Must a vehicle that is in my name but that was supposed to be paid for by someone who defaulted on the payments, be returned if I offered to pay for it in full?

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Must a vehicle that is in my name but that was supposed to be paid for by someone who defaulted on the payments, be returned if I offered to pay for it in full?

I was previously in a relationship with someone who entered into a verbal contract to buy a vehicle for $1800. However, it turns out that they had a suspended license. The vehicle was put into my name and I kept it insured. When the relationship ended, I took the vehicle but then found out that my ex had not paid a single payment. I contacted the seller and offered to pay in full. However, after a few days the seller contacted me and said that he wanted the vehicle back. Do I have to return it to him or can I pay for it and keep it?

Asked on October 30, 2019 under Business Law, Kentucky

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 1 year ago | Contributor

You may to return it if he wants it back, if he kept a security interest in the vehicle. You defaulted on the contract: no payments were made. It doesn't matter that you thought someone else was paying--since you were legally the purchaser, you were responsible for the payments.
However, defaulting on a contract does not automatically mean you must return the item--in this case, the vehicle. The seller must have retained a security interest in a written agreement: that is, there must have been a written agreement saying that if you did not pay, he could recover the vehicle. If there was such an agreement, it is enforceable and you have to give the vehicle back.
However, if there was no written security interest, he can't make you return it. You still owe the money, and if you should not pay it, he could sue you for it--but that's all he can do.


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