I lent my car to someone for the long term under the agreement that they would make the car payments, they failed to make the payments and refuse to return the car. What can I do?

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I lent my car to someone for the long term under the agreement that they would make the car payments, they failed to make the payments and refuse to return the car. What can I do?

I loaned my car for someone to use to get to work on a regular basis on the agreement that they would make the car payments. The car and the insurance are under my name only. When the borrower failed to make payments I asked for the car back and they agreed. They then immediately dropped all contact, disappeared, and of course never brought the car back. I have contacted the police and they have said I have no legal right to report the car as stolen and that my only option is to take it to civil court or not make payments until the car is repossessed. Is that really my only option or is there something else I can do?

Asked on March 5, 2018 under Criminal Law, California

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 4 years ago | Contributor

First, not making payments is NOT an option and do NOT listen to the police about this. Yes, the lender may reposses the car--but they could also sue you for the money due under the financing agreement (which is a contract which you are obligated to) and it will be *your* credit that shows a default.
This is car theft--specifically conversion, or taking another's property entrusted to you--but the police often and incorrectly do not see it that way: they tend to believe if at first there was an agreement to let another use the property, that this then is a "civil" matter, like for "breach of contract" (violation of the agreement). I tend to believe this is because this position provides an excuse for the police to not look into it--i.e. to not have to take on another matter, and one that to them typically seems less urgent than violent crime, drug crime, organized crime, etc.--but whatever their motivation, there is no practical way to make them take action if they refuse to.
You can and should sue this person. Sue them for the value of the car and for any other costs you have incurred due to them taking the car: the matter can be settled by them returning the vehicle to you.


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