Requiring Credit or Debit Cards for Self-Storage Rentals

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In the past, we typically prepared rental agreements with a credit/debit card addendum: a place for the operator to “offer” the occupant the convenience of credit card payment. However, for the last several years, we have actually been requiring a credit/debit card to pay rent or “back up” late payments in the language as an included provision.

As you know, many people signing a self-storage rental agreement have mentally committed to renting from you; the truck may be outside idling, and they need to get property moved in. This is the perfect time to “ask” for the credit/debit card number, as if it is required. Do you have to require a credit/debit card? Certainly not, but you can give the appearance it’s necessary to move on with the leasing of the premises.

Recently, we began informally polling clients using the “built-in” provision for credit/debit cards rather than a separate addendum and have discovered that compliance has jumped dramatically—from 25 to 75 percent—merely by making a provision part of the rental agreement.

The change could be due to the tight economy, increased acceptance of providing credit card information, more sophisticated operational procedures, better software, etc., but it’s possible that by making it a requirement tenants will simply abide. Few people walk away from a rental car counter or hotel because a credit card is needed; the same could hold true for self-storage.

Yes, the added step of collecting card information may be a drag for managers to enforce, so consider rewarding them for every rental agreement they obtain with a valid credit/debit card. Remind them that this one step could save them from late-fee headaches later on. Plus, it frees them up for other activities—marketing and the like.

Consider speaking to your attorney about adding a provision that makes a credit/debit card a requirement to your rental agreement. It’s a simple idea but can be very beneficial.

This column is for the purpose of providing general legal insight into the self-storage field and should not be substituted for the advice of your own attorney.

Jeffrey Greenberger practices with the law firm of Katz, Greenberger & Norton LLP in Cincinnati, representing owners and operators of commercial real estate, including self-storage. He is the legal counsel for the Ohio Self Storage Owners Society and the Kentucky Self Storage Association. His website, www.selfstoragelegal.com, contains his legal opinions and insights into the self-storage industry, as well as an article archive. For more information, call 513.721.5151; e-mail jjg@kgnlaw.com.

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