Another way to avoid being scammed is to avoid the offer of free or cheap rent. I won’t discuss the evils of self-storage concessions, because I’m certain everyone is doing what they can to survive in these tumultuous economic times. But consider this: Instead of offering a discount on your rates, offer something else, such as waiving the administration fee, giving a free lock, etc.
If you do offer free rent, give it later in the lease term, after the initial period of the lease is completed. For example, offer the sixth month of rent for a dollar rather than the first month for free. This way, the tenant has to fulfill five months of your lease before the concession. This alone should discourage these types of shenanigans at your facility.
Learn the Law
If it’s been three months or longer since you reviewed your lien-sale statute, it’s time for a refresher. If you never understood your state’s statute, it’s time to get educated. If you’re doing something that doesn’t seem right under the law but you do it because it’s the way you’ve been trained, or you’ve always done it that way and it’s never come back to haunt you, consider yourself put on notice. There are people out there looking to make an easy buck. The next time, it could be at your expense.
There are many ways to learn more about lien sales. Consider attending the legal seminars at the upcoming Inside Self-Storage World Expo in Las Vegas, March 1-3, researching the topic online, or contacting your state self-storage association. Another option is to sit down with your attorney and address your questions and concerns.
As tenants get smarter, you have to get smarter, or these types of suits are going to continue. Once someone finds a way to make money and discusses it on the Internet, you can bet others are going to copy.
Whether you change your concessions or their timing, at the end of day, what will rid you of this problem is making sure you conduct your lien sales properly and to the letter of the law. If you can’t, find other ways to remove tenants from your units through settlements, evictions or another avenue. Given what is going on in this day and age, if you’re not sure you can do your lien sales correctly, you should not be doing them at all.
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 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 primarily represents 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.