California Self Storage Association Alters Course in Pursuit of Lien-Law Update

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Undeterred by the California Senate Judiciary Committee’s decision last month to vote down an update to the state’s self-storage lien law (Assembly Bill 983), the California Self Storage Association (CSSA) will press forward with a new version it hopes will make it through the legislature. Although the new bill will seek authorization for operators to use e-mail for tenant lien notifications, previous language that pursued changes to the procedures if a defaulted tenant invokes a declaration in opposition to a lien sale will most likely be dropped from the bill, officials said.

Under current law, if a tenant invokes the declaration, then self-storage operators must seek a court order to proceed with the lien process, according to the national Self Storage Association (SSA), which has been assisting the CSSA in its legislative efforts. The provision is unique to California’s self-storage lien law, and the associations had hoped to place the court-filing burden on the tenant within 30 days of returning the declaration.

Storage operators have been dissatisfied with the current procedure because a high percentage of delinquent tenants who return declarations do not show up for the requested hearing, according to CSSA officials. By changing the requirements, the CSSA hoped delinquent tenants would return a declaration only when they had legally relevant reasons for executing the form and, thus, would be more likely to appear at the hearing if they initiated the lawsuit.

The bill appeared to have favorable momentum earlier this year, but a bill analysis from a committee consultant raised concerns that switching the burden of the lawsuit to tenants would create hardships, according to CSSA lobbyist Randy Pollack. CSSA officials believe this particular portion of the previous bill was central to the committee’s primary objection.

“I think the plan is to go forward with the bill in its present form, dropping the change to the burden for bringing a lawsuit when the Declaration in Opposition to Lien Sale is returned,” said Carlos Kaslow, general counsel for SSA. “The CSSA will work with the Senate Judiciary Committee staff to determine if the current law can be changed to authorize the sending of lien notices by e-mail.”

“For now, we hope to make minor technical changes to that process that will further help foster a fair process for the business owner and the customer,” said Erin King, CSSA executive director. “We plan to move forward with the other portions of the bill as they were last seen by the Senate Judiciary Committee, although we plan to re-evaluate our efforts to include e-mail as an acceptable form of communication with the tenants (lien notices, etc).”

The timetable for re-introducing the bill is undecided. “We may or may not try to get this done this session,” King said. “Again, we are looking at adding it back in if we can come up with a process that is accepted by the committee.”

The SSA has provided the CSSA with financial support as well as assistance from Tim Dietz, senior vice president of communications and government relations, who has strategized with Pollack on how they can move the lien update forward. The CSSA is also relying on participation and donations from its members.

“This is a cause where everybody is pitching in,” King said. “The SSA and Tim Dietz have been amazing. We need our members to rally behind this effort as, in the end, it is really all about helping them.”

CSSA is a nonprofit trade association dedicated to supporting the self-storage industry in California. The group offers educational events, networking opportunities, legislative advocacy and more. More information can be found at www.californiaselfstorage.org.

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