You Gotta Collect the Rent! Tips for Making Self-Storage Collections a Little Less Painful

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Don’t assume a tenant is going to understand your state’s lien laws, a late letter or the costs involved with those letters. All of this must be explained at the time of the rental. Say the same thing to each and every new tenant so it becomes a habit. That way, when the customer claims, “I was never told that,” you can say with confidence, “Yes, you were told about these letters and fees when you signed the rental agreement.”

Most facilities now offer tenants the ability to pay their rental fees online or via auto-debit. If a customer elects not to use auto-debit, tell him about your facility’s online-payment options, if you offer them.

Verify the Info

After completing the rental process, mail a thank-you letter to the address on file and send an e-mail. (Most management-software programs have the ability to print a move-in welcome letter.) This will help you verify the information the tenant gave you. If the letter or e-mail comes back to the facility as undeliverable, then you know the information you have is incorrect and it’s time to take the next step. This may include removing the tenant’s gate access or overlocking his unit, which will force him to visit the office for entry. Then you can have him complete a change-of-address form. Never change a tenant’s information until you get it in writing from the person who signed the rental agreement.

Making Collection Calls

Collection calls are not a fun, but they are necessary. There are several rules of thought as to when these calls should be made, which depend on your rent due date. If rent is due on the customer's move-in date, then every day, there may be tenants who fall into the past-due category. If your is due on the first of the month, then the past-due date is the same for all tenants.

There are certain times of the month when a manager makes the majority of his past-due calls. Some managers will call a tenant before he gets the first late letter and late fee. Others will wait until the tenant get the first notifications, and then begin making calls prior to the tenant receiving a pre-lien or lien letter.

Either way, you can make the call a “positive” one by telling the tenant you're just calling to help him avoid a late fee, letting him know when the fee will be charged to the account. Remind him of your auto-debit and online payment options, if you have them. Always document any collection calls in the tenant’s file.

The winter holidays are probably the toughest season for these calls. Be persistent. The adage, “The squeaky wheel gets the grease” is too true at this time of the year!

Renting units and collecting rent go hand in hand. Collections truly begin at the time of the rental by obtaining current and verifiable tenant information. Making timely and persistent calls will make your job easier when it comes to collections.

Pamela Alton is the owner of Mini-Management Services, a nationwide manager-placement service specializing in placing self-storage management staff since 1991. For more information call 321.890.2245; visit www.mini-management.com .

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