For example, a woman who had filed an emergency divorce stopped by her self-storage unit to change her lock and keep out her soon-to-be ex-husband. However, she forgot to delete him from her authorized-access list. Two days later, the husband showed up and tried to get into the unit, asking the manager to cut the lock. When the manager wouldn't comply, the man summoned the police.
Here’s another point to remember about authorized access: People’s feelings change. Someone might be given access to a tenant's unit at the time of lease signing. Then the tenant might change his mind down the road due to a fight, break-up, divorce, etc. If he fails to notify the facility operator in a timely fashion, the other party may already have accessed the unit. If the operator facilitated that access, he could potentially face a lawsuit.
You’re in the business of renting space in exchange for rent. Nowhere in that relationship should you be acting as a referee, deciding who can access a unit.
Avoid Additional Risk
This is all extra risk you don't need to take. In truth, there isn’t a single benefit to extending authorized access in your rental agreement. Let your tenants decide who can enter the unit by distributing their own gate code and key. If they change their mind, they can swap their lock or code and keep you out of it. This will keep your business relationships cleaner, simpler and safer.
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 Katz, Greenberger, & Norton LLP in Cincinnati and is licensed to practice in the states of Ohio and Kentucky. Mr. Greenberger’s practice focuses primarily on representing the owners and operators of commercial real estate, including self-storage owners and operators. His website, www.selfstoragelegal.com, contains legal opinions and insights as well as an article archive. You can send your questions, comments or suggestions for future topics to firstname.lastname@example.org.