Giving Yourself More Opportunities
Assume you’re in a state that doesn’t require you to collect an alternate contact for the purposes of notices. Should you be asking for an alternate contact, emergency contact, both or neither? In a perfect world, you should ask for both because the alternate and emergency contact may be different and, in the end, if there’s a loss or default, you might not be contacting the right person if you only ask for one of the two.
Let me give you a quick example. A tenant lists his wife as the emergency contact, but names his parents as alternate contacts for notices. Let’s say the tenant divorces and defaults on the unit. You send an extra copy of the default notice to the now disenfranchised ex-spouse, who promptly throws it away rather than tell her ex his stuff may be in jeopardy. It seems nice and revengeful enough, but it doesn’t really help you.
If you send a notice to the home of the tenant’s parents, however, mom and pop will hopefully have sustained contact with their son and be able to help you resolve the problem or reach the tenant. By asking for both contacts, even when not required, you’ve given yourself two extra opportunities to reach someone who may help you resolve a default.
Some self-storage operators don’t want to collect that much information on the lease. If you’re only going to ask for one, choose an emergency contact. (This assumes your state statute doesn’t require you to ask for the alternate.) The emergency contact is generally the person in the best position, short of a divorce or some other life change, to assist you in locating your tenant. When you request emergency information, make sure you disclaim that this person might not be entitled to the same notices and doesn’t have entry or other rights under the rental agreement.
Consider a Hybrid
If your state statute requires you to collect alternate-contact information, you cannot disclaim responsibility for sending notices to that person. In that case, I don’t recommend you change the title of “alternate contact” to “emergency contact” in your lease. However, the other disclosures named above should be listed in your rental agreement, for example, no authorization to enter, etc.
Finally, consider a hybrid, especially in states where you’re not required to collect an alternate contact. Add lines for emergency/alternate contact information in the rental agreement, and allow space for one or two names and phone numbers with relationships. This way, you’re not splitting hairs between emergency and alternate information. Plus, you can include all the pertinent disclaimers and still collection the information of several people who might help you find your tenant if necessary.
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 .