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Sending Self-Storage Lien Notices: How the Laws Have Changed

As more states change their laws regarding the execution of self-storage lien sales and related notices, it’s imperative that facility operators keep pace. In many states, notices can now be sent via “verified mail.” Find out what this means for you.

Reprinted with permission from the December 2022 Legal Monthly Minute

It wasn’t that long ago that self-storage operators were required to send lien notices to tenants by Certified Mail. In some states, the law has now shifted to allow the use of “verified mail.” This has relieved many operators of the burden of proving the notice was delivered, as it only requires them to show it was sent. It has also resulted in a significant cost savings.

These days, most states even allow self-storage operators to email their lien notices to tenants, though many of the laws include a caveat that a notice must be sent by verified mail if the facility operator doesn’t receive delivery confirmation for the emailed version. For this reason, you must remain familiar with verified mailing.

Some of you are rightfully confused as to what exactly “verified mail” is, as it isn’t something you can ask about at your local post office without getting bewildered looks. The answer is found in the self-storage act of each state. Laws that require verified mail will define the term, and it may change from state to state. Usually, it’s defined as any method of mailing offered by the United States Postal Service (USPS) that provides evidence of mailing.

The Mail Options

USPS offers different forms of mail that provide a Certificate of Mailing, which is simply evidence of when you sent an item. It’s important to note that USPS doesn’t keep a record for you. You’ll want to do that yourself, in case one of your self-storage lien sales is ever challenged by the tenant for failure to provide notice.

There are various forms of Certificate of Mailing. The ones you’re most likely to use are PS Form 3817, for when a shipment contains one or two items, and PS Form 3665, for three or more items. A Certificate can be used with First-Class Mail, First-Class Package Service—Commercial (except for parcels mailed at commercial-plus prices), Priority Mail, Retail Ground, Bound Printed Matter, Library Mail and Media Mail.

Remember, the method you use to send your self-storage lien-sale notices will depend on how your state law defines “verified mail.” First-Class Mail with a Certificate of Mailing generally meets the statutory requirement. However, you should confirm that your method meets the standard.

Ashley Oblinger and Scott I. Zucker are attorneys with the Atlanta law firm of Weissmann Zucker Euster Morochnik & Garber, P.C., where they specialize in business and self-storage law, advising operators nationwide on all legal matters, including lease preparation, lien enforcement, tenant issues, tenant-claims defense, and employment policies. To reach them, call 404.364.4626, or email [email protected] or [email protected].

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