No. 9: Be prepared to circulate a letter to your occupants.
There are really three components to this. First, your tenants should hear about the break-in from you, not the media. This ensures they receive the correct information. Second, do not admit to facts you do not know for certain. This goes back to rules two and three; these are the same types of facts that were in the press release.
Lastly, let occupants know you have a plan. If you’ve closed access to the facility because units are exposed, let your tenants know how they can get into their units to inspect and re-lock them. Also, let them know you’ll provide assistance in filing insurance claims. You can also make a helpful suggestion, such as bringing a camera to document the inspection. All of this puts you in the driver’s seat, as it were, with your occupants so you are perceived as organized, aware of the situation and doing your best to help them.
This notice should also tell occupants that if they haven’t inspected their units by a certain date you will re-lock the unit—and charge the cost of the new lock to their account—so that you can re-open the facility to normal business.
The letter to your tenants should be positive in nature, but emphasize that what happened is not your fault; you are not responsible for the loss; that occupants are supposed to have insurance, but that you will help with the claim as much as you can. You can also offer a small incentive, such as a discount, for the inconvenience without admitting guilt. This is a goodwill gesture, not an admission of wrongdoing.
No. 10: News cycles are short.
The average shelf life of a story is two weeks or less. While you may feel overwhelmed, stressed or unfairly targeted by the media, the good news/bad news is something worse will come along and take your story out of the news.
Be prepared by making sure your staff knows their role when something like this happens, particularly that they cannot “help” by speaking to the media, and have your written statement and plan ready so you can beat the media to the punch.
This article 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 J. Greenberger is a partner with the law firm of Katz Greenberger & Norton LLP in Cincinnati, and is licensed to practice in Kentucky and Ohio. Mr. Greenberger’s practice focuses primarily on representing the owners and operators of commercial real estate, including self-storage owners and operators. To reach him, call 513.721.5151; visit www.selfstoragelegal.com.