Repossess Definition and Legal Meaning

On this page, you'll find the legal definition and meaning of Repossess, written in plain English, along with examples of how it is used.

What is Repossess?

(v) Reposses is the taking back of possession of an article or property by foreclosing the conditions by which the possession was passed on to another person with or without a judicial intervention

History and Meaning of Repossess

Repossess has its roots in the Latin word "repossidere," which means to take back. Essentially, repossession involves reclaiming possession of something that has previously been let or sold, because the original owner or lender believes that the terms of the agreement have not been met. In other words, if you purchase a car on credit and fail to make your payments, the lender can repossess the car - reclaim the possession of the vehicle - as stipulated in the loan agreement.

Repossession can happen either voluntarily or involuntarily. Voluntary repossession occurs when the borrower or lessee agrees to return the property to the lender or lessor, usually because they can no longer afford it. Involuntary repossession, on the other hand, is a legal procedure initiated by the lender, who hires a repo agent to take back the property - often a car or home - from the borrower or lessee.

Examples of Repossess

Here are a few examples of how the term "repossess" might be used in everyday language:

  • The bank has threatened to repossess our house if we don't catch up on the mortgage payments.
  • After he lost his job, John had no choice but to turn in his leased car and allow the dealership to repossess it.
  • The repo man arrived at Mary's house at 3am to repossess her truck, which she hadn't made a payment on in over six months.
  • When the borrower failed to pay back the loan according to the agreed-upon terms, the lender repossessed the artwork that had been put up as collateral.
  • The lender plans to repossess the antique chair if the borrower doesn't come up with the funds to repay the loan soon.

Legal Terms Similar to Repossess

  • Foreclosure: Foreclosure is a legal process in which a lender recovers the balance of a loan from a borrower who has stopped making payments by forcing the sale of the asset (e.g. a home or car) that was put up as collateral.
  • Seizure: Seizure refers to the act of taking possession of something by force or authority, often for the purpose of legal action. It can be used in criminal and civil proceedings.
  • Distraint: Distraint is a legal remedy that allows a landlord to regain possession of rental property after a tenant has failed to pay rent or violated other lease terms. It involves taking possession of the tenant's personal property until the debt is paid or the lease is terminated.
  • Garnishment: Garnishment is a legal process that allows creditors to collect debts from a debtor's paycheck, bank account, or other income source. It involves a court order that directs a third party, such as an employer or bank, to withhold funds and pay them directly to the creditor.
  • Levy: Like "repossess," levy involves taking control of someone's property as a form of debt collection. However, levy specifically refers to the legal action of seizing and selling someone's property to satisfy a debt.