AS THE ONSITE MANAGER AT A STORAGE FACILITY, YOUR MAIN GOAL is to rent those units. You should be prepared to lease the units in an orderly, timely fashion. That means having all your paperwork in order and at your fingertips. Following is a list of all the items that should be included in your rental package.
The Rental Agreement. We all know the rental package must have a legally binding rental agreement. More specifically, you should use a carbonless, three-part lease that is sequentially numbered. The top, original copy will be kept in the tenant file. There will also be a copy for the tenant to keep and a copy for your owner, area manager or head office to check on a monthly basis. These leases should be numbered. If you make a mistake on one, never throw it away. Keep voided leases with the written leases for each month.
If your software program automatically prints your lease, have the tenant fill out an information sheet covering the items at on the top portion of the agreement. This way, the information given is in the tenant's own handwriting and may protect you if there is ever a legal issue related to that information in the future. You can then input the information and print the completed form. This information sheet could also contain facts such as the tenant's distance from the facility, how he heard about you, the types of items he is storing, etc. Read your rental agreement and understand all its meaning so you can explain it to your tenants. Don't forget to sign it, and have the tenant sign and initial all necessary sections.
Rules and Regulations. You should also have a rules-and-regulations sheet. This is not an addendum to your rental agreement. Instead, it covers such things as office and gate hours, your policy regarding pets on the premises, your vacate policy, late fees and due dates, etc. Have the tenant sign this sheet and give him a copy.
Illegal Items. Consider having a sheet that lists items that are illegal to store, such as food, illegal drugs or stolen goods, dead or live animals, explosives, hazardous waste, etc. You should also have this list, framed in poster format, in plain view in your office. It's not a bad idea to tape copies of the rules-and-regulations and illegal-items sheets on the inside of a unit each time it is rented.
Storage Tips. It's a good idea to hand out professional brochures that show tenants how to pack and store their items. These are nice to give new tenants or those that stopped by to check the facility and prices. (Never let a prospective tenant leave your facility without something to take with him, such as a brochure, price list, key chain, magnet, pen--at the very least, a business card.) You can design your own brochure or a simple sheet titled "How to pack and store your goods." This sheet should include tips such as packing goods in boxes and marking what is in them, covering mattresses and furniture with plastic, oiling tools, etc. When you give a tenant a brochure, it is a perfect time to sell him items from your facility's retail profit center!
Return Envelopes or Labels. Many people appreciate a reminder of when their rent is due. Including self-addressed facility envelopes with your rental package helps people make timely payments. Or you could give out address labels or an address stamp. Because a vast majority of people store longer than they initially anticipated, give them at least two more envelopes or labels than they anticipate needing.
Insurance Brochure and Addendum. Last, but certainly not least, your rental package should include an insurance brochure and addendum. There are several companies that offer tenant insurance. It doesn't matter which you use, or if you collect the insurance premiums personally, but you must offer insurance to each tenant. Have the brochures displayed on your counter. Offer a brochure and explain you do not insure the tenant's goods, the insurance company does. Often, a homeowners- or renters-insurance policy will cover tenant goods while in storage, but it is the tenant's responsibility to confirm this. The tenant must sign or initial your insurance addendum--whether he accepts or rejects coverage--and a copy is placed in his file. Do not rely solely on the paragraph in your rental agreement that covers your insurance responsibilities.
If you are in an area where a language other than English is spoken, make a copy of all the above forms in the alternate language. Have them laminated and keep them available so tenants can read forms in their own language before signing.
The paperwork portion of your rental process should now be complete. The tenant should have a copy of the rental agreement, rules-and-regulations sheet, illegal-items sheet, the storing-tips sheet or brochure, mail-back envelopes and insurance brochure/addendum. Put these all in a large envelope printed with your company contact information, hours of operation, and spaces to write in the unit number, and rent due date and amount. Some companies even give out canvas bags with pens, key chains or magnets to tenants when they rent a unit.
After the tenant leaves your office, mail him a welcome letter or postcard. This should thank him for renting with you and include your office and gate hours and a reminder of when rent is due. You do this as a courtesy and to reinforce this information in the tenant's mind, but also to verify the tenant's address. If the letter is returned, it should raise a red flag. You'll want to contact the tenant and obtain a correct mailing address.
No matter how you file your tenant information--by last name or unit number--staple all paperwork together so the files are neat and orderly. Have all blank paperwork together in handy packets for when you begin a new rental. This keeps you organized and makes the rental process pleasurable for you and the tenant.
Pamela Alton is the owner of Mini-Management®, a nationwide manager-placement service. Mini-Management also offers full-service and "operations only" facility management, training manuals, inspections and audits, feasibility studies, consulting and training seminars. For more information, call 800.646.4648.