What California Laws Relate to Car Repossession?

Vehicles in California can be repossessed after a default in the contract of just one day, including a missed payment or a lapse in car insurance, according to attorney Jay S. Fleischman. Car finance companies and a registered repossession company can take away a vehicle.

A company must be licensed with the California Department of Consumer Affairs within the Bureau of Security and Investigative Services in order to take repossessions. Car owners who lose their vehicles should always view the company's license before surrendering a vehicle, states Fleischman.

Repossession agents can't enter private property such as garages or locked and gated driveways without permission of an owner of the premises, according to Fleischman. However, a vehicle can be taken from a public street, parking lot, unsecured driveway or any other publicly accessible location at any time. Businesses don't need to give vehicle owners any notice before taking vehicles. Agents can't use force to take a vehicle, and companies can't threaten the owner, notes California attorney Brandon A. Block.

A vehicle owner can pay the balance due to prevent a repossession any time before the car is sold. If a vehicle is taken, the company that takes the car must notify the debtor, in writing, within 48 hours. The lender must then notify the vehicle owner of the intent to sell the car at least 15 days before the sale, states Fleischman. After the sale, the debtor is liable for the difference between the loan amount and the sale price.