The Maryland Senate voted 36-10 yesterday to pass an amended bill that would update the state’s self-storage lien-law procedures but preserve the placement of public notices with local newspapers. An earlier version of the bill would have given self-storage operators the option of placing notification in a “commercially reasonable manner” other than the newspaper, but that key wording was removed. The legislation (Senate Bill 634) is now being reviewed in the House.
The Maryland Self Storage Association, an affiliate of the national Self Storage Association (SSA), has been pushing to update the lien law. The original bill received resistance from newspaper lobbyists who moved to block allowing other commercial notices, including the use of publicly accessible websites.
“Although newspapers advertisements cost much more than Internet postings and have a much smaller footprint, legislators are reticent to jeopardize relationships with the media,” SSA officials published recently in its “Monday Morning Globe” e-newsletter.
Several states have either passed or are considering similar changes to lien-auction public notifications. Ohio, for example, passed legislation in January allowing operators to place public notices in other “reasonable” commercial outlets, including websites.
Despite the removal of the public-notice option, the amended bill still includes updates favored by the SSA including the allowance of default notifications sent by e-mail, the enabling of operators to have stored vehicles towed after default exceeds 60 days, and the lawful implementation of monthly late fees not more than $20 per month or 20 percent of the monthly rent, whichever is greater.
The amended bill also reduces the number of required default-tenant notifications from two to one. Currently, self-storage operators must issue two separate notices, with the final notice sent by Certified Mail. The new language stipulates that operators cannot send a default notification by e-mail unless this ability is written into the tenant’s rental agreement.
The reduction in the number of required notifications caused some controversy in the Senate prior to the vote. “What if that [e-mail] goes to your spam folder?," asked Sen. Brian Frosh. "This bill deals with facilities that hold people's dearest possessions, sometimes everything they own."