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Inside Self-Storage Magazine 01/2000: Ask The Waldmans

January 1, 2000

4 Min Read
Inside Self-Storage Magazine 01/2000: Ask The Waldmans

In Deep Trouble

DEAR WALDMANS: I manage a self-storage facility in Texas, and am fairly new at thisjob. I have been faced with a real dilemma concerning the rules for an auction. Thecompany I work for does not provide us with a book of storage rules. We must ask oursupervisor, but with mine, I feel like he makes up the rules as he goes along. We recentlyhad an auction and I mailed certified letters to the tenants when he cut the locks. Heplaced the ads in the paper once. One of the tenants that had been sent a notice calledand asked if he could bid on his own unit. I did not know the answer, so I asked mysupervisor and was told he could not.

At the sale, everyone interested in bidding was given a form for each unit. When theforms were turned into the supervisor, he awarded the unit to the highest bidder. I wastalking to a manager at another facility and asked him if this was the way an auction wassupposed to be handled. He said he had a book of rules and guidelines that indicated thetenant can bid on his own unit. He also said the way we had handled the auction wasnot legal due to the fact that theirs were sealed bids and not opened to the public. Afterthe sale, I had a telephone call from a tenant of one of the auctioned units. He told mehe had looked over his rental agreement and could not find any stipulation that he was notallowed to bid on his own unit. I told him I had questioned my supervisor and that waswhat I was told.

I really like the storage business, but I'm feeling uneasy about doing somethingillegal. Please give me some information on conducting an auction.

--FRUSTRATED IN TEXAS

DEAR FRUSTRATED IN TEXAS: It is rewarding to see an employee who is concerned about theright and wrong way of doing things. First, it would be a great benefit if the facilityhad some rules in writing to follow. You may suggest to one of your supervisors that hecheck out our Web site for books on rules and procedures. The Texas Mini-StorageAssociation also offers a great deal of information.

It would benefit you and your fellow employees to research the rules and regulations onstorage facilities in your state. Not all states are the same. Also, you may want toinvestigate and find out if the manager or someone above your supervisor does have a copyof your facility rules. I know this would have to be done very carefully, but, as youstated, you like the business, and I believe if you had someone to teach you the correctprocedures, it would make you an excellent storage-facility employee or maybe a managerone day.

When a tenant's unit gets to the point of going to auction, there are many rules thatmust be followed--and exactly by the book. As to the amount received on each unit, if thebid is more than what is currently owed on the unit, the facility does not keep any amountover what is owed. Most states allow you to collect the costs of the sale. Any excess goesto the owner or the state if the owner can not be found, so you are correct in followingyour instinct to investigate this situation further. You will be faced with this samedilemma again and again. Auctions are just a normal part of the operation of a storagefacility. The rules and regulations that storage facilities are under should be followedto the dot at all times. It only takes one unhappy tenant to file a lawsuit. When thathappens, it creates tension, loss of time, work and extra work. Lawsuits are never apleasure for either party and need to be prevented whenever possible. I wish you luck inthe business.

A father-daughter team, the Waldmans are self-storage owners/operators and attorneys. In addition, Ms. Waldman holds a master's degree in labor and employment law from Georgetown University. The Waldmans are co-authors of the industry's leading series of books on self-storage operations: Getting Started, Forms, Policies & Procedures and South Carolina Tools. Another creation of Ask The Waldmans are their colorful posters designed exclusively for the self-storage industry. Comments and questions for ASK THE WALDMANS may be sent to: The Waldmans, P.O. Box 21416, Charleston, SC 29413.

E-mail: [email protected]; Web: www.askthewaldmans.com

Views and opinions on legal matters are those of the authors. Professional counsel should be obtained before any determination or positive action is taken.

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