The Pennsylvania Self Storage Association has been busy working with state legislators to reform our lien law. The PA Self-Service Storage Facility Act was made law in 1982, and defines the way we, as self storage owners and operators, need to handle severely past due accounts.
Proposed amendments to the existing law (PA-SB 799) were approved by the Senate and the House this year, and the Governor signed them into law on October 14, 2014. The revised law will be effective on December 13, 2014.
Here’s a summary of the changes made:
- The definition of “last known address” is updated to include and clarify that it is the “postal address or electronic mailing address” provided by the occupant.
- It also includes a new definition for “verified mail” as any method of mailing that is offered by the United States Postal Service or private delivery service that provides evidence of mailing.
- A self-storage facility owner may deny an occupant access to the leased space if the occupant has been in default for 20 continuous days, which is changed from 30 days. After 30 continuous days, the owner may move the personal property to another space pending the sale or disposition of the personal property.
- Additional language is added stating that a property owner may tow a motor vehicle or watercraft after the occupant is in default for 60 consecutive days. The owner shall not be liable for any damages not caused by negligence once an adequately insured or bonded tower takes possession of the property.
- An owner may provide a notice of default or any other notice related to the occupant’s property via email, verified mail, courier service, or certified mail return receipt requested, as was previously required. An owner may only use email to provide a notice of default under certain conditions (Email as a method of communication in the event of default needs to be agreed upon by owner and tenant in the Rental Agreement).
- A limit regarding the value of property stored in a leased space is only enforceable when the limit provision is printed in the rental agreement and the provision is in bold type or underlined.
This revision will help us save money by switching to e-mail or verified mail for lien letter delivery. It also clearly limits our liability with the value of property statement, which has held up well in course in other states. Dealing with past due vehicles can be much easier now, as well.
Many self storage operators will want to update their Rental Agreements as a result of this bill passing. You should also consider sending a notice to existing tenants of changes to the Rental Agreement. The PA Self Storage Association will provide a recommended Rental Agreement, written by a well know attorney who specializes in self storage law, to all of its member for free early in 2015. If you are not a member of the PA Self Storage Association yet, you may want to consider joining. The annual membership will be much less that the cost to hire an attorney to rewrite your Rental Agreement. Their website is http://www.paselfstorage.org/.