RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - A Richmond pastor called NBC12 for help after a car dealership repossessed his car, claiming he breached their contract. But he claims the dealership didn't do what it promised either.
When Michael Curtis, a church bishop, bought a 2004 Cadillac Escalade back on February 17, his son was elated.
He bought it at Car Nation on Midlothian Turnpike, and according to sales documents, he put down $2,500. He financed the purchase through the dealership at a 26% interest rate and agreed to make monthly payments of $340 beginning on March 19.
But from the very beginning, Curtis had a concern because the dealership had not given him the vehicle's registration.
"He said, 'we have to order it, it'll come in a few days. We'll give you a call as soon as it gets in,'" Curtis said.
Curtis says he called the dealership repeatedly trying to obtain the registration. He sent NBC12 the audio of one of those phone calls, where he again asked about the registration.
At the end of that phone call, the dealership owner promised a return call that Curtis claims never happened. That's when he decided to withhold his first payment because he didn't feel confident making it with no car registration in hand.
Two weeks later, at 11:30 at night, a tow truck showed up and repossessed the vehicle, causing quite a scene.
"My son's outside, my son's crying, you know all that stuff," Curtis said.
The following Monday, he went to the dealership to question why the vehicle was repossessed. He says he was met with a number of excuses that just weren't true. It ended with Car Nation telling him he'd have to pay off the loan in full to get the vehicle back - about $6000.
NBC12 went to Car Nation looking for answers.
The owner turned our camera away, but off camera, she said they repossessed Curtis' vehicle because he didn't make his payment. When asked about the registration, dealership officials said they didn't give it to Curtis because he failed to pay DMV fees.
NBC12 took all of this information, including the purchase contract, to consumer attorney John Gayle.
"It would seem to me that both sides ought to try to work this out because they screwed up," Gayle said.
Gayle says the dealership should have provided registration within 30 days of the car's purchase and they breached the contract by not doing so, regardless of any fees they say Curtis owed.
"There's no obligation under his contract for him to pay DMV fees," Gayle said.
But Gayle said Curtis was also obligated to make his payment no matter what.
And the attorney made one more huge observation: the dealership sold Curtis this SUV even though it had not passed inspection.
"The law requires that you sell a car with a Virginia State Police safety inspection sticker that shows passed. And if you don't, it's a class-one misdemeanor, which is 12 months in jail or a $1000 fine or both," Gayle said.
Car Nation officials insist they did the right thing by having Curtis sign a copy of the failed inspection report acknowledging that he knew it had failed, plus he said he would get it inspected himself.
For now, Curtis does not have a car, nor does he have the $2,500 he invested, but he does have the resolve to keep fighting.
"I plan to pursue the legal proceedings all the way out to the fullest extent of the law," Curtis said.
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