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Avoid Legal Exposure in 2008

Jeffrey Greenberger Comments
Continued from page 3
Nevada has a statute on the books penalizing an operator’s failure to properly advertise what is meant by “climate control.” Once one state enacts a statute, it’s not long before many others follow suit. Several states are seeking to define what climate control means at a self-storage facility. Don’t forge ahead in 2008 without giving serious consideration to what you mean if you use the term. To be concise, add a clause to your rental agreement defining what you mean by temperature-controlled, air-cooled, heated, etc.

4. Security

In current times, we must be aware that self-storage facilities can be used to house materials planned for a terrorist plot. Or, rented units could be used by criminals for brewing methamphetamine, contaminating the unit and the soil, and cross-contaminating other occupant’s property. Worse, irresponsible actions could result in burning down the building or polluting the soil to a point where the facility would have to be considered an environmental hazard.

Perhaps we’re forgetting some of the lessons we learned from 9/11. Sometimes you just can’t beat having a good nosy manager. While that may not be the solution to every situation, let’s talk options.

Self-storage operators often stress concerns about asking for “too much” information from new tenants, stating applicants are rebelling against providing photocopies of driver’s licenses, Social Security numbers or credit cards. The fear is that along with collecting this info comes the management’s responsibility to safeguard and dispose of it properly. While the rise of identity theft has become a convenient reason for occupants to refuse providing personal information, you still need it. If applicants fail to comply, strongly consider sending them down the street to your competition, which hopefully will also require this information.

Operators must be ever vigilant to ward off any nefarious activity that could be occurring in their facilities. The Department of Homeland Security recommends being particularly wary of customers who exhibit any of the following:

  • Insistence of paying cash, particularly large advance payments 
  • Excessive concern about privacy 
  • Visits to the storage unit at odd hours, particularly close to gate-closing time or late at night 
  • Nervousness or evasiveness when approached by employees 
  • A unit producing unusual fumes or liquid residues 

Also be on the lookout for unusual types of corrosion on the locks, handles, hinges or doors of your units, and unusual amounts of trash deposited in barrels or dumpsters at your facility. Red flags should go up if you find fertilizer bags, empty gas cans, unusual metal objects, or excessive amounts of boxes of decongestants or starter fluid, etc., that can be used to make methamphetamine.

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