Operating a self-storage facility isn’t always easy.
It might look like all fun and games on the TV show “Storage Wars,” but the cameras aren’t rolling when you’re doing paperwork and going to court, which is, unfortunately, a regular part of the job when you’re in storage.
If customers paid their self-storage unit bills — in full and on time — storage company operators would have it relatively easy. But many of them don’t, and that’s when you have to take court action. Placing a storage locker lien and eventually auctioning its contents in an effort to recoup your losses isn’t as easy as it might seem.
Military Storage Facility Tenants
It’s true, hoarders are a big part of the storage unit business. But another big part is military storage customers.
Active military members are frequently deployed to far-away locations or reassigned to different bases in the United States or even overseas. They don’t always get a lot of notice before they receive these orders, and they may not be able to quickly pack up everything and take it with them.
Storage Bill Challenges
Shipping their belongings to relatives for safekeeping is expensive — especially if it’s furniture — so they often opt to move all their belongings to military storage near where they are currently stationed.
The problem is, once they’ve left town, these servicemembers can be hard to track down again. Even if they sincerely want to pay their military storage unit bill, they may not be receiving their mail properly or on time. Or these active military members may be carrying out a challenging assignment that leaves them little time and energy to think about their storage unit bill.
Alternatives for Storage Operators
When your tenants sign a contract for a military storage locker, you may be able to head off possible problems by getting them to agree to make automatic payments, either through their banks or with a credit card. That way, active military personnel don’t have to worry about the bill being paid, and military storage companies get their money on time every month.
Alternatively, you may want to ask those in the active military to waive their rights under the SCRA. Be very careful here, however; the rules surrounding these waivers are strict and specific.
Storage Unit Liens Help Facility Operators Recoup Losses
You may have sympathy for military personnel, but you are, after all, running a business. You have bills to pay too. And if your delinquent tenant has rented a climate-controlled storage unit, you’re losing even more money every month they don’t pay. Ditto for those that opt for more than one storage locker, or a larger size locker.
The protocol for storage units that are in arrears is for storage facilities operators to place liens on them. Debtors can find themselves with liens on their other property as well, such as their homes or cars.
Storage and Liens
If you place a lien on a storage unit, give the tenant notice and get no response, the next step for storage facilities is usually an auction of the belongings inside. The lien allows you to auction the contents of storage units in order to recoup your losses on the unpaid rental fees.
But you can’t just place a lien on a tenant’s storage unit if they are in the military and on active duty. Military members on active duty are protected under the federal Servicemembers Civil Relief Act. This law prohibits collections actions and lawsuits against military members without a court order.
Storage Facility Operators Need to Know the Law
You may think you know who’s a military member and who isn’t. For instance, many self-storage companies offer a military discount, and they ask for proof the tenant is in the military before providing the discount.
But if you don’t do a military status check, you can’t really be sure whether your tenant is in the military. Paperwork could be fraudulent, or the tenant’s military status may have changed since they signed the contract with you.
Storage Near Military Bases
In fact, many self-storage chains seek to open locations near military bases, knowing that this is an excellent location that will provide a wider customer base.
These self-storage locations often offer other special deals that cater to the military storage market.
Military Discounts for Storage
For instance, storage operators might offer tenants military discounts on self-storage packing supplies such as boxes or tape. They might also be allowed to sign shorter-term self-storage contracts. Military storage often includes climate-controlled storage units to keep fragile belongings such as electronics and furniture in their best condition, as well as vehicle self-storage units for cars and trucks.
Some self-storage companies even allow military customers to receive packages at the address of the facility. Employees can hold the packages long term, or store them in the units.
How Storage Companies Should Proceed
It’s best for military storage facilities operators not to guess when their tenants are in the military.
You can face stiff penalties and fines if you’re wrong. The Department of Justice has sued more than one storage facility and won large judgments against them in the hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Ways to Determine Status
Before you start the process of placing liens on storage units, you must be sure the tenant isn’t in the military. How can you find out?
You can write to each military branch, pay the fees and wait for responses. But this can take months if you even get an answer at all. If you have neither the tenant’s Social Security number nor a date of birth, you cannot even get a response from the Defense Manpower Data Center.
Servicemembers Civil Relief Act Centralized Verification Service
A better option for seeking the status of potential military members is relying on the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act Centralized Verification Service for help. We guarantee verification of a self-storage tenant’s military status in 24 hours. All you have to do is give us the name of the tenant and other identifying information, such as an address, Social Security number, birth date, etc. The more information you provide, the quicker your response. If you don’t have the Social Security number, we can find it through other means.
The cost of our service — $36.40 — pales in comparison to the time you would waste waiting for a response from the DMDC. And time is money — more money lost with self-storage unit tenants who aren’t paying their rent.
We can also provide you with an affidavit to bring to court with you for only $20 extra. We guaranteed delivery of our affidavits within 24 hours.
Further, if you have a number of tenants in default, you can submit a batch of requests to the SCRACVS and get a volume discount. If you have any questions about the process, feel free to call us — we can help you get the answers you need to move forward.
Rely on SCRACVS
Don’t risk losing more money paying fines to the government because you failed to do your homework regarding which tenants are and are not military members. Register at SCRACVS today and receive your military status verification by tomorrow.