There's plenty I could say about legal issues and litigation as they pertain to self-storage, especially as we now have dozens of industry associations across the country working to pass bills and establish laws to protect and beneficially affect our business. But as we've dedicated so much space in recent editions to emphasizing the global potential of self-storage, I thought it more appropriate to address a broader matter, one we've not had much need to discuss: international legal disputes.
If you are a U.S.-based supplier or developer of self-storage, providing products or services to the United Kingdom, Europe or other international market, you may eventually have a difference of opinion on your hands. Disagreements can arise in any domestic business transaction; dealing overseas introduces convoluted naunces. If there is a clash over quality of work, or delinquent payment for goods or services, what legal avenues do you pursue? Do you secure legal representation locally? Do you contact an attorney in the country of origin? To which laws do you adhere? What is enforcable outside certain centers of authority?
Inside Self-Storage recently grappled with these questions as a restraint-of-trade issue reared its ugly head. This month, the Self Storage Association of the United Kingdom and Europe hosts its annual convention and tradeshow in Paris, March 5-7. We submitted application to exhibit and were denied, based on our status as a competing organization. This does not affect our presence at the show; it does, however, stir up some key legal concerns.
In the United States, there are laws addressing anti-trust violations and restraint-of-trade contracts. The Sherman Act, for example, prohibits "contracts, combinations and conspiracies" in restraint of trade. Its primary objective is the preservation of competition in the marketplace. Similarly, there are laws governing the monopolization, or any attempt at monopolization, of any part of trade or commerce among the states or with foreign nations. But this is U.S. policy. The question of whether to force our rights with a U.K.-based entity, hosting an event in France--becomes extremely complicated.
I cite this as an example of the kind of situation that can present itself. It may not be something you expect, and you're not likely to know, immediately, how to address it. If you are new to the self-storage industry in the States, this may also be true of very common, domestic legalities: late fees, delinquencies, rental agreements, lien sales, tenant bankruptcy, hazardous waste, etc. The keys are preparation and education, and prevention is the best policy. Don't be caught unaware--you'll fare far better in the long run, regardless whether your battlefield is at home or abroad.
Teri L. Lanza