December 29, 2011 § Leave a comment
As John Dunne famously said, “No man is an island unto himself”. This is particularly true in our inter-connected world today — as well as in self storage, too.
For a number of years I was involved in an unformal, local group of self storage operators known as WASSA or the Washington Area Salf Storage Association. We met monthly for lunch. We typically had a speaker on a topic of mutual interest.
I am sorry that the group is no longer active. Why? Because of what occurred during the luncheon prior to the speaker. We had an open discussion between the members regarding current self storage issues in our area. Occupancy. New products. Managers. Marketing. What is working. What isn’t. Any issue but rental rates (think antitrust here). These discussions were always valuable and I always learned something.
Am I suggesting that you form such a group? Maybe. You would benefit from it.
However, the important thing to do is to reach out to others, including your competitors for information, advice and, yes sometimes, comfort.
Maybe you are experiencing an unexplained loss of occupancy. Wouldn’t it be useful to know if it is just you — or the industry as a whole having the same issue. In short, reach out to your competitors and start a dialogue. You may be surprised at the result.
You can reach out in other ways, too. Join your local Chamber of Commerce. Even if most members are in different businesses, they will have similar problems.
Reach out to your local elected officials. The local police and fire departments. Churches, charities. Start dialogues there, too.
Who have you started a dialogue with? I would love to know.
Learning to open up and end the isolation can mean less stress and more money in self storage.
December 19, 2011 § Leave a comment
Just like the stock market, self storage operators thrive on certainty. “Covering all the bases” in your relationship with your tenants is an important consideration. Through this process, you know that if you get into a dispute with a tenant, you will more than likely prevail.
How do you do this? One way is by having a strong and understandable self storage agreement.
By strong, I mean being sure that the agreement contains all of the appropriate language to protect your business in the event of a default. For example, does your agreement cover the lien process adequately? Can you evict a tenant for a breach of the agreement without undue delay? Obviously, you should consult an attorney to be sure your agreement is complete and up to date.
By understandable, is your agreement written in such a way that both you and your tenant understand it? Oftentimes, contracts contain “legalese” to protect you but at the same time fails to convey this fact in an understandable way.
In my view, contracts that are plainly written are less liable to result in disputes because all parties know where they stand and can act accordingly. On the other hand, contracts that are ambiguous and not understandable often result in disputes — and stressful litigation.
Consider having your storage agreement reviewed periodically to be sure it continues to be complete and up to date. At the same time, consider having it redrafted in plain language so that it is easy to understand.
Having a storage agreement that is complete and understandable means less stress and more money in self storage.
December 12, 2011 § Leave a comment
Now that you have mastered the laws pertaining to self storage, particularly your jurisdiction’s lien law, it is important that you apply them correctly. If you have any confusion at this point, be sure to consult with your attorney.
In applying these laws, it is essential that you pay attention to the details (that is where the devil resides, so to speak). No shortcuts. Meet deadlines. Follow procedures.
This is especially true of your lien law. As I have noted before, the self storage industry has been given a gift. Operators are allowed to enforce their lien without having to go to court (extra-judicially). Saves time. Saves money. At the same time, it is essential that operators follow the lien procedure to the letter, even if they appear fruitless. Why? Because many of those details have been put into place to protect the consumer. Failure to master the details and to make sure they are applied completely each time can result in an expensive and stressful lawsuit.
If you take away only one thing from this post, remember this: if you feel that some detail leading up to an auction has been overlooked, cancel the auction as to any unit involved. Do not proceed.
If you do not have an auction checklist, create one and follow it.
Sometimes, postponing an auction can result in less stress and more money in self storage.