CARSON CITY — There was no opposition Wednesday to a bill designed to crack down on aggressive repossession tactics by vehicle dealers that cater to buyers with poor credit.
Assembly Bill 262, sponsored by Assemblyman Richard Carrillo, D-Las Vegas, would make it a deceptive trade practice for dealers to require a buyer to a sign contract addendum changing time restraints for when they can repossess a vehicle or charge late fees.
“This deals with traditional repossession by a repo man,” Jon Sasser with Legal Aid Center of Southern Nevada told members of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Labor and Energy.
Under existing law, a buyer is in default if a scheduled payment is 30 days late. Additionally, law allows sellers to impose a fee of $15 or 8 percent of the payment, whichever is less, after a payment is 10 days late.
But Sophia Romero, a consumer rights attorney with the legal aid center in Las Vegas, said some subprime dealers include in financing contracts provisions that change the time requirements of default and impose late fees higher than allowed.
Romero said Legal Aid of Southern Nevada has been “inundated by illegal repo cases.”
In one case, she said, her client had to sign a page that changed both the 30-day default and 10-day late fee time frame to only one day.
“This client’s vehicle was repossessed after being only four days late,” Romero said. When the woman couldn’t pay the $500 repossession fee, the dealer sold the vehicle to another buyer.
In another case, she said a client was required to sign a document changing the late fee to $39 and allowing repossession if a payment was 24 hours late.
The bill would also authorize surety bonds dealers are required to post be used to pay attorney fees, a change supporters said may entice lawyers in private practice to accept cases defending victims of aggressive repossession.
“It would allow the private bar to help people in these situations,” Sasser said. “All deceptive trade practices carry the provision they are considered a consumer fraud case and you are entitled to responsible attorney fees.”
No action was taken Wednesday by the committee. The bill was approved unanimously by the Assembly last week.
Contact Sandra Chereb at firstname.lastname@example.org or 775-461-3821. Follow @SandraChereb on Twitter.