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‘They had no right to the car:’ Couple claims vehicle impounded because of relative’s debt

Posted at 6:54 PM, Sep 24, 2014
and last updated 2014-09-24 18:54:02-04

COVERT TOWNSHIP, Mich.-- A West Michigan couple are out a car because of an unpaid debt, but they say debt wasn't theirs to pay.

They loaned their car to their niece to help her get to work so she wouldn't lose her job. Apparently she had a nearly 3-year-old debt that wasn't paid, so the car was impounded. The family says that's not right.

Verlin Hunt and his wife Linda called FOX 17 Problem Solvers for help, after the car was taken from them last week.

"I want my car back we just paid it off - $8,500.  And we just put a new motor in it; $1,300  to put a new motor in it. I can’t afford to be out all this money," said Verlin.

 The Hunts used that extra car to lend out to various family members in times of need.

"She doesn't have anything else. She has nothing. She doesn't even have a home," Linda said about her niece.

Why the car was taken from the Hunts all started at Country House Furniture in South Haven. Their niece owed a debt of $3,200 for furniture she and her husband purchased nearly three years ago

Country House Furniture said they work with their customers as much as they can, but after so much time they had no choice but to file with the court system. From there, the Van Buren County Sheriff's Department contracts with Viper Security in Kalamazoo to investigate and handle property possession. That's who decided to take the Hunts car away from their niece.

"We told them you can’t take that car it’s not hers. It's my car. They told me that possession is nine tenths of the law," said Linda.

Linda and Verlin Hunt say Viper Security had no right to take that car because it's not in her name, and they have all the documentation to prove it. They bought, and paid off the car, they own the title, the license plate and make all the insurance payments.

"The registration and the insurance and everything was all in the car so all they had to do was look inside and see it was our car, but evidently they didn’t care," said Verlin.

Their niece's name only appeared on one record.

"We did put her on our insurance because she is driving our vehicles so that's why her name is on it, but we made every insurance payment," said Linda.

Citing federal case law, Viper Security claims they can take a car from someone if there's evidence it's theirs, regardless of what the title says.

They said there are a lot of fraud cases where people put all their possessions in another person's name so no one comes after them. In this case, all payments were made on the car, and all the payments came from Verlin and Linda.

"I kept paying the payments and the insurance on it," said Linda.

Viper Security wouldn't share the evidence they had that shows that it was actually their niece's car. The owner, Richard Martin, said he would call us back, but never returned our call, and no one was at their offices as of late afternoon on Wednesday.

Verlin says he doesn't have a bunch of money to pay all the impound fees that are accumulating.

"How can somebody take somebody's stuff, and then make them pay to get it back?"

FOX 17 News talked to a civil case lawyer who says if you own property you have the right to lend it any way you want. If a person is making all the payments, and taking care of the vehicle, it's not for anyone else to take.

"They had no right to the car," said Verlin.

So now on top of impound fees, they are taking the matter to court, and took a suggestion from their son's lawyer.

"They told us to go to South Haven District Court, and get a hearing set up," said Linda.

The Hunts don't know why they are being punished for trying to help out the people they love most.

"It's just not right," said Verlin.

Verlin and Linda Hunt will appear in court this Friday. It will be up to the judge to decide if they can keep their car or not.