Can a car dealership have me arrested for taking too long to bring a down payment?

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Can a car dealership have me arrested for taking too long to bring a down payment?

They have been calling and text messaging me everyday since I left their dealership about this payment. I have expressed to them that I am not trying to avoid bringing the money to them, I just do not have it all yet. They have even gone as far as to say the finance company wanted to renegotiate my contract with no money down or less than $1,000. When I said OK, he acted as if he had forgotten what he said and started demanding the entire amount again. He sent a wrecker to my home in order to “repossess” the vehicle saying that I had to give it to them. What are my rights here?

Asked on November 1, 2010 under General Practice, North Carolina

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

1) If you haven't made car payments, then assuming the financing or loan you obtained had a provision or term giving the dealership or lender a security interest in the car and the right to repossess, they can reposses the car. When there is property securing a loan--which is very common in auto financing--if the payments are not made, the property can be repossessed. When that happens, the borrower will still be liable for any remaining balance on the loan which is not paid off by the car being sold or auctioned after repossession.

If there was no security interest in or right to repossess the car--it was an unsecured loan--then the lender or dealer cannot repossess without first taking you to court, winning, and getting the appropriate court order.

2) A lender can insist on full payment and does not need to settle for less; it is purely voluntary if they do.

3) As long as you did not commit fraud--i.e. you didn't lie in the paperwork for the loan and had the intention of paying all amounts due under--you should not face criminal liability. Where you might have trouble here is if it's the down payment you're not bringing in, that's something you really *should* have had before buying the car and signing the paperwork. If you refuse to bring in the down payment, that might be considered fraud, since by signing the paperwork, you represented that you had it. It's a different situation when someone, down the line, undergoes an economic reversal and can't make monthly payments; but you should not have signed for the car if you did not have the down payment available.


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