By Michael O’Brien
The self-storage industry is going through an unprecedented level of publicity and public scrutiny. The show “Storage Wars” is one of the most popular reality shows on television, and the Internet is full of rumors of whether it’s real, legal or either.
State self-storage associations have been busy facing or preparing to face the examination of state legislators and consumer-protection advocates, attending committee meetings, public debates and other tools of the legislative process. The good news is the timing couldn’t be better to revisit self-storage legislation. States are looking at the first major revisions since the late ’70s or early ’80s. At least 15 states have recently updated their self-storage statutes, providing strong precedent for associations looking to move forward on this important process.
For example, 2012 saw the passage of a number of important bills, including a major victory in Florida with the passage of Senate Bill 646/House Bill 715. The new legislation allows a tenant to provide a change of address to the facility using First Class Mail or e-mail. It also enables operators to send a “Notification of Default” to a tenant via First Class Mail with a Certificate of Mailing or e-mail, provided receipt of the e-mail by the tenant is verified, and requires self-storage rental contracts or applications ask whether a person is in the military. The changes in the law may save Florida self-storage businesses up to $6 million annually.
Although lien improvement was successful in Florida, similar bills died in state legislatures in Connecticut, Georgia and South Carolina. These important provisions are expected to be revived in 2013 and, if passed, will help protect businesses and save self-storage operators money.
Other proposed legislation, such as Georgia’s House Bill 463, may introduce changes to the insurance provisions that enable self-storage owners to sell insurance policies to their tenants, much like car-rental companies sell policies to their customers. These new provisions allow owners to upsell their customers and provide additional revenue streams for their businesses.
In 2013, at least seven states are considering significant changes to their self-storage statutes, pushed primarily by state associations and industry leaders. These changes will ease the rules and regulations on liens and foreclosures, lower the risk and cost of doing business, or provide opportunities to add lines of business and revenue streams.
It’s important self-storage leaders get involved in the legislative process, not just for the success of their own businesses, but also for the overall good of the industry. Sending e-mails or calling legislators is an easy way to get involved. Knowing the state and local officials who represent your self-storage business is now becoming as essential as advertising. Attending industry advocacy days at your state capitol, and supporting your state and national association should be high on your priority list.
Michael O’Brien is a business-development consultant for LegiNation, an online source for information on state-level legislation, and founder and principal of MOB Advocacy, a multi-state government-relations firm. O'Brien has more than 10 years of experience in state and local government relations, working with corporations, national trade associations and nonprofit organizations on issues related to healthcare, education, agriculture and the environment. For more information, e-mail email@example.com; visit www.billtrack50.com .