Self-storage operators these days need to take a big step back and examine the claims they make about their rental spaces. The biggest issue I see revolves around a phrase we, as an industry, made up: climate control. I can’t find it formally defined anywhere, can you?
The claim of providing climate-controlled space is coming more into question. Jeffrey Greenberger, one of the self-storage industry’s most recognized attorneys, has long urged us to clearly define, in our rental agreements, what climate control means. Are we controlling humidity? Temperature? Within what range?
This has become such an issue in Nevada that advertising claims of climate-controlled units is now specifically regulated under the language in Nevada Revised Statute 597.890, a provision that outlines related requirements, penalties and civil liabilities. It reads:
1. The owner of a facility for the storage of personal property or a person acting on his or her behalf shall not advertise that the facility is “climate controlled” unless the advertisement specifies the range of the minimum and maximum temperature and humidity within which the facility is maintained.
2. If an owner or a person acting on his or her behalf fails to indicate the range of temperature and humidity of a facility in any advertisement that refers to it as being “climate controlled” or fails to maintain the temperature and humidity of the facility within the advertised range, the owner is guilty of a misdemeanor and is liable to the occupant for any damages that are caused to the occupant’s personal property as a result of extremes in temperature or humidity, notwithstanding any contrary provision in the rental agreement.
Nevada’s legislature felt the meaning of “climate control” to be so critical to customers’ understanding of our product that it made it a criminal penalty to not properly disclose it. But there are not many operators I know outside of Nevada who have taken the admonition to heart. Most don’t include the phrase in their rental agreements. Is it clearly referenced on your website or Yellow Pages ad?
Another set of claims that gets us into hot water are those revolving around unit size. Are all of your 10-by-10s really 100 square feet, and your 10-by-20s 200 square feet? I really doubt it. If the actual space you rent is smaller than what is claimed on your rental agreement, it could open you to possible litigation.
Here’s area where many of us have missed the disclosure boat—our websites. Often, the “unit reservations” page of a facility website is driven by the content of the software database, not manually inputted by the facility owner or manager. That means the page automatically populates with generic unit sizes.
It’s a simple fix. Your rental agreement and website should include a clear statement regarding unit size: “All sizes are approximate and for comparison purposes only.”