Similarly, facilities are embarking on operational changes to permit online and mobile payment and contracting. It’s important with all of these alterations that the rental agreement be updated to address how these features can be used, what warranties are offered, if any, and the limits of liability for the operator.
4. Case Decisions
There have been a number of case decisions over the last few years that apply to the self-storage industry. It's helpful for facility operators to consider the lessons learned from these cases, even if they relate to a specific state. It may be the case was won because of specific language included in the rental agreement—or lost for the same reason.
It can be helpful to analyze these rulings and adjust facility rental agreements accordingly. Some agreements have been changed over the last few years to address issues such as:
- The approximate size of the rented units
- Whether operators have the permission to fax information to their tenants
- Whether giving authorized access to non-tenants converts them to tenants
- Whether operators have the right to enter storage units to perform repairs
5. Tenant Issues
Over time, every operator experiences situations that make him wonder whether the particular issue is covered in his lease. Rental agreements are often updated after something has happened at a facility and the operator wants to protect himself if the same situation arises again. Such issues include denial of access to non-tenants, tenants claiming mold or mildew damage, tenants using the space for unauthorized business activity, tenants claiming oral amendments to their leases, or tenants claiming climate-controlled units failed to maintain a specific temperature. For each of these circumstances as well as many others, rental agreements are commonly revised to create clarity and avoid future disputes.
It’s important for owners and operators to take the time to review their rental agreement and confirm the document they’re using is up to date and effective for its intended purpose. Consider some of these questions:
- When was it drafted?
- Does it follow your state's self-storage law?
- Has your state law been amended since the agreement was written?
- Does your agreement consider changes you’ve made to your operation, recent court decisions, and tenant issues that have occurred at your facility?
Depending on your answers, it may be time to consider updating your rental agreement.
Scott Zucker is a partner in the law firm of Weissmann & Zucker P.C. in Atlanta. He specializes in business litigation with an emphasis on real estate, landlord-tenant and construction law. He’s a frequent lecturer at national conventions, author of “Legal Topics in Self-Storage: A Sourcebook for Owners and Managers,” and a partner in the Self-Storage Legal Network, a subscription-based legal services for self-storage owners and managers. To reach him, call 404.364.4626; e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org .