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Requiring Credit or Debit Cards for Self-Storage Rentals

Jeffrey Greenberger Comments

If I could offer you a product to substantially increase your ability to easily collect rents every month, with the potential for less “missing” money and mistakes, would you buy it? Ironically, it’s not for sale, and it may be something already in your office, but you’re afraid to use it. What is it? It's a request for tenants to provide credit/debit card numbers to pay rent.

Before you say, “There’s no way renters will pay by credit/debit card,” you’ll want to read the results of our client survey. Moreover, you’ll need to learn the right way to request and get a credit/debit card number.

Jim Chiswell has always called this “the guaranteed no late-fee program,” because you can sell the idea of requiring a credit/debit card two ways. The first is a flat-out requirement that a card number be provided for monthly rental charges. Along the East Coast, the practice has been commonplace for several years. However, you can also take a credit/debit card number under the pretext of protection against late fees (the guaranteed no late fee).

Here’s what tenants are told by managers: “We keep your card number as a service to you. Your credit/debit card is only used if rent is late. Let’s say you get sick or must travel and forget to pay your self-storage bill. Before you know it, you could owe a late fee, maybe an overlock fee, lien check fees, letter fees, you name the fees. The charges are all small, but they add up quickly.”

Some storage owners create a document that explains to tenants “the high price of being late” as another means in which to coax a card number from them. Unfortunately, some facilities may have clientele that does not have or will not give a credit/debit number but, realistically, that population is getting smaller by the day.

Consumers are accustomed to having to provide credit cards for services. Have you tried to reserve a hotel room or rental car? Perhaps you’ve rented a tool from your local hardware store. Not one will rent to you without getting all the necessary information, including a credit/debit card number. Yes, sometimes it’s possible to secure services for a large cash deposit, but for some, that’s not an appropriate measure.

The On-Time Rent Payment

A credit/debit card gives you the closest guarantee to on-time rent payment and, because numbers are programmed into your software, there’s less chance of misappropriation of occupant funds. Software reports reveal how many accounts are charged and the amount deposited each by date, making record-keeping a snap.

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