Briana Bellinger-Dawson was caught off guard when she couldn’t find her car in the parking lot outside of a grocery store last spring.
“I thought my car was stolen, and my heart was racing,” Bellinger-Dawson said. “I usually know exactly where I park. So, I kind of freaked out just a little bit.”
In March of last year, at the start of the pandemic, Bellinger-Dawson discovered that her 2017 Nissan Rogue had been repossessed by the bank.
She said her car payments were more than $600 a month, not including insurance, which increased her bill to over $800.
Bellinger-Dawson was behind on her payments after she said her hours as an art teacher were cut back during the pandemic. But she managed to work out a payment plan with the finance company and got her car back in three days.
“I pulled out all of my emergency funds,” Bellinger-Dawson said.
Bellinger-Dawson was lucky. With record unemployment and a record number of auto loans, thousands of others may not have the same good fortune.
“In difficult financial times, repossessions will go up,” said Daniel Blinn, the managing attorney of Consumer Law Group, LLC based in Connecticut.
Blinn has settled over a dozen repossession class-action lawsuits in which finance companies failed to give consumers like Bellinger-Dawson advance notice of a delinquent payment.
“It’s an unusual situation where somebody is able to work out a reinstatement or redemption of the contract,” Blinn said. “Unfortunately, the amount of time in between when the repossession happens, and the vehicle gets sold, it’s too quick and it’s very difficult to get a court order to stop it.”