By Karen Suhaka
The gridlock in Congress, with only around 10 percent of a total 9,427 bills enacted into law this year and only 513 resolutions passed, might leave some self-storage professionals to think there won’t be much change in legislature this year. However, at the state level, nearly 125,000 bills have been introduced to date in 2012, with 15 percent being signed into law. That means approximately 20,000 new laws have passed just this year, some of which could mean profound changes in the way self-storage facilities do business.
With so much potential change on the books, self-storage operators must find a way to keep informed of changes affecting them and determine if action needs to be taken, all without drowning in a sea of irrelevant or unlikely-to-be-passed laws. By becoming more informed of pending legislature, self-storage professionals can take an active role in forming the laws that govern their industry, protecting their businesses and advocating for their customers. While industry associations are often active at the state level, they may rely on input and mobilization from members to effect change in government.
A quick look across states reveals several proposed, passed or pending legislative changes of which self-storage operators and managers need to be aware. They include:
- Lien-law reform: Lien laws have recently been an area of high profile, with active legislation in Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Massachusetts, Rhode Island and South Dakota. These bills could reform current regulations, making it easier for self-storage operators to serve customers and protect their businesses.
- Sales taxes: In South Dakota, the legislature introduced a potentially devastating 4 percent sales tax on the self-storage industry.
- Price gouging: In Massachusetts, Senate Bill 1192 was recently introduced, prohibiting price gouging during a state of emergency, with self-storage units being specifically called out in the language.
- Property-insurance policies: In Pennsylvania, House Bill 20 would allow owners of a self-storage facility to sell limited property-insurance policies. Sale of these policies is a lucrative potential revenue stream owners in other states might want to replicate.
How can self-storage professionals keep up with active legislation and identify the bills that have the greatest chance of affecting their business? Thanks to the Internet, keeping up is easier than ever. Single-state operators should:
- Become familiar with where and how their state publishes bills online.
- Check sites regularly for changes to existing and newly proposed bills. With many sessions lasting from 30 to 90 days, paying attention to pre-filing and the first few weeks of session can help operators plan and prepare for the upcoming legislative year.
Multi-state operators should:
- Spend some time before sessions heat up so they know what’s going on in their states.
- Set up tracking so they're alerted when situations change.
Both single- and multi-state operators should look into industry-association memberships. Even if you aren’t a member, association websites will often carry a summary of new and pending legislation. There are also several services, some free and some at a minimal cost, to help you search and track federal and state legislation. A quick Google search will turn up several options.