Since the enactment of a new statute in Florida, many Florida motorists that have fallen behind on their car loan payments, and have not lost their car yet to the repo man, have discovered that the lender has “frozen” the registration on their car, and any other car that they may own.
History of the Registration Freezing Statute
Section 320.1316 Florida Statutes was enacted in 2009, based upon the recommendations of the Automobile Lenders Industry Task Force. The Task Force was led by members of the Florida Independent Automobile Dealers Association (i.e. the used car dealers). For reasons that should now be apparent, the recommendations of the Task Force, and the bill that was signed into law, were not drafted with consumer protection in mind. The goal of the Task Force was to create a simpler, cheaper, easier method for enforcement of car loans that are in default. Under the prior laws, a car lender had only 2 alternatives: 1.) Self-help repossession and, 2.) Judicial process (e.g. writ of replevin), now there is a another. Self-help repos are when the lender decides if the borrower has defaulted (e.g. non-payment, cancellation of insurance, etc.) and takes action to repossess the car. Judicial process refers to going to court and having a judge issue a writ of replevin (a court order to recover the property
“Freezing” the Registration after a Repo Attempt
Since the repo man is not always successful in locating and recovering the car, lenders now use the new statute as leverage to force the borrower to give up the car. The lender files a form with the DMV giving notice of a repossession recovery attempt, and the registered owner’s name is placed on a list in the DMV database, preventing that person from renewing the registration (plate or sticker) on the car. What is worse, is if you own another car, the registration on that car is frozen too, whether or not the lender has a lien on it. Worse yet, if you are the co-owner of a car that a lender has frozen the registration on, it will freeze any other registration that you have on any other car that you own!
Getting the Registration “Defrosted” or Unfrozen
The DMV places an “RA Stop” or Recovery Attempt Administrative Stop on your name and vehicle registration. Unfortunately, the borrower’s remedies for getting the freeze removed are very limited under the statute. A strict reading of the statute says that you may only have it removed by selling the car to licensed motor vehicle dealer, which does not seem to be an adequate remedy for the borrower. The DMV does seem to have implemented some other procedures for removing the stop from the records, but these procedures are not described in the statute itself. You may need to consult with an auto fraud attorney about what your remedies are, or contact the DMV or the lender.
Consequences of the New Law – Divorced Car Owners
I have heard of a case where husband and wife divorced, owned two cars jointly before divorce, but post-divorce both cars remained in both parties names. One spouse defaults on a car loan for non-payment, which triggers a freeze on that car, and the ex-spouses car. One ex-spouse ends up not being able to register his/her vehicle because their former spouse defaulted on a loan. If you are considering divorce, you need to be very careful about having your lawyer deal with this possibility. Unfortunately, many family law lawyers are not familiar with recent changes in motor vehicle laws, as it is outside of their area of practice. Don’t let your “ex” expose you to the loss of use of your car, because they default on their car loan after you separate.
Other Consequences of the New Law – Parents as co-buyer of Child’s Car
Like the divorce situation described above, when parents become the co-buyer of a car for a child, and the parents are listed on the registration or title as co-owners, whether or not they are co-borrowers on the loan, the parents are at risk of having all of the family’s vehicles’ registrations frozen if there is a default on the child’s car. This can take a 2 or 3 car family and turn it into a zero car family.
What is a NOTICE TO SURRENDER MOTOR VEHICLE in Florida
Failure to surrender the motor vehicle as required by section 320.1316, Florida Statutes, will result in your name being placed on a list maintained by the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles, which will prevent you from being issued a license plate revalidation sticker, or replacement license plate for any motor vehicle under Florida Statute 320.02(17), owned by you at the time this notice was given. If the motor vehicle is owned jointly by more than one person, the name of each registered owner shall be placed on the list. The stop will remain on all motor vehicles you own until you have either returned the motor vehicle or until you pay the full balance owed.
What to do after you recieve a NOTICE TO SURRENDER MOTOR VEHICLE
If your car’s registration in Florida has been frozen by a Repossession Recovery Attempt that has been filed with the DMV, you should contact the lender, the DMV and a consumer advocate or auto fraud attorney as soon as possible, you may also click the link to my profile.The law as it stands today, may be unconstitutional, and only an attorney can advise you on the enforceability of the law, based on the facts of your case. The DMV just follows what the law requires them to do. The opinion of the dealers/lenders is that the law is valid, most likely because they had a hand in writing it; however, I beg to differ with their opinion.