Dear Consumer Ed:

Can a vehicle recovery (repo) company hold the contents of the vehicle “hostage” for money? The finance company pays them to recover, so why should the company be allowed to take advantage of a consumer who has already suffered the blow of losing his car? Is this legal?

Consumer Ed says:

Repossession companies who have lawfully repossessed your vehicle are permitted to charge a fee for the return of any personal property of yours found in the vehicle.  This fee is intended to compensate the company for the reasonable expenses incurred in storing your belongings or in notifying you of the company’s intent to dispose of these items.

Georgia law requires that the company notify you within 10 days of the repossession that it has your belongings and intends to dispose of them.  You then have 30 days to respond and retrieve your property by collecting it and paying any reasonable storage or notification charges.   If you do not respond, a second notice is sent and the company is given another 30 days before it may dispose of your property.

Any fee you are charged to claim your property must be reasonable.  While the law does not specify an allowable amount for such charges, if you believe that the company is demanding an unreasonably high fee or has disposed of your property without notice, you can consult with an attorney regarding your rights to a reduced fee or compensation.

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