Are you laying down the law?
You may tell tenants what they can and cannot store at your site, but can you actually ENFORCE it? What about all those other operational provisions included in your rental agreement? Let's take it a step further: What are you doing to implement the lesser policies that don't make it into the lease, like those addressing hours of operation, dumpster use, parking, and general behavioral conduct?
A signed rental agreement gives you some legal leverage, but you have to face facts: Tenants are going to store things you instruct and warn them not to leave in a unit, whether it be hazardous chemicals or highly sentimental/valuable items. Value of limitation? It's essential that you have one for your own protection, though most customers will disregard it. We read in the papers time and again about tenants who had "thousands of dollars" of property stolen from or damaged at the facility. Then they cry—and loudly—for all the world to hear.
Take, for example, a recent article published in the San Bernadino County Sun. A young woman lost a computer, radio and $3,000 in clothing to theft at a U-Haul facility. But that's not all. She also lost her late mother's ashes, belongings and photographs. The article was a plea to the thief for their return. "You can have everything else. Just give me my mother back," she said. "Just find it in your heart."
Do petty thugs read the paper, I wonder? If only to see mentions of their deeds? I doubt it.
I don't mean to be callous. The woman suffered a terrible loss. But I've frequently mused in this blog about the things people will trust to storage, even against the operator's advice. This is not to undermine the value or security of our facilities; but crime runs rampant in this country, and self-storage is apparently a juicy target. If customers don't know that, all they have to do is pick up a newspaper on any given day.
I've used storage myself. I've stored furniture, old school papers, sporting goods, even stereo equipment. And every time I arrived at the unit to find all my goods intact, I breathed a small, almost imperceptible sigh of relief. This was no reflection on the facility, which was clean, well-maintained and amply secured. It was a reflection on my fellow man, who oft disappoints with his lack of integrity an his canniving ways.
But let's get back to this issue of enforcement. Operators generally cover themselves for the larger liabilities through their rental agreement, then draw up a sheet of rules and regulations to address the less critical items such as those mentioned above. This is fine unless you fail to make those rules enforceable by referencing them in the lease. Or, in many cases, the rules are insufficient in and of themselves.
If you'd like to learn more about this, you're in luck: On Tuesday, as part of our Legal Learning Webinar Series, industry expert Jeffrey Greenberger will present a free webinar on "Facility Rules and Regulations." He'll talk about what your facility rules should include, how they differ from lease clauses, and how to make them easiliy modifiable. If you manage or own a facility, check out this session. It's only an hour out of your life, but it could make a big difference for your business. To get more info and to register, click HERE.
Have a safe and fulfilling weekend!
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