Texas Self Storage Association has served its self-storage industry members since 1986.  Headquartered in Round Rock, Texas, TSSA is the leading expert in self storage in the state of Texas.  Whether you're an owner, operator, manager or employee,  TSSA's blog will provide you with the latest tips, advice and knowledge for running your self-storage business. 



Online Leasing & Paperless Offices: Are They for You?
Consider the Pros and Cons

by Connie Niemann Heyer, TSSA Legal Counsel

All modern businesses must determine their preferred level of technology use. Choices abound from full-time staffed facilities leasing the old-fashioned way with pen and ink to unmanned storage facilities using only websites and kiosks for leasing activity. This article outlines some of the legal and practical advantages and disadvantages of varying levels of technology use to help you make a decision that best suits your business.

ONLINE LEASING

TSSA offers its members the ability to have their customers sign leases online. This is accomplished through TSSA’s online forms software (Blue Moon) used with management software and an online leasing platform. True, online leasing saves staff time. For example, you may be able to provide an online virtual tour of the facility rather than having an employee physically walk the property with a prospective tenant, as ultimately the employee wouldn’t need to spend time assisting the tenant with the tour or executing a lease.

Online leasing helps you “strike while the iron is hot” by allowing you to quickly convert a prospect exploring their options for storage into an actual tenant. Online platforms typically make it easy for tenants to update their own contact information.

Management software used in tandem with an online platform automatically tracks inventory of available units and allow tenants to pay their rent 24/7. Some kiosks even capture biometric data from tenants.

Online leasing offers many advantages, but as with many things, there are challenges that come with those advantages. For example, the more technology you use, the more training your employees will need and the more technologically sophisticated your employees will need to be in order to operate successfully. The need for employees to be technologically savvy may mean paying employees more as well as having a smaller pool of employees from which to hire.

Online leasing also removes the human, personal-service factor, which can be a competitive advantage for a facility employing a great manager. It removes the “eyeballing” factor as well—your ability to simply get a bad feeling from someone who won’t answer questions about their storage needs, wants to pre-pay in cash, etc. Online leasing removes opportunities to identify potential red flags. It is more challenging to confirm a tenant’s identity with online leasing situations than it is in person when he or she is handing you a driver’s license or other form of ID; the potential for fraud can be greater with online leasing if the tenant does not come into the office before taking possession of a unit.

PAPERLESS OFFICES

Having a “paperless office” may be a nice buzzword but can be something of a misnomer. Certain things like contracts, unless executed entirely online, require printing out and signing, after which they can be scanned and stored. It is unrealistic for most businesses to be entirely paperless. However, some paperwork and paper storage can be avoided through the proper use of technology. Each business owner must determine the right degree of being “paperless” for their own operation.

One of the advantages of using technology to minimize paperwork and paper storage is that your office needs less physical space. You don’t need rows of file cabinets, just a scanner and a server.  There is less chance of documentation loss with use of technology to store documents; a properly backed-up computer system will mean that you can’t lose all your business records through fire, flood, hurricane or other casualty event.

Online records allow much easier access—they can be accessed remotely from almost any location. Online records generally lessen the chance of a misfiled document. Online leasing and digital record storage are eco-friendly as well, which is not only an admirable environmental goal but can also be a competitive advantage. When proper protocols are followed, online record keeping is also generally more secure than having paper files in a filing cabinet, which could be more easily accessed. Having online records also provides an enhanced ability to maintain and retrieve information from anywhere as you or the tenant may need it.

One disadvantage to increased use of technology in the office is the need to keep up with software upgrades as well as computer and server maintenance. An IT service provider will need to be added to your list of vendors. You will need to take steps to help ensure the cybersecurity of your system and protect it from malware. Your employees will need technology training and will also need to be comfortable using technology.

Paperless offices also cannot eliminate human error, such as a lapse in protocol when someone forgets to scan a document before destroying it or puts the document in the wrong server folder. And no matter what, most businesses will need a Plan B (or will simply have to cease technology-dependent operations temporarily) for the inevitable power outages and computer crashes.

In conclusion, from a legal perspective, a lease executed online through a proper online leasing platform is equally as enforceable as a paper lease signed by the landlord and tenant. Also, from a legal perspective, a scanned copy of a lease or other document is just as enforceable and admissible in court as an original kept in your paper files. Whether to use online leasing technology, and to what extent to use other technology in your business, is simply a question for each business owner to answer for themselves.

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Online Leasing & Paperless Offices: Are They for You?

The Sweet Life of Remote and Self-Service Rentals   

by Tron Jordheim, Store Here Management

What does convenience mean for self-storage shoppers?  When people realize they need a self- storage unit, what do they do? What frame of mind are people in when they look for a storage place?

Convenience used to mean finding a storage place close to your home, within easy driving distance. It meant having a location on a main street with an easy in-and-out driveway. To some, it meant easy access to the units and the property with electronically con- trolled gates, wide drives or hallways, good lighting and doors that rolled easily and stayed open without any trouble. Convenience used to mean getting a quick and appropriate response when calling on the phone. These things are all still important, but our world has changed.

Mobile phones are powerful computers and communicators which almost all of us have in our hands all day long, and they have changed us. Shopping services like Amazon have changed us. Instant access to information and targeted ads has changed us. The various easy pay options available with a tap or two of our fingers have changed us. Google, Facebook and Instagram have altered us.

The self-storage business has typically been slow to adopt technology advancements for a variety of reasons. I started in the storage business when fax machines were still the highest tech tool the slickest and smartest opera- tors used to streamline their business processes and get a jump on their competitors.

History is repeating itself. Many facilities are full enough that many of us take a “why worry?”  attitude. Rental rates are pretty good in almost every market, so why spend money or time to figure out new technologies at this point?

There are a few ways to think about this. One way to think about it is to consider that the people who wait to react to serious trends have trouble catching up. So why be the one who has to play catch-up and suffer a loss in occupancy and revenue while you figure it all out after your competitors are already doing it?

Another way to think about it is to consider that some portion of your potential customer base is already living in the mobile, two-clicks, buy-it-now on the small-screen world. If 10 percent of your potential customer base lives like this, why would you make yourself unappealing and impossible to do business with 10 percent of your potential new customers? The truth is, it is more like half or three quarters of your potential customer base already conduct a large portion of their transactions in the digital world.

You may not notice it yet only because your nearest competitors may be as far behind the times as you are. Maybe I am being unfair. Perhaps you are trying to be a part of the new world and I have been too harsh. In any case, there are some basic methods for making remote and self-service rentals available to a wide range of customer preferences.

Customers interact with you in three ways: 1) they stop at your site, 2) they call you on the phone, and 3) they look at your website. There are excellent quick and simple ways to rent to all of these types of people. You’ll need a few basic items first. Your store management software needs to be web-based and robust. It needs

to integrate well with other tech tools. This is easier than ever as the tools and software available to us are better than they’ve ever been, and the design makes the user interfaces easy and simple to use. Having said that, your staff needs to be comfortable with technology (or become comfortable with it.)

A part of your consideration must be the simplification of your rental routines.  Go and rent a unit from yourself. Have a friend rent a unit from you. Carefully audit the experience and the time involved. Streamline everything. Simplify everything. Shorten the time needed for everything. Of course, you still need to do all of the compliance tasks and all the new customer education. But you can automate a lot of this. Send follow up emails with instructions, tips and how-tos.  Set up paperless leases with e-sign systems. Consider using tablets for your staff to obtain the e-sign signatures from people in person when you are doing leases at the desk.

The other consideration will be how your remote rentals check in. Will they do “self check-in” or an “office check- in?” Self check-ins get a gate code and a unit number and find their own way to their unit and move in without assistance. You can add the cost of a lock to your initial rental fee and have a lock waiting in the unit. (Note: TSSA does not recommend leaving units unlocked, but this is a judgment call.) Your systems allow you to select a small number of units in different sizes to be available to people for self check-in. If you use self check-in, then you must carefully audit units frequently to make sure someone did not move into a different unit than was assigned to them. You also need to set your rules so that you have a clean lease and the correct contact and identity information for any issues that might come up later such as lien sales and so on.

Office check-ins are easy. The person who rents remotely comes in during office hours  to show identification, checks in with the manager to ensure compliance items have been completed and follows you to the correct unit.

There is no reason you can’t use both systems. Depending on how someone rents from you, you can use either one or the other.

For the people who stop at your site, you can offer a kiosk. When properly integrated, a kiosk offers a simple and efficient way to select and rent a unit.  Typically, your kiosk customers will use self check-in. Many times the kiosk customer is someone who doesn’t care to deal with anyone in person, and the kiosk can give you 24-hour service if you’d like. So it is a good solution.

You will also want to consider installation and security issues. Depending on how you do the install and what sort of application you are looking at, you can spend between $1,000 to $20,000 on the kiosk and anywhere from a few hundred dollars for a very simple install to tens of thousands for a complicated install. You’ll pay anywhere between $75 to $500 a month on maintenance. The point is that there is a kiosk for just about every store or every application.

For those tenants who prefer to call, they can rent a unit right over the phone. When you set up your system so it is easy to rent over the phone, easy to send the e-lease and easy for someone to check in, then the easiest thing an employee answering the phone can do is rent the caller a unit.

This is a “one thing leads to another” situation. A system that makes it easier for your staff to rent over the phone also makes it easier for your customers. Soon your employees find it easier to rent units over the phone, so that’s exactly what they do. Before long, the employees find it less productive and less helpful to set up reservations, take lead information and give out pricing when the more efficient thing to do is rent a unit over the phone. Read this paragraph again. Then read it again.

Operators who adopt this way of thinking are often renting more units to phone callers than they are writing phone leads and reservations combined. Read that sentence again. This is powerful stuff. Taking callers off the market like this greatly increases your overall conversion rates of inquiries to rentals, makes your ad spending more efficient and allows you better options for revenue management.

Your online visitors expect an easy self-service option. Think of your own online habits. If you went to a site for information on how to acquire an object or hire a service and you could not do a transaction, wouldn’t you just move on to another service? I think you would. Use the same audit style to audit your online experience. Use your software and technology integration to create a simple and intuitive path for renting on- line. Do not rely on your own preferences to build the system. Use best practices from other e-commerce sites. Use best practices from other self-storage operators who have already been doing this well for many years. Find people who are not involved or interested in self storage to test the user interface.

When your online remote rental system is set up well, you can find that the majority of online transactions will be rentals rather than leads and reservations. Here again, you can take many shoppers off the market and greatly improve your advertising efficiency.

Adding tablets to your staff’s tool chest makes them more mobile to move around the property with potential customers and makes it so much easier for customers to transact business with you. It never hurts to show your customers you have good technology. People are impressed with businesses that try to keep up with trends and give them the level of service and convenience they expect in this new world.

One unexpected benefit from moving full force into remote rentals will be the time you save your staff. When the rental process, check-in process, and lease approval process becomes briefer and more efficient, your staff will have more time to develop relationships with customers, do the maintenance and cleaning needed to make a storage place attractive and participate in community outreach.

They’ll also need some time to analyze the information coming from the remote rental systems to help you understand trends, opportunities and bottlenecks as well as time to work on troubleshooting and updating the new systems. Even great systems need maintenance and all good systems come with bugs and glitches that need attention and patience.

You might think this is not worth the bother. You might think this is an expensive and disruptive undertaking.

If your successes with going to remote rentals is half as good as I see with other operators, then it is absolutely worth the bother. It will cost money, take time and need attention, but the tools, vendors and experts are available.

It won’t necessarily be easy. You may have gotten into self storage because you were a good builder, a good real estate investor, a good site selection expert or a smart entrepreneur.

You may not be a good leader, a good executive, a good technologist, or a good people manager. You didn’t need to have those characteristics to do well at self storage in the past. But that was then. This is now.

If you are doing remote rentals already, review your systems carefully and improve the heck out of them. If you are not yet living in the digital world in your storage life, get with it and make it look good.

Tron Jordheim is the business development manager for Store Here Management. He was formerly the chief marketing officer of one of North America’s largest privately held self-storage companies, and director of the industry’s leading award-winning call center. Jordheim is a frequent speaker at global self-storage events and a contributor to industry trade journals. He started his first business in the sixth grade with a roll of paper towels and a can of window cleaner and has been running businesses ever since.

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The Sweet Life of Remote and Self-Service Rentals

Automation

Why You Should Consider Automating at Your Facility
by Jennifer Jones, Managing Editor of Self-Storage News

Understanding what technology can do for you and your facility can make a difference in your bottom line, bring you money that may be left on the table and streamline your operations. If you’re still using spreadsheets, they may work for you to some degree, but automating and updating your processes will allow you to have a better idea of where things stand with your facility on a daily basis and free up time to devote to other functions. The difference is like trying to light a fire by rubbing two sticks together versus using a match. Both get the job done, but one is much more efficient.

“I am a strong believer that automation makes for efficiency,” says Katie Cowen. “Your benefit in automating everything that you can is that you know it gets done, and it frees up your manager’s time so they can focus on serving their customers and renting units.”

COMMUNICATION

“We automate functions having to do with tenant communication and revenue management,” says Mike Gately. “We use a texting service to remind delinquent tenants about payments, which has been very successful. It saves the manager time and the tenants appreciate its convenience. We make sure our managers use it as a reminder for tenants, but not as a substitute for the manager making phone calls or sending emails on the more serious delinquent situations.

“We also use automated tenant surveys that can be scheduled to go out within a few days of move-in or move out, which are emailed to the tenant and can be sent to the manager or to the corporate office. We keep the surveys short and easy to complete and use the information to make sure we are creating a positive customer experience.”

“Our management software automates the delinquency process, late fees and automatic lien letters that are generated and emailed,” adds Sarah Cole. “All new move-ins receive an automated email welcoming them as customers and inviting them to take a survey.”

 “We automate our collection calls,” says Cowen. “Robo-type calls are used as our first call to alert tenants that units are past due. These aren’t the only calls made, but a good portion of past due tenants pay after the robo call but before our managers make their ‘live calls.’

“We have an integrated SMS [text] program that is scheduled to send tenant messages for certain events on pre-defined dates. These can include past-due notices, or notices that something is happening at the location. This has been especially helpful during weather-related closure events to keep our tenants updated with issues on the property. These aren’t completely automated due to a software limitation in SiteLink, so someone has to actually hit ‘process’ to send out the notices, but once that’s done, the system generates a text to every tenant who is set to receive that particular message.

“Nothing zaps a manager’s will to live like stuffing hundreds of envelopes with letters. We use an automated mailing service that’s integrated with our software to process paper notices to our tenants. This is also an option for sending auction notices without having to go to the post office, which saves a ton of time for our managers.”

Reviews can help a facility’s reputation drastically by showing your potential customers that your current customers love you. Cole says, “Use Google Review QR codes to allow tenants to leave reviews while at the store. We created a QR code that will take tenants directly to our Google Review page for each location. When the customer is at the store renting a unit or truck, or making a payment, we ask them to scan the code and leave us a review. Because we made it so simple, our number of reviews have gone up quite a bit.”

LEADS

There’s also something to be said for instant communication and striking while the iron is hot. “We don’t have missed call leads because they automatically roll over to our call center rather than going to an answering machine,” says Cole. “When a customer makes an appointment to come to the store to rent a unit, there is an auto- mated text message that is sent out two hours before their appointment.”

Cole’s website automatically emails completed and incomplete reservations to the manager, district manager and home office to follow up with the customer and track the reservation lead.

REVENUE MANAGEMENT

“Most management software programs now offer a revenue management feature, which we have found to be a real money maker and time saver,” says Gately. “For example, you can program the software to raise rents on vacant units by a set percentage when the occupancy on any unit type exceeds a defined target (e.g., raise rents by 6 percent on any size that is 90 percent occupancy or higher). During the busy leasing season, this can really be a big help to the manager, as the software will automatically raise the rate without the manager having to even notice that the occupancy target has been achieved.

“This revenue management feature is also very helpful in prompting rate increases on occupied units. For example, you can instruct the software to raise rents on any occupied unit after 12-months’ tenancy by a certain percentage. You can allow the rate increases to be limited to the current street rate or not. The manager can get the proposed list of rent increases each month for review. The manager can be given the authority to approve the rent increases or modify as deemed appropriate.”

“We use a website scrubbing soft- ware to monitor our competitors’ rents and specials and any changes. The software is inexpensive and provides regular prompts of any rate changes with comps in your defined market trade area. The pricing is laid out in an easy-to-use grid, showing rates by competitor and unit type. In addition, we have the managers contact their counterparts on five or so comps each month by phone to trade notes on the occupancy, rates, specials and market info. The managers should drive by their comps at least quarterly.

Cowen also uses software to help with competitive pricing. “We use a revenue management program that ‘scrapes’ online rates for our competitors and compiles them into a list so we’re able to easily see our low, high and median competitor rates in any given market.”

PAYMENTS

“We have an automated payment prompt that customers can use to make their payment over the phone,” says Cowen. “This saves our managers or call center agents from having to talk to multiple customers who are just wanting to make a payment and frees them up to handle other customer issues or new inquiries.

MAINTENANCE

“We even use automation for maintenance internally,” says Cole. “We have a maintenance ticket system where the manager creates a ticket and it sends it to the maintenance personnel. They repair what needs to be repaired and the manager receives a notification when the job is done and the ticket is resolved.”

Technology has come a long way and continues to allow us to streamline things that we previously handled manually. A lot of times, the use of technology can give us an edge on competition as well by giving us data at our fingertips to help us make smarter and quicker decisions.

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Automation

Top 5 Weird Legal Questions

by Connie Heyer, TSSA Legal Counsel



1) “I’ve forgotten where I put Aunt Betty ….”


Question:
I recently purchased a facility and found a unit that the previous owner was using to store personal items left behind after auctions. Going through the items, I found an urn containing human ashes. There is a name for a funeral home on the box, so I contacted them and asked them to contact a next of kin. They were unable to locate anyone related to the deceased. I still have the ashes in my possession. What should I do?

Answer: First, call your nearest relatives right now, tell them you love them, and ask them to pretty please not forget you in a storage unit after your time comes.  Then, try to locate the former tenant and send him the ashes. Consider hiring a skip trace service (akin to a private investigator) to trace the current location of the former tenant. Normally, these searches cost under $100, and it is amazing how quickly a good skip tracer can locate someone when given a name and former address. Then attempt to contact the tenant, and ultimately, if you can confirm it is the same person, mail the ashes.

If you and/or the skip trace service are unable to locate the former tenant, document your efforts at locating him (calling the funeral home, hiring skip trace, doing Google search, etc.). Send a letter to the last known address for the tenant, and mark “address correction requested,” explaining the situation and summarizing contact efforts to date. Tell the tenant that the ashes will be scattered over uninhabited public land if he doesn’t make arrangements to pick them up by a deadline. If the tenant fails to retrieve the ashes by the deadline, scatter them over any uninhabited public land (this is legal in Texas).

In an auction situation, if you find ashes or other personal items prior to an auction, go ahead and auction them in order to “clear title” so to speak. Then, if you wish, ask the buyer to voluntarily leave it behind. Auction rules can contain a clause stating, “Buyer is requested to leave personal items found in the purchased unit (scrapbooks, family photos, etc.) at the facility or return them to facility if later found.”

I generally don’t recommend putting the tenant in contact with the buyer. If a tenant inquires as to who bought the unit contents in an attempt to recover personal effects, it is probably best to tell the tenant you will be happy to provide the buyer with the tenant’s information and leave things up to the buyer.

2) Smile, you’re on candid (dummy) camera…


Question: We have a tenant who claims that his unit was opened, and items were removed overnight. We did not notice his lock removed or broken on our morning walk-through of the property. He is demanding that we turn over our surveillance tapes from the evening in question. Our cameras are decoys and do not function. How should we respond?

Answer: Tell the tenant that the video cameras in question are non-operational and there are no video surveillance tapes to hand over. Refer the tenant to paragraph 15 of the TSSA lease, which clearly states that “video cameras may be non-operational or unmonitored.” In addition, refer the tenant to the paragraph at the bottom of page 1 of the TSSA lease, including the language: “No representations of safety or security have been made…tenant hereby releases lessor…from loss or damage to property…”. (The tenant should have initialed this paragraph.) Finally, refer the tenant to paragraph 20 of the TSSA lease, which requires tenants to purchase insurance or self-insure and relieves the lessor of all liability for the security of the tenant’s property.

If your self-storage facility does have working cameras, consider adopting a facility rule outlining the circumstances under which you will allow tenants access to video, (e.g. “Video cameras may be non-functional or unmonitored at any time). Facility has no duty to keep any surveillance video for any length of time. If video is stored, facility may at its discretion deny access to video, limit access to such video to law enforcement officers, or otherwise condition access.”

In the situation of a break-in or tenant claim of loss, remember that by definition, self-storage is “cared for and controlled by the tenant.” It is the tenant, not the facility, who is responsible to “care for” his unit’s contents. Consider also requiring all tenants to initial an express insurance refusal document such as Form ADD-7 “Insurance Acknowledgement” found in the Members Only section of txssa.org.

3) Dealing with Credit Card Deadbeats


Question:
We have a tenant who has been paying via automatic credit card for years. Last month the charge went through without a hitch. This month, payment on auto pay was declined so the tenant came in and authorized payment. He has since declared both of these payments fraudulent, disputed the charges, and his credit card company has returned the money to him. The question is, can we take him off auto pay so this does not continue to happen or do we need to get his written authorization to quit running his charge? Due to his action, he is now in lien status.

Answer: Paragraph 5 of the TSSA lease allows the lessor to change the permitted mode of payment at any time upon notice to tenant (e.g., “Dear tenant, your autopay will no longer be accepted.  As of today, all payments must be via cash or credit card.”) You may remove this tenant from autopay by sending such a notice. Although there is no duty to send the notice via certified mail, it is recommended in order to have a record of the notice.

In addition, TSSA Form ADD-6, “Authorization for Automatic Credit/Debit Cards” (also in the Members Only section of txssa.org), expressly allows you to prohibit further automatic payments if a payment is rejected. The form states: “We reserve the right with advanced written notification to terminate your participation in this payment option” and it provides that if an auto-pay is rejected, tenants will be required to provide an al- ternate method of payment. An automatic payment being rejected is no different from other types of non-payment, so you may require an alternate method of payment for this reason as well. Remedies for auto-pay rejections and/or non-payment include late charges, overlocking, and the lien and foreclosure process.

4) Foiling an angry husband’s would-be plot


Question:
I have a tenant who is getting a divorce, though every other week the couple seems to be reconciling. Right now, the wife is the only person on the lease (no one is listed as having additional access rights) and she stores a really nice RV. The wife asked me to change the entry code so that her husband could no longer get in and I honored her request. The other day the husband showed up at the facility saying that he wants to rent a small unit from me (he didn’t want to say what he had to store) and asked if he would get his own entry code to gain access to the facility. What should I do? I am pretty sure that as soon as he has an entry code, he will drive off with the RV.  The rent is paid up to date. Should I warn the wife about the husband’s action?

Answer: You may warn the wife if you wish; that is your business decision.  I would tend to stay out of it. You do not have a duty to refuse to rent to the husband, but in my opinion, you made a wise business decision in not renting to him. If you do warn the wife, unfortunately this could make her decide to rent elsewhere, and/or create an unrealistic expectation that you will notify her anytime her soon-to-be ex-husband tries to rent or otherwise gain access in the future.

If you do choose to warn the wife, I recommend you do it in writing, in order to prevent a “no good deed goes unpunished” situation. Send a notice that reads something very generic like: “Dear Suzy, this is a courtesy notice to let you know that your husband attempted to rent a unit at our facility recently.  We are happy to provide this notice as a courtesy; please take any appropriate measures you believe warranted in order to safeguard your stored items in the future.”

Regarding spousal conflicts in general, these situations are one of the primary reasons that you only want one tenant’s name on the lease. A spouse may be listed as a person with access rights or as an emergency contact, but only one person should be listed as the tenant. Generally, I recommend that self-storage operators try to stay out of issues regarding feuding spouses. Do not grant access to a spouse who is not a tenant or listed as person with access rights, even if the spouse pays for a delinquent balance. Bottom line—unless the individual is a tenant or person with access rights, no access! Regarding persons with access rights and emergency contacts: you have the right, but not duty, to assist them in lock cutting. If you sense, or know, that this is a feud, decline to assist.  Wait for a court order or other firm resolution.

5) Tenant made himself at home (sweet home)


Question: There is a tenant who is sleeping in their unit, what do we do?

Answer: This answer will hit the highlights of the process. For a complete description please see the “Eviction” tab in the TSSA Goldbook©.  
First, give the tenant three-days written notice. The notice should be delivered in person to the premises (the unit) or by mail to the premises in question. Mailing will be challenging because needless to say mail is not delivered to individual units. So realistically you will need to hand-deliver it.  You may use the form E-3, “Notice to Vacate Storage Space for Non-rent Breach of Rental Agreement.” All of the forms may be found in the Members Only section of txssa.org. The tenant’s lease violation will be living or sleeping in the unit in breach of TSSA lease paragraph 36c. You will need to be able to prove this breach, so you will need as many witnesses as reasonably possible, ideally a manager and at least one other employee or other witness, to be able to testify to his sleeping or living in the unit. If the tenant enters with an access gate code your gate software should be able to show that he came in at a certain time and never left until the next day for example.

An alternative and more straightforward eviction action would be to give the tenant 15-day notice of lease termination pursuant to TSSA lease paragraph.  This notice should be sent to his address listed on the rental agreement, or the last written change of address the tenant has given you. (But for good measure, if you find him at the premises, also hand deliver a copy.) Then to evict, you don’t have to prove any breach other than that he did not vacate at the end of the 15 days.  

If you would rather not have to prove that he is living at the unit (which he will likely deny and you never know what a judge will do) and want to go this route, give the tenant TSSA form E-1 “15 Day Notice of Termination of Storage Rental Agreement.” Then at the end of 15 days, if he hasn’t vacated, give him the form E-4 “Notice to Vacate for Holding Over.”   If he is not out at the end of the three-day period outlined in the Notice to Vacate for Holding Over, then file an eviction petition with the Justice Court, citing holdover as the reason for the eviction.

At the time you give him the 15-day notice of termination or the three-day notice to vacate for sleeping/living in his unit, I would suggest you also try and talk to the tenant and try and get him to voluntarily vacate. Tell him (or leave him a separate note) that if you have to evict him, he will be responsible for all legal fees and court costs under the TSSA lease, and he will have the eviction on his record, which will hurt his chances of being able to find another place to live. See if he will voluntarily vacate.  

 

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Top 5 Weird Legal Questions

The Why's and How's of Online Auctions: Webinar Takeaways

by Taressa Dominguez, TSSA Director of Education & Marketing
June 15, 2020


You may be familiar with auctions, but there is still a lot to learn about online auctions.  Some of you may be practiced at using the new auction format, but for many there is still some mystery to the process and the results it can bring your self-storage business.   TSSA hosted a webinar with Lonnie Bickford, StorageAuctions.com; Cassie Dodgen, Pinnacle Storage Properties; Ann Parham, The Parham Group/Joshua Management; and Ross Pfiefer, Hixon Properties, to discuss the basics of online auctions and how they use it to benefit their businesses.  Here are a few key points we learned: 

  • More eyes on your auction.  On average in Texas, StorageAuctions.com reports that units will receive 150-500 online views. Units with more valuable contents can get much higher than 1,000 views. 
 
  •  Schedule online auctions in advance.  Having a clear, set schedule allows your managers to communicate clearly to tenants that the auction is on a predetermined date, and the unit will go to auction if payment is not made prior to that date.
 
  •  Use the power of photos.  Pictures of the unit are incredibly impactful in auctioning off units.  StorageAuctions.com recommends submitting at least seven photos—one main photo of the overall unit, a few closer-up images of the unit, and up-close shots of valuable items that will bring in bidders. 
 
  •  List out the contents of the unit.  Online auction platforms allow you to list the contents of your unit. With newspaper ads, you may be limited by space to only describing the unit contents as “household goods” but the online platform allows you to list “washer and dryer” or “sewing machine.” It helps bidders search and gives you the chance to highlight items you know will gather interest.
 
  •  Your auction, your way.  You can still set your own auction rules using online platforms.  If you want a 72-hour clean-up with a deposit and no dumpster privileges, then you can set those rules for your auction. 


To learn more about online auctions, visit the TSSA Resource Library  to watch our webinar recording. If you would like to post your auction on TSSA’s website, in addition to the legally mandated newspaper advertisement, visit here.

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Why's and How's of Online Auctions