Bill would change rules for storage unit owners, customers

Over the hot summer months, students frequently store their belongings as they start their vacation, often using storage units.

But in some cases, customers fail to pay their storage bill. This can result in the owners selling the abandoned items at an auction.

Na’Porshia Taylor witnessed one of these auctions.

 “I thought it would be a great day to get some deals. But I was mistaken. While at the auction a young lady watched from the back in tears. I later learned that they were auctioning her things,” Taylor said. “She had received the three letters but she wasn’t able to pay her fees.

“She recently had been laid off and was living with a family friend, which explains why all of her things were in storage. She watched helplessly as they auctioned all of the things she had worked hard for.”

A bill moving through the Legislature would regulate the selling of a tenant’s things.

Senate Bill 898 says storage owners are required to notify tenants of an unpaid bill. A notice will be sent to the last address given by the tenant. The owner must send three notices before sale of property. If the tenant doesn’t respond to the notices a lien sale may be conducted.

The Senate bill hasn’t made it very far since it was introduced by Sen. Keith Perry on Jan. 9.

The bill is gaining a little traction by storage owners who agree with the change. Karen White, manager of Budget Storage Unit, said, “I think it would be positive. I think it’ll be a lot easier for them to get information because with today’s time with the young people, college kids most of them aren’t really into the newspaper. They are more interested in the web. I think it would be a good idea to convert from newspaper to the website.”

The Senate bill has a companion bill in the House.  The bill was filed on Nov.14, and introduced Jan. 9, 2018. HB 691, similar to the bill in the Senate, does away with newspaper notices and requires storage unit owners to post information online.

The last action on the bill in the House was on Feb. 5. The House bill is now in the Commerce Committee. According to HB 691, after the expiration date given in the notice an advertisement of sale will be published once a week for two consecutive weeks in a newspaper.

With the new bill owners would be able to publish the advertisement on a public website that customarily conducts personal property auctions.

Alexandra Hollins, a college student and storage user, said, “As a college student and storage user I will be more mindful of keeping up with my payments for my storage facilities because I understand the chance of my things being auctioned.”

If approved by both chambers this bill will take effect on July 1 for all storage owners and customers.