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Public Storage Tenants in Scotch Plains, NJ, Take Legal Action to Gain Access to Damaged Self-Storage Units

October 27, 2021

3 Min Read
Public Storage Tenants in Scotch Plains, NJ, Take Legal Action to Gain Access to Damaged Self-Storage Units

More than 20 tenants at a Public Storage facility in Scotch Plains, New Jersey, have taken legal action against the self-storage real estate investment trust and management company to salvage personal property from units damaged by flooding from Hurricane Ida. Some tenants who had been denied access to their units began to retrieve some belongings this week, though many expressed frustration about the slowness of the process, according to the source.

Tenant Mary Jean Murphy organized protests against Public Storage and was among those who filed a lawsuit to gain unit access. She was able to recover some items after hiring a remediation team following a court injunction, the source reported. She estimated that more than 75% of the property in her unit was unsalvageable.

Among those blocked from accessing their units include New York Giants broadcaster and former NFL All-Pro linebacker Carl Banks and actor Garry Pastore. Pastore criticized the REIT for hiring security to prevent customers from accessing units in the damaged area of the facility. “All they would have had to do was sit down with me and [make] some effort to settle with me,” Pastore told the source. “Now they hire security to prevent me from getting my own property that they are holding. Why couldn’t they say, ‘We're sorry’? They don’t have a heart.”

Public Storage maintains it denied unit access to adhere to safety protocols. “In handling the impact of Hurricane Ida, our customers’ safety is a top priority,” company officials told the source. “Our certified environmental health and safety experts at Hillmann Consulting determined that there was no safe way to access the impacted units and the items stored there due to raw sewage, toxins and hazardous mold caused by the storm. Following their advice was the responsible thing to do. We will continue to work with customers to help address their needs and guide them through the insurance claims process.”

“Nobody’s really a winner in any of this,” said attorney Jacob Davidson, who represents more than 20 tenants in the matter. “We don’t have a firm agreement in place, but it’s evolving. I really think we are going to have a final agreement. I think it’s in everyone’s best interest, and we are doing everything in accordance with safely minimizing risk to the general public.”

Some tenants raised suspicion that their belongings may have been discarded after dumpsters that had been visible on the property were moved, though no evidence appears to have been presented. The situation prompted state assembly member Jon M. Bramnick to announce he planned to introduce legislation that would prevent self-storage operators from discarding personal property without tenant consent, the source reported.

“Self-storage customers have a right to assess their own property to determine what is salvageable,” Bramnick told the source. “When a lawyer had to intervene to stop these facilities from trashing family heirlooms without consent, it became very evident that we need legislation to protect consumers. Some residents are moving and potentially face losing everything they own if they aren’t allowed the opportunity to access their units.”

Based in Glendale, Calif., Public Storage has interests in 2,649 self-storage facilities in 39 states, with approximately 184 million net rentable square feet. It holds a 35 percent interest in Shurgard Self Storage SA, which has 243 facilities in seven European countries, with approximately 13 million net rentable square feet.

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