Understanding Replevin

According to the legal dictionary, replevin is “an action seeking return of personal property wrongfully taken or held by the defendant.” This legal procedure can be used by a person in order to reclaim goods or objects that have been taken away and illegally held by another individual. Additionally, replevin can be also invoked by a creditor when a debtor defaults on a loan secured by personal property. In such situations, the creditor can use a replevin action to recover collateral, that is, a property pledged as security for repayment of a loan. Other circumstances in which replevin may be invoked include:

  • A family member seeking to reclaim a property held by the administrator of the estate of a deceased person
  • A car loan company seeking to reclaim a vehicle after a payment default
  • A tenant trying to repossess property held by his or her landlord in exchange for rent that was in arrears

In Florida, a person, a company, or an organization who finds themselves in one of the situations mentioned above – or a similar one – may try to reclaim their property by using self-help means, replevin without notice, or replevin with notice.

Self-help Repossession

When a debtor defaults on a loan, Florida law allows the creditor to reclaim the collateral for the loan by self-help means, that is, without the use of a legal process. However, the debtor must do so in a way that doesn’t breach the peace. One of the most common circumstances in which a debtor may resort to repossession is when an item purchased on credit – such as a car, a boat, etc. – is in itself the collateral for the loan. In Florida, a creditor can seize the collateral as soon as a default occurs if the purchase agreement states so.  It should be noted that for manufactured homes, a creditor may not be able to reclaim the collateral through self-help means. If the owner still resides in the manufactured home or still has items in the manufactured home, the law confirms that seizing the manufactured home constitutes a breach of the peace and is unwarranted.

Replevin without Notice

A person or a company seeking to reclaim their property may file for a replevin action with a court. In order to be able to obtain a Writ of Replevin, a person will have to prove the ownership of the property in question or the rights to the collateral. In order to do so, he or she may be required to provide corresponding documents such as ownership titles or specific agreements along with other pertinent information, such as:

  • Description of the property or collateral
  • Value of the property
  • Location of the property
  • Statement of ownership
  • Statement that the property is wrongfully detained

Replevin without notice means that the person that the debtor who is in illegal possession of the property will not be notified of the proceedings. In such cases, the creditor or the owner will be required to post a bond to the amount equal to the value of the collateral or double the amount owed. After that, the court will issue a Prejudgment Writ of Replevin to be delivered to the Sheriff, who will ensure a peaceful repossession of the property. Sometime later, a court hearing will take place in which the court will render the final judgment with regards to the property or collateral in question.

Replevin with Notice

In the case of replevin with notice, a person will not be able to reclaim the possession of a property before a judgment is rendered by the court but, at the same time, the plaintiff will not be required to file a cash deposit or a bond. This is the action most commonly taken for manufactured home replevin actions.  In this scenario, a debtor will be required to appear at an Order to Show Cause Hearing. At the hearing, a judge will decide the ownership of the property. The debtor will have an opportunity to present evidence as to why the property or the collateral should not be immediately returned to the plaintiff. However, if the plaintiff presents sufficient evidence of his or her claim, the court will usually issue the writ of replevin that will be delivered to the Sheriff.

Seeking a Replevin Action? Contact the Right Lawyer First

If you find yourself in a situation in which your property is being illegally held by another person, you may be able to reclaim it through a replevin action. However, much will depend on specific circumstances of your case. Replevin is one of the legal remedies used in landlord-tenant disputes, and is most commonly used when a manufactured home owner defaults on his/her agreement to pay his/her lender. Atlas Law is a law firm specializing in a variety of landlord-tenant issues. Please contact us today to discuss the details of your case and learn how we can help you reach a solution uniquely tailored to your needs and circumstances.