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Inside Self-Storage Magazine 6/99: Ask The Waldmans

April 1, 1999

3 Min Read
Inside Self-Storage Magazine 6/99: Ask The Waldmans

How Many Times Is OK?

DEAR WALDMANS: Tenants are constantly late or never pay. What can I do, legally,to try and contact them? What can I say to tenants on their answering machines, becausethey aren't going to answer their telephone knowing who is calling with the clevercaller-identification unit? Also, how many times can you call a person? If they identifythemselves on the answering machine, what kind of message can you leave? My delinquencyused to be less than 4 percent, but now I am lucky to get it less than 6 percent. I couldreally use some help with this situation.
--Need Help in Birmingham, Ala.

DEAR NEED HELP: In our storage business, we have found that tenants that paylate fees once, usually pay late fees twice, three times, over and over. We share yourdilemma. All businesses do. Harassment has become a big word in our world, so you must becareful not to harass your tenants. I know you think it helps to deliberately call themover and over again. Sometimes we believe that the tenant must surely become tired ofhaving their phone ring all the time and not being able to answer, knowing it is a billcollector of some sort. It is hard for us, caring about paying our own bills, tounderstand that some people place so little in their commitments.

As business professionals, we must wear many different hats, including that of the billcollector. It is not easy to pressure someone for their rent, and deciding how to go aboutit is even harder. What may work for one tenant will not work for another. The best way tounderstand this is to realize you have many types of people and circumstances. Don'talways assume your tenants realize their rent is late. For example, I have a tenant whoserent was several months late, and all the late notices had been sent out. When my managercontacted him at home, he immediately stated he would bring a check by to cover thepast-due account. The next day he did just that. My manager verified with the bank thatthe check was good, closed out the work for the day and deposited the check. A couple ofdays later, the bank notified us there were insufficient funds to cover the check. Icalled the tenant's home phone only to find out the line had been disconnected. Iimmediately jumped to the conclusion that he had taken off and left me with the contentsof his unit.

My next step was to call his place of employment. I left two messages over the nextseveral days. He then called me and explained he had given my manager a check that waspost-dated, though my manager had not realized this at the time. It turned out to be ourfault for not realizing he had given us a post-dated check.

You may call your tenants a reasonable amount of times. If you leave several messageswith no response, that seems to be a good indicator that the tenant does not intend tobring the bill current. I would certainly not harass any person to the point of beingaccused of abuse. Always use your business sense and maintain a sensible and reasonabletime frame for collecting your rent.

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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