Manager's Memo: Service Starts at the Signature

Mel Holsinger Comments
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Many states have now passed regulations that allow self-storage operators to sell insurance to customers and actually receive some type of compensation for doing so without having a special license. Check state laws about what is and is not allowed. In either case, make the point to your customers that they are responsible for obtaining insurance on the contents of their units, not the facility.

Several companies offer specialized insurance. Just look through this magazine and you’ll find many of them, or visit the insurance section of the Inside Self-Storage Buyer’s Guide (found at www.insideselfstorage.com). Contact companies directly and learn how you can offer insurance directly to your customers. Potentially, you can also earn some type of commission should your customers buy the insurance.

For homeowners with adequate insurance, it’s possible their policy covers goods while in temporary storage. Encourage tenants to review their coverage or consult their insurance agent. You may lose a commission on selling insurance yourself, but you’ll gain consumer trust. It pays well in the long run.

Finally, some customers may wish to “self insure” their goods, which is fine; but you should request written assurance that they are willing to take this chance and you are not responsible for their unit’s contents. Most self-storage leases or agreements address this important issue. Consult with your attorney and ensure you are on safe ground. It can save you a lot of aggravation and potentially keep you out of a major lawsuit.

Late-Fee Policies

Even though the topic of delinquency has negative connotations, it’s best to inform tenants beforehand of procedures so they won’t plead ignorance or harbor resentment. Discuss upfront what may happen if they fail to pay rent on the obligated date. For example, many states allow the operator of a self-storage facility to charge late fees, to deny access to the goods until the rent payments are made current, to collect the overdue rent payments through an auction process, or other remedies should they become delinquent or “late” in their payments.

I like to inform renters in a subtle but firm way about our late policies. For example, a conversation like this can be simple but effective: “Mr. Jones, please be aware that your next payment will be due on the first of the month, and although we have a grace period of five days, after that date, should you not make your appropriate payment, we are required to deny you access to your unit and you may be subject to the following penalties (late fees, etc). I am sure this will not happen but, in the event that it should, I just want to remind you that our policies are made by our corporate office and I am obligated to follow them as outlined.”

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