Florida Self-Storage Public-Notice Bills Stall in House and Senate

Update 2/23/16 – The Florida House Appropriations Committee was scheduled this week to consider an amended version of House Bill 559, which would allow public notice of self-storage lien sales in a manner other than the local newspaper. The bill was set to be reviewed on Monday, but the House website indicates it’s been temporarily postponed.

Update 2/23/16 – The Florida House Appropriations Committee was scheduled this week to consider an amended version of House Bill 559, which would allow public notice of self-storage lien sales in a manner other than the local newspaper. The bill was set to be reviewed on Monday, but the House website indicates it’s been temporarily postponed.

An earlier amendment to companion Senate Bill 720 indicated storage operators could be charged for the creation and maintenance of a state-run website, which could be used as an alternative to newspapers to announce lien sales for 14 days. The proposal had been to have the Department of Financial Services run the website, but the amended House bill indicates that may fall to the Office of State Courts Administrators, according to the source.

The amendment indicates the office wouldn’t be liable “for technical failures or any other cause that may interfere with or interrupt the required 14-day notice or for the content of any defects in the notice posted on the website.”

SB 720 remains stalled in the Regulated Industries Committee.


1/9/16 – Florida Senate Bill 720, which would allow public notice of self-storage lien sales in a manner other than the local newspaper, has stalled after being postponed in the Regulated Industries Committee. While the bill continues to face opposition from the AIF, Sen. Kelli Stargel has introduced an amendment that would place the development and maintenance of a public-notice website under the authority of Jeff Atwater, the state’s chief financial officer, according to the source.

“The newspapers and their publishers continue to stand up and oppose this bill because it loosens the choke hold that they have in statute to profit off of public notice,” Joseph Salzverg, a lobbyist with the national Self Storage Association, told the source.

Stargel’s amendment would charge self-storage operators for the creation and maintenance of the state-run website. “The chief financial officer shall charge the owner a fee to cover the costs associated with building, maintaining, and operating the website, which shall be deposited into the Administrative Trust Fund,” the amendment reads. The website would serve as an alternative to newspaper notices, and auction announcements would have to appear on the website for 14 calendar days to be lawful.

Atwater hasn’t commented on the issue. “This is a policy decision for the legislature to make,” Ashley Carr, a spokesperson in Atwater’s office, told the source. “To ensure we’re prepared if the legislature decides affirmatively, we have worked with proponents of the bill on amendment language that verifies the department has the appropriate resources to fulfill the ask, but we remain neutral.”

Meanwhile, companion House Bill 559 moved through the Regulatory Affairs Committee on Feb. 4 with a 15-3 vote. It could soon be heard on the House floor, the source reported.


12/2/15 – Florida lawmakers are considering two bills that would update the state’s self-storage lien law. Both would enable storage operators to advertise unit auctions in media other than a local newspaper, but the measures are opposed by Associated Industries of Florida (AIF), the state’s top business lobby, according to the source.

Senate Bill 720 would allow public notice of self-storage lien sales “on a public website that customarily conducts personal-property auctions.” An amended version of the original bill was approved by a 7-1 vote this week by the Senate Judiciary Committee. It’s now being reviewed by a committee on regulated industries.

Similarly, House Bill 559 would allow operators to advertise lien sales in a “commercially reasonable manner” other than the local newspaper as long as at least three independent bidders attend the auction. The measure was scheduled for review this week by the Business & Professions Subcommittee.

“Public notice in newspapers casts the broadest possible net, and Floridians rely on newspapers to provide this type of critical information,” the AIF said in a released statement.

The AIF believes allowing self-storage operators to forego posting public notices of lien sales in the newspaper is too narrow a solution. “Under this proposed language, the facility could only provide notice on their own website if they choose,” Brewster Bevis, senior vice president of AIF, told the source. “We urge members … to consider the important role [that] the broadest possible public notice plays in protecting owners and lienholders. We strongly urge members to reject language that diminishes the current tried-and-true system of public notice.”

The AIF argument is similar to recent battles waged by newspaper-advocacy groups in Maryland and New Mexico. In Maryland, the legislature passed a bill that enables website notifications as an alternative to newspapers, but New Mexico lawmakers rejected a similar provision in passing a lien-law update. The public-notification provisions being considered in Florida are similar to other lien-law updates passed recently in several states, including Georgia, Indiana, Minnesota, Missouri and North Carolina.

The joint measures would also allow operators to conduct lien sales on online-auction websites, place a limit on the value of items stored, and have stored vehicles towed after default reaches 60 days. If passed, they would go into effect on July 1, 2016.

Sources:

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