession. At that point if she will not peacefully relinquish possession, you are then entitled to the assistance of law enforcement who then can/will serve the writ on the lady and get your car back.

A bigger concern I have is insurance and a potential accident. You have an insurable interest in the car because legally its yours. But so is liability potentially in the event she has an accident, especially if she is at fault. In theory, the insurance company might try to put together a legal scenario which denies you insurance protection in the event she did have an accident. Remember, insurance companies are in the business of making money. They do that by collecting premiums and not paying claims.

So my advice is to run, don't walk to the nearest court with jurisdiction and get it back legally/peaceably. Go find a local lawyer who can handle this for you. Alternatively, a small claims court may have jurisdiction and you can do it without the help of a lawyer. But I wouldn't risk it.

Good Luck!
 
  #7  
Old 06-07-07, 04:36 AM
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Good advice from beemerguy as usual. Not sure about how reluctant the cops would be about simply being on site for you to take it. Will have to pose that one to my little brother (Sgt with neighboring county SO).

Question: You didn't say, but what year/make/model are we talking about here? Could make a difference whether this is even worth pursuing. If it's an '04 Lexus, go for it; if it's a '94 Taurus forget about it.
 
  #8  
Old 06-07-07, 06:26 AM
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Two years into the relationship the engine on her original car died while she was driving down the interstate. I picked her up off the interstate and began determing what could be done in terms of transportation for her. The car itself was not worth putting a new motor in. Her parents refused to do so anyway, and also refused to buy her a car. So naturally, I offered to buy her one (like an idiot) out of feeling sorry for her because she felt abandoned by her parents because they just bought her younger sister a horse for $17k. Keep in mind, they also had the money to buy her a car if they felt so inclined.

The agreement is in writing, although I've misplaced my copy somewhere. I plan on finding it this weekend. Had she followed the agreement, the car would be close to being paid off, but not completely paid for. The agreed monthly price was $300, she has only been paying $200. The actual note at the bank is for $190. The car was just a cheap chevrolet, not a lexus, infiniti, etc. (I just got out of college at the time and had just purchased my own vehicle, so funds were limited). Currently, the payoff on the car is around $6K. In the agreement there was an entry to the effect that if she was late on one payment, I would reclaim the car. She has been late in the past.

My employer does have an EAP, I'll look into to see if they offer such services, thanks for the idea.

She is paying me, via check, and I'm paying the bank. On one occasion, her check bounced when I tried to deposit it in my checking account, in which case I charged her the handling fee on the next payment. The title, bank loan, and insurance are all in my name.

Her having an accident in the vehicle and posing a liability threat to me, is something that I didn't factor in at the time... unfortunately. Having thought about this potential, I'm even more eager to reclaim the car. Would the small claims court in my county have any say in the matter, being that the car was purchased here? Or would I have to go to the courthouse where she and the
car are located? I would like to avoid lawyer fees if possible, because this is obviously money I will never see again.

I'd like to hear from the Sgt about how he would handle such a request, I've also considered stopping the sheriff deputy patrolling my neighborhood to ask him about it as well.

My main reason for wanting to get out from under this deal is the fact that she is having a free ride on my good credit. I tried to purchase another vehicle this year and the bank refused to do so because I already had two financed by them. Also, as I mentioned previously, there is a potential that I will be relocating to a different state and handling the out of town checks will become more of a hassle.

I have contemplated just to go get the car, since I have a key, from her place of work. However, I would like to give her the opportunity to pay it off and retain it. I have already written up a letter detailing the terms of repayment, I am giving her two months... if not paid off, I'll reclaim it. Hopefully, she will not damage the car in retalliation. Should I send her a letter directly or just go through the court system?

Thanks for all the responses guys, much appreciated.
 
  #9  
Old 06-07-07, 08:43 AM
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IMHO you should recover the car as soon as possible and with as little notice as possible to her in order to avoid any retaliation. The fact that you have already considered that indicates there could be a real possibility of that happening. As long as you give her a reasonable amount of the proceeds of the sale of the vehicle [and in my mind it wouldn't be much given the circumstances] I see nothing to be regretful of.

My $.02 worth.
 
  #10  
Old 06-07-07, 08:57 AM
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I'm looking to sale the car for whatever the pay off is, I'm not looking to make a profit, I just want my name off of it.

If there were any profit from the car, although unlikely, would she really be entitled to any portion of such proceeds? If so, how much would be considered a fair amount? Keep in mind, I never charged any additional fees to her for handling the payments to the insurance company or bank despite it taking my time and of course the free ride and low interest / payments due to my good credit.

She is an absolute nutt for sure, so I would not doubt there will be a conflict with potential damage to the car if she was aware I was coming to get it. If there is damage to the car, I just hope its total, because I have a policy with the bank that the loan will be paid in full if the car was totaled.

I suppose my main concern is, if I were to take it from where ever it was... would she have any legal recourse of getting it back while keeping it in my name?

I want to give her the opportunity to pay it off, but at the same time I don't want to alert her that I'm in the mindset of getting it back if she doesn't. Not sure how to maintain the balance of the two, legally.
 
  #11  
Old 06-07-07, 11:31 AM
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I know this isn't really all that relevant to the question at hand, but I'm trying to piece the scenario together.. The car was bought in 2004 and at $190/month, the loan would be paid off now you say.. That would put it at a 3 year loan. But having paid $100 short for some part of the time or is it all of the time, the remaining debt and expected resale price is $6000. This is for a low-end Chevy. Was a downpayment or trade-in part of this? $190 is a pretty low payment even for a cheap chevy, especially for such a short term, unless it was used or paid down at purchase...
 
  #12  
Old 06-07-07, 12:01 PM
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I would have a few concerns. First, you have accepted the sub-contract payment for quite some time with no effort to remedy the situation. The courts may see this as acceptance of the terms, thus it may not be grounds for “repossessing” it. The fact that there is written agreement shows you authorized her to drive the car even though it is in your name. By accepting, without objection, the reduced payments, you may not have a right to take the car away. I would think if you were to do so late in the night, or any other way for that matter, without her consent, you would be opening yourself up for a whole heap of trouble.

Can she get a loan to “buy” it from you (and pay off the remainder)? Would you be willing to take a loss for the car (assume she could only come up with 5.5K, would the 500 be worth getting your name off the title?). This sounds like something better negotiated than taking extreme action. I fear you would be the one who loses.

If you cannot find your written agreement, you may be in even bigger trouble if you try to take it (even if it is in your name). She has been making payments (if you can prove she has been, that is good), so it is obvious is was not a gift, Would you be able to prove to a judge how much she has actually paid? If nothing else, just so she can’t say she was paying 300 and you were paying 200 and keeping the other 100.

Remember, you signed the loan, it is yours to pay off. If you have a written agreement with her, authorizing her to use the car, you could really be stuck unless you can demonstrate you were (or are not now) not satisfied with the smaller than contract payments.

I am not a lawyer, but if I were you, I would consult one before being rash. In my opinion, this sounds like a situation best left outside the legal system because I do not think you have a lot to stand on.
 
  #13  
Old 06-07-07, 12:35 PM
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To add to my own confusion, you say it would be paid off now if payments had been made in full, but the loan is obviously still out there... Does that imply the loan, which is in your name, was a longer term than the 3 years it's been and $300/month would have paid it off quicker, or if it was a 3 year loan how did the bank accept partial payments without trying to reposess the car themselves?
 
  #14  
Old 06-07-07, 06:19 PM
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And just to touch on one related point, you mention a pay-off provision with the bank. I think if you read the fine print that will only kick in as a stop-gap measure for whatever your own insurance doesn't cover. In other words if you owe $6000 and she totals it and the insurance pays you $3500, the bank would have to write off (or their insurer would) the other $2500.
 
  #15  
Old 06-07-07, 08:25 PM
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Wink Stukee 2

Look it. What are you trying to accomplish here?

I think what you want is to get out from underneath this woman with as little or no liability as possible. This would include keeping your good credit rating.

In order to do that, I stand by my original answer. Your alternative is to take the car by force, stealth or report it as stolen. None of those are good options in my view. Sure you will eventually end up in court, but maybe on the wrong side of the bar.

I would send her a letter (certified mail, delivery restricted to her only - preferably at her place of work - that will piss her off) asking her to voluntarily return the car at a date/time/place certain. If she refuses, then I would proceed with the court action. Without knowing the laws of your state, it is difficult to be specific about your rights and remedies.

The court with jurisdiction will be the one that can give you the relief you want - possession of the car. The only way to know this is to contact your court system, tell the clerk what you are trying to accomplish and ask if that is the proper court. She may or may not give you an answer. Most court clerks are instructed not to give "legal advice". In that case you should use the services of a lawyer. Most lawyers would probably tell you that over the phone for free.

Venue (which county to sue in) is determined by court rules. If you live in different counties, sue in your county. If it is the wrong one, the burden would be on her to ask for a change a venue to the proper county.

My guess is she won't even show in court in which case you get a default judgment meaning you win. Even if she shows up, she might argue you have a contract. In my view the contract is probably unenforcible by her for lack of what is called "consideration". A gift is not consideration under the law.

As far as who should get the proceeds on sale of the vehicle after the bank is paid, who cares? That is a whole different issue. And if the so called contract is unenforcible, the money is yours.

Good luck!
 
  #16  
Old 06-08-07, 06:19 AM
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Yeah, good points. If the stated goal is to relieve yourself of the debt obligations you have from the situation, you don't actually care about getting the car for yourself, why worry about what she might do to the car. While your rights to reposession might be unclear, it seems that there is no dispute that she has a debt obligation to you, and what happens to the car does nothing to alter that fact.
 
  #17  
Old 06-08-07, 07:14 AM
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You never did say how your relationship is with her now. Are you on talking terms. Perhaps this can all be settled with a simple phone call to her asking for a final payment. She could perhaps get her own loan from a bank.
 
  #18  
Old 06-08-07, 10:18 AM
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I am the original poster's wife. I just want to say a few things.

To WillK: The bank note terms are $190 a month for a period of 6 years. When they broke up, the agreement made between her and my husband was that she would pay $300 a month in order to get it paid off sooner. She has only been paying $200 a month instead - we have never seen $300 a month. There are still 30 months left on the loan as of this date.

Also, this is not a girl that you can just call up and have a peaceful conversation with - telling her he wants the car back. She is CRAZY! She thought he was cheating on her once and almost beat the other girl up (he was with a childhood friend, and they were on their way to see her).

To joed: We don't think she can get her own loan from the bank. She called about 5-6 months ago wanting to know the payoff on the car because she was going to trade it in for a new one. My husband gave her permission so he could get out from under it, but they wouldn't give her a loan in her name.

On all of her cancelled checks, in the "for" line she ALWAYS writes "Car Payment June 2007" and sends a separate check where whe writes "Insurance June 2007." I doubt she could claim she's paying more for the car than what she is just due to the documentation on the checks themselves.

Just my $.02
 
  #19  
Old 06-08-07, 11:21 AM
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I believe if you go and just take it, especially with any sort of written agreement, you will end up in court and you have no better than a 50/50 chance of winning and a loss could be very costly. This is because as of now, even though the contract said 300, you have made no objection, to her, in the 200 payment.

I feel the cleanest (if there is such a thing in this instance) way to go about it is send a letter telling her you expect the originally agreed upon payoff date be met, if not, you will seek remedy as allowed by the original contract (repo the car?).

What is the worst that can happen? You take the car, she goes to court, argues (and shows the contract) that she had every right to drive the car. You state she did not pay as required by the contract, she says you accepted her payments. The judge asks you to prove that you objected to the smaller payments, show damages (falling behind on the loan etc), you can show no proof (the loan is only 190). You lose, end up returning the car, and get penalized for all the pain, suffering, and hardship you caused by taking away her wheels. Once she gets the car back, she trashes it, returns it, and you end up paying for the loan.

You write the letter to start the process she will either

Return the car unscathed

Tell you no but continue to pay

Tell you no and cease to pay (then a repo is an option)

She trashes the car and puts the hubcaps on your doorstep, you pay the loan, take her to court for damages, you win (you may not get anything out of her, but you win anyhow).

She pays off the car.

The lesson here is, do not take a loan out for anyone, other than yourself, expecting not to have trouble.

Please consult an attorney and determine if you really do have any recourse at this point. I could be doing nothing but blowing hot air.
 
  #20  
Old 06-08-07, 11:43 AM
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The "contract" is really just a piece of paper that they both signed and made a duplicate copy of. Is it legal if it was never notarized and there were no witnesses?
 
  #21  
Old 06-08-07, 12:08 PM
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Seems like you are getting good advice so I won't chime my $.02 in here. I was a law enforcement officer for quite a while and I will tell you what I would do if i was approached by you from my officer standpoint. Tell you this was a civil matter, not a criminal matter and the only way I would get involved is by a court order. That being said, if you do take the car back on your own without the court system at least protect her property in there to prevent future headaches and have a witness to everything. At least my ex wife peacefully returned the car that was in my name and she wasn't paying for at all but I feel you on this problem :-)
 
  #22  
Old 06-08-07, 12:24 PM
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I don't think at this point you can just go get it or take it back because even tho it's in your name, you have been accepting payments from her and when you cashed the first payment that was $100 less than the agreed payment and then kept cashing the rest at that price, that then became the new accepted payment due. Since she has possession of it (you even said you GAVE it to her) and has been driving it, obviously paying for the upkeep and sending you monthly payments, I would think somehow the law may be on her side or at the very least it seems she has some rights to it.
Was there an agreed upon payoff deadline or are you just planning on making one up as you go along? You can't just change the agreement midway thru.
Anyway to answer your question, I don't think at this point you're entitled to decide what happens to it or have the right to just take it back.
I would either call her and try to work something out that would work for both of you or you can get a consultation with a lawyer for a small fee. Don't think it would take more than a half hour of his/her time to give you some advice.
 
  #23  
Old 06-09-07, 05:19 AM
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Go dig out some contracts you have, even your mortgage loan.

99.9% of them have a clause that reads something to the effect of 'failure on our part to enforce any part of this contract upon default does not remove our ability to enforce said part at a later date.

Meaning you can say, be late on a payment in 2002. Technically you are in default and the loan could be called, the bank chooses not to. You make another late payment in 2005, again you are in default, only this time the bank decides they want to call the loan. You cannot them claim that, because you got away with it in 2002, you can now get away with it again in 2005.

On top of that, depending on the wording, you can make on time payment for the rest of the loan, but because you had already defaulted on it in 2002, the loan could be called at any time after that.

My suggestion:

Tell her you need to get out from under the car loan, if she can get a loan to buy it outright, great, if not, you would like to get the car so you can sell it and hopefully get enough to pay it off.

She can consider her payments up to that point as lease/rental payments.
If she doesn't accept either option, you might remind her that, had she been paying the $300 as agreed, the car would almost be paid off by now and it wouldn't be an issue. If she would begin making the $300 payment as she originally agree to, you will hold off on trying to clear the loan by selling the car.
 
  #24  
Old 06-09-07, 08:35 AM
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Hindsight is 20/20 but my thought is if her parents would not help her with a necessity (transportation), but purchased a luxury (horse) for her sister, the parents may have been wise to the upkeep, or lack thereof, of agreements on your ex's part. Therefore I wonder if, regardless of the agreement, your ex was ever the kind to repay the loan in the first place. (I say this from experience with loaning family members money.)

You may want to find a lawyer who will consult for free to see if you have a leg to stand on. My first thought is if all the paperwork is in your name, the car is yours and you should just go take it. Its not like you "abandoned" the car at her place - I assume you have kept on top of the situation. If she whines or goes to the authorities you have the documented proof (bank statements) that her end of the bargain has not been upheld for X months or years, therefore the contact is null and void. If she was paying for the car via a financial institution, the car would have been repoed by now for failure to pay per the contract. Then again, would it be legally necessary for you to say in the contract that if the payments were not made in full on time, you have the right to take the car back? I don't know...
 
  #25  
Old 06-09-07, 09:21 AM
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"You may want to find a lawyer who will consult for free"
There ain't such an animal unless there's something in it for them, as in can you say accident lawyer"
 
  #26  
Old 06-09-07, 05:48 PM
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Cool Now now shadelady

you can't paint all of attorneys as bad boys. I routinely give a new client up to an hour off the meter.
 
  #27  
Old 06-10-07, 06:55 AM
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Sorry, you're right of course. Not all lawyers are vultures BUT if someone is just looking for some advice and nothing more will you still give him that free hour?
 
  #28  
Old 06-10-07, 09:32 PM
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Wink yes

The answer is yes. As a professional that hour spent can do more good than any yellow pages ad. Almost all new work comes to a professional through word of mouth.

I generally spend a half hour, because that is usually all it takes to "diagnose" a problem and whether I would be the right person to do it. I quite often tell a potential new client that I don't do that stuff and give them a couple names of other attorneys who do.

On the other hand, I recently had a potential new client come to me to re-do their old estate plan (something I do). Instead we talked about a criminal matter involving a family member for four hours. Even though I don't practice criminal law, I am well versed in that law. I billed them for that time and they gladly paid.

You would be surprised how much free legal work lawyers do. But you'll never read/hear about it. You usually only hear about the "vultures".

I often get phone calls for "free" advice. If I can answer the question over the phone, I don't generally don't bill for that time unless it is very substantive advice.
 
  #29  
Old 06-11-07, 12:10 PM
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Thanks for the advice everyone. I recently received a payment for the insurance, but not the car payment. Normally, she sends both in the same envelope. She may forget to send the car payment, or send it late this month, in which case she will be in violation of our "contract" (again). So I will try and use it as an opportunity to offer her the car for the payoff amount and give her ~2 months to come up with the funds. If she refuses, I will contact my county court and proceed from there. If the diplomatic way doesn't pan out, I'll find it and take it in the dark of night.
 
  #30  
Old 06-12-07, 08:59 AM
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I don't supposed you could call some repo men and see if they would do it. I don't know if there for hire or only work for the bank. they go after deters who quit making payments to the bank and the bank sends them after it.
 
  #31  
Old 06-12-07, 10:05 AM
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That doesn't make sense since she's paying him and he's paying the bank. How can anyone repossess a car for nonpayment when payments are being made? I'd think it would also be a very costly venture, in more ways than one.
 
  #32  
Old 06-12-07, 12:21 PM
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In our written agreement, it was noted that one late payment and I reclaim the car... regardless if she paid every other month on time. The repo is a last resort, I'll give her the chance to settle it first... she is more than capable of doing so. If she refuses to pay the payoff amount in full in the time frame that I suggest, then I will consult with the county court.

I realize that I may appear to be a villain in all of this and I could provide a lengthy explanation of reasons not to feel sorry for her, but its all irrelevant. To sum it... when she started throwing knives at me, it was time to leave the relationship. In my personal opinion, she is damn lucky she even got it to begin with.
 
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