The Okolona Board of Aldermen voted in March to adopt rules for companies and individuals repossessing cars in the community after an altercation earlier this year.
“I heard from bankers who said they contract with these companies, its part of business and they are following the law,” said Mayor Louise Cole. “I think we all agree we need a public hearing to address everyone’s concerns.
City Attorney Gene Barton urged the board to repeal their March action, hold the public meeting and then move in the appropriate direction.
The motion to host a public hearing at the May 14 board meeting was made by Ward 3 Alderman Elderidge Lowe and seconded by Ward 6 Alderman Anthony Floyd. The vote was unanimous.
“I said if before and I’ll say it again” said Lowe. “People need to pay what they owe and it is legal to repossess a car. I do think what we are trying to do will just make it safer for everyone.”
The city’s action in March was sparked by an incident where a vehicle was repossessed at night and the owner thought it was being stolen. Weapons were allegedly pulled and Okolona police were called to the scene.
The new regulations the city was seeking to enforce would have required companies and individuals who repossess cars to register with the city through the Okolona Police Department. Those companies would have been required to identify and describe those wreckers and individuals who are picking up cars.
The Okolona Police Department is also asking repo companies to contact them if they think they may have a problem with a repossession or if they are just looking for information on the individual, location and owner of the car.
City officials also said several industries have also reported repossessions during business hours with employees coming out of the factory and thinking their car had been stolen.
Anyone who buys a car or truck on credit should be aware that until the last payment is made the creditor retains ownership of the vehicle and has certain rights to their property.
Creditor have the right to “repossess” — take back a car without going to court or, in many states, without warning its driver in advance. It’s completely legal to take back a car that’s behind on payments and police are routinely asked to assist.
But when seizing the vehicle, the creditor may not commit a “breach of the peace” by using physical force or threats of force.