There is no stipulated duration to get a Court Order to repossess a car in South Africa. The duration will mostly depend on the level of the court and the date fixed for hearings. Legal repossession of a car in South Africa is initiated with a summon and then finalized in court resulting in a legally enforceable court order which authorizes the repossession via a warrant of execution.

What is a Vehicle Repossession?

Repossession of a vehicle is more or less a legal process where a bank or other lender can regain possession of the vehicle. When you sign a loan agreement, you commit to a contract. This contract gives the credit provider the rights to the vehicle until it is paid off. Failing to fulfill these obligations gives the credit provider the right to take back the vehicle.

When is a Vehicle Repossessed?

Usually, the car is repossessed if a client defaults for about 3 months with payments. The credit provider may obtain a court order to repossess the car or take it through voluntary surrender. Once the vehicle is repossessed, it is safely stored for a specified amount of time. You are given a final opportunity to catch up on your payments as well as pay all administrative and legal costs.

If you cannot settle the amount, the car is put up for public auction. Once the car is sold to the highest bidder, you are liable to any amount that falls short of the car trade book value. For instance, if the car’s trade book value is R60, 000 and the highest offer on the day of the auction is R35, 000, you are liable for the R25, 000 difference.

Howbeit, if you are unable to afford your monthly car payments, paying a lump sum is likely not feasible. The credit provider may also repossess other assets you own to cover the shortfall, including appliances, furniture, etc. Should you find that you can no longer afford your vehicle, and are not in arrears with the payment thereof, you may choose to make use of Section 127 of the National Credit Act and voluntarily surrender your vehicle.

To arrange this, you are expected to give a written notice to the credit provider stating that you wish to terminate the credit agreement and that you require them to pick up the vehicle. As specified by the Act, the credit provider is then expected to furnish you with a letter within 10 days, stating the estimated sale value of the vehicle.

Note that you can dispute the value if you are not satisfied with it, withdraw your notice and resume possession of your vehicle – but only if you are not behind on your installments. However, just in the case of a voluntary surrender, the bank is obliged by the Act to sell the vehicle as soon as possible and for the best price reasonably obtainable.

It is very crucial to understand that when a vehicle is sold at an auction, you are still liable to pay the shortfall if the vehicle is sold for less than the outstanding balance on the account – you could end up paying for a vehicle you don’t even have anymore. Some, however, may feel that it is better to pay a reduced premium on a smaller amount, even if they don’t have the asset anymore, than paying a high premium for an asset they have but can’t afford.

How to Avoid Car Repossession in South Africa

Note that before your car gets repossessed, your credit provider will send a representative to meet with you to make arrangements for the amount you owe. If you cannot afford to pay back the amount, your car will be taken. Howbeit, here are a few ways you can limit this:

  1. Speak to Your Credit Provider

Have it in mind that a proactive approach may be the best way to avoid repossession. You should consider negotiating an alternative arrangement, such as selling your vehicle yourself or surrendering it.

  1. Settle the Outstanding Amount

According to experts, this is an ideal option to consider. However, you may find yourself in this very situation because you can’t afford your payments. If you are able to settle the outstanding amount, do so to avoid repossession.

  1. Reinstate the Loan

Consider asking your credit provider if you can reinstate the loan. This way, your missed payments will be integrated into the settlement value. Keep in mind that you may pay more on interest fees in the long run.

  1. Apply for Debt Review

If you are finding it hard to make ends meet, debt review may be the ideal solution for you. Debt review is a legal process introduced by the National Credit Act to prevent consumers from being blacklisted and having to deal with the consequences thereof. If you apply for debt review and your application is successful, a National Credit Regulator (NCR) registered debt counsellor will assist you with:

  • Restructuring your debt so you only pay one affordable monthly debt repayment
  • Communication with your credit providers
  • Negotiating with credit providers for reduced payments
  • Legal protection

Remember that debt review safeguards you from losing your valuable assets provided you apply before it is too late. As soon as you apply for Debt Review at Debt Rescue, your creditors are notified that you are under debt review within 5 days. They are expected, by law, to communicate with Debt Rescue and stop all communication with you.

Conclusion

If you have received a summon for debt, it is always advisable to act quickly. There may be justifiable reasons for you to defend the action. The creditor may have taken action and you may want to settle the outstanding amount owed on your motor vehicle to prevent it from Repossession.

Always remember that your contract may allow you to settle the arrears in installments. Look at the smaller writing within the contract and if you don’t have a copy ask the creditor to send you one. It is also very important to ensure that your creditors have your latest contact details which include your physical address.

If you change your address, it is imperative to tell your creditors as this cannot be raised as a defense unless good cause exists. A s129 notice and summons will be served at your chosen domicilium. Note however that the s129 notice will usually be sent via registered mail to your nearest post office.

Ajaero Tony Martins