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They Want Your Car- Now What?
Recently you will have seen people are talking about tracking and car repossession agents who are driving around in vehicles with licence plate scanning technology who try to repossess peoples cars. They only do so when instructed to do so by their computer system. Normally this would be where a consumer has missed payments on their vehicle. Perhaps you have had a collections agent call at your home or work and say that the bank has given them instructions to collect the car.
Some consumers are reporting that some of these cars are fitted with blue flashing lights making it seem as if the driver is a policeman. Banks, such as Wesbank ,say that this would be illegal and they are investigating claims that agents they have contracted have been using such car repossession methods. At one stage, Wesbank were recovering 90 cars a month through such agents.
If pulled over and your payments are behind, do you HAVE to hand the car over?
Sheriffs and traffic experts say the recovery of vehicles by anyone who is not a sheriff of the court or a police officer is “illegal“. Also it is illegal for vehicles to be pulled off the road by anyone other than a police officer. It is, of course, impossible to identify a plainclothes officer so this would mean that the officer would have to be in uniform to be easily identifiable. This means that you do not have to give your car to an unidentified stranger or collections agent.
What if they have a court order?
What though if someone hands you an official looking court document and says that this means you have to give them the car? Well, don’t believe everything you read. Are you sure that what you are seeing is a warrant which says that a sheriff can come collect your car? Maybe it is just a draft document that the collections attorneys have made up and still intend to send to court but have not done so yet. According to an insider leak it has been reported that some unscrupulous collection agents may be printing out court orders (in their vehicles) and presenting them to consumers. Even if they did have a legitimate court order/ warrant it is interesting to note that the driver does not have to hand the vehicle over unless it is presented by a sheriff of the court.
Howard Dembovsky, of the Justice Project South Africa, said that not only do any court orders have to be delivered by a sheriff, they must be the “original” and must have the “stamp of the court”. Otherwise they carry no weight.
As such, if approached by anyone with a court order it would be best to check any documentation they have very closely. It might also be appropriate to ask them to accompany you to a local police station to sign an affidavit that they are a sheriff of the court (or at least to get the cops to check their credentials for you) and that the court order is correct. Should they refuse to do so then they may not be legitimate. All sheriffs of the court carry clear identification. It might also be appropriate to record the encounter on your cell phone.
Remember you do not have to hand your car over even if late on your payments unless it is a sheriff of the court with an original court order.
If a collections agent comes to you demanding the car, you do not have to give it over. You can insist that the creditor take things to the next level and send you a “Section 129” letter. This is a letter which says they will be taking you to court if you don’t go into debt review or catch up payments within 10 days. This letter gives you time to either get professional debt help and protection or make a catch up payment. If you want to know how debt review works and how it protects your assets have a look here: How Debt Review Works