The repossession of vehicles in Florida is a complex process that necessitates strict adherence to state laws and regulations. Used car dealerships must navigate this process meticulously to avoid legal complications. Additionally, understanding the steps to obtain a Florida sales tax credit for repossessions is crucial for minimizing financial losses. In this detailed article, we will provide a comprehensive guide, including specific forms, to properly repossess a car in Florida.
I. Understanding Repossession Laws in Florida
1. Comprehend the Legal Framework:
Repossession in Florida is primarily governed by the Uniform Commercial Code (UCC) and Florida Statutes Chapter 537. These statutes outline the rights and responsibilities of both dealerships and consumers during the repossession process.
2. Verify Lienholder Status:
Before initiating a repossession, the dealership should confirm its status as a lienholder on the vehicle's title using Form HSMV 82139, titled "Application for Notice of Lien/Reassignment of Lien or Notice to First Lienholder of Subsequent Lien."
3. Review Retail Installment Sales Contract:
Thoroughly review the terms of the retail installment sales contract signed between the dealership and the consumer. Ensure strict compliance with all stipulations, particularly those related to defaults and repossession.
4. Provide Pre-Repo Notices:
Dealerships must send a written notice of intent to repossess the vehicle to the consumer at least 10 days before the actual repossession using Form HSMV 96011, titled "Notice of Default, Intent to Surrender Vehicle Notice."
5. Conduct the Repossession:
Repossession must be carried out without breaching the peace, as specified in Form HSMV 82191, titled "Repossession Notice."
II. Rights and Responsibilities of Dealerships in Chapter 537
- Right to Repossess: Dealerships have the legal right to repossess a vehicle when the consumer is in default under the terms of the sales contract.
- Notification Requirements: Dealerships are responsible for sending the required pre-repossession notices to the consumer and must ensure they comply with the statutory timeframes.
- Peaceful Repossession: Repossession must be conducted peacefully without causing a breach of the peace. Dealerships must avoid confrontations and conflicts during the process.
- Notification to the Consumer: After repossession, the dealership must notify the consumer in writing about the repossession and their rights using Form HSMV 82192, titled "Notification of Repossession and Intent to Sell Vehicle."
- Handling Personal Property: Dealerships must inventory and store any personal property left in the repossessed vehicle and return it to the consumer upon request.
- Sale of Repossessed Vehicle: If the consumer does not redeem the vehicle within the specified time frame, the dealership can proceed with the sale of the repossessed vehicle, following the procedures outlined in Form HSMV 82192.
III. Obtaining Sales Tax Credit for Repossessions
Dealerships in Florida may be eligible for a sales tax credit on repossessed vehicles if they have already paid the sales tax on the initial sale of the vehicle and meet other specific criteria. This can become complicated if the financing was pushed to another entity. For example, if you have a separate entity that the dealership operates specifically for financing – in order to get the tax credit, ownership of the vehicle and the debt must be transferred back to the dealership prior to the repossession. It is important to understand the timing deadlines and specific forms that must be used but this can be a very useful tool in minimizing financial loss and actually increasing your bottom line. For more information, see the articles referenced below and feel free to contact our Florida Sales Tax Division for a detailed free consultation.
Repossessing a vehicle in Florida requires meticulous attention to detail, adherence to state laws, and the use of specific forms designated by the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (DHSMV). Properly understanding and following these regulations is essential to avoid legal complications and disputes with consumers.
Obtaining a sales tax credit for repossessions can significantly benefit dealerships by offsetting some of the financial losses associated with repossessed vehicles. This process demands careful record-keeping, compliance with DHSMV forms, and adherence to the Florida Department of Revenue's regulations.
Used car dealerships in Florida should approach vehicle repossessions and tax credit applications with precision and thoroughness, using the designated forms, to ensure compliance with the law and protect their business interests. Understanding Chapter 537 rights and responsibilities is crucial for a smooth and legally compliant repossession process. If you have any questions, we’re happy to engage in a free consultation. And if we can be of help, we’re here to guide you and your business so that you can focus on the bottom line and we can take the stress out of the legal side of things.
Florida Statutes, Chapter 537, Section 537.012
FL Car Dealer: When is A sale Tax Exempt?James Sutton, Esq., published March 17, 2013.
FL Sales Tax Audits on Used Car Dealers – What is Taxable?Matthew Parker, Esq., published July 22, 2014.
Is the FL DOR Using the Best Available Information for Sales Tax Audit?Matthew Parker, Esq., published July 7, 2015.
FL Used Car Dealers - OFR is Looking at Your Installment SalesMatthew Parker, Esq., published January 13, 2019.
Florida Sales Tax for Nonresident Car Purchases (2020)David Brennan, Esq., published August 28, 2020.