Don’t portray yourself as a bad guy, just a good person trying to help them steer clear of future difficulties. It’s not your policy; it’s corporate. Should tenants not pay on time, you are obligated, regretfully, to assess the penalties. I always like to blame the corporate structure; no one ever gets to see them so they cannot identify them.
We are no different than any other business; if you do not make payments on time, you will be subject to a late fee. No one ever questions the utility companies, the credit card companies, the mortgage companies, etc., so why should self-storage be segregated? Bottom line, if our customers do not pay us on time, we may not have the cash flow to pay our bills (including your payroll), so it’s important to convey this professionally and courteously to customers.
Before you enact any late fees or penalties, contact your attorney or state association to make sure you are in compliance with state and city laws. This applies to the sale of insurance as well.
Although discussions of insurance and late fees are not the most pleasant things we managers have to deal with, a little common sense, a good smile while you are going over these things with the customer, and a clear understanding of the laws will make the discussions much easier.
In the future, don’t let your focus on tenants end with their signed rental agreement. Inform them of resources and rules, and you’ll gain their respect along with a monthly rental check.
Mel Holsinger is the president of Tucson, Ariz.-based Professional Self Storage Management, which offers self-storage facility management, consulting and development services. He is also a frequent speaker at industry conferences and a regular contributor to Inside Self-Storage. For more information, call 520.319.2164; visit www.proselfstorage.com.