Keeping current with your monthly storage bill is always the best policy. Not only will you save money in the long run (by not paying steep and steadily mounting late fees) but you’ll also save yourself the stress of having to worry about the lien process, which begins with a few additional lien fees and ends with several hefty fees as well as your unit going to auction! Every storage company is different and the ultimate timetable for your particular unit(s) is up to your facility and your property manager, the following is a basic timeline that is used widely across the self storage industry.
Understanding Storage Grace Periods
If your rent is due on the first, your company may or may not extend a short grace period to its tenants. A grace period is a time during which you can still make your monthly rent payment without incurring any penalty. Some companies extend this across the board to every customer and don’t mind if a tenant takes advantage of it every month so long as they get their payment in before the end of the period. Some companies will allow customers to skate once or twice up to the end of the grace period but won’t allow the late payments to go on forever.
The First Late Fee
Either way, once you pass the grace period, the first late fee is applied. Again, this will be determined by your particular company and it could be $10 or $15 or more. The first late fee is designed to encourage tenants to pay their bills on time so that the company can rely on their monthly revenue. Meanwhile, they do also add to revenue as customers who are late end up paying extra per month for the same unit.
You will probably see the second late fee posting to your account anywhere from the 7th to 10th day of the month.
The Pre-Lien Fee
The next major action applied to delinquent storage accounts is what’s called a Pre-Lien fee. Expect this to be as much or more than a regular late fee. This fee is applied once the initial rent payment becomes 15 days late. In the eyes of your storage company, this fee is applied because of the extra work your non-payment causes the property manager. Every unit that is 15 days late must receive a postmarked official letter in the mail explaining the delinquency situation to the tenant and breaking down all the fees that add up to the total amount. This pre-lien letter also acts as one of the early warnings in the lien, and ultimately auction, process. In addition, a self storage company will print off copies of each letter and postmark them as well, placing them in the hard copy files of each tenant. This is done to prevent a situation in which a tenant would claim they never received their 15 day pre-lien warning and that it was lost in the mail.
The Official Lien Begins
The next step in the delinquency process is a Lien fee. This occurs once the rent payment is 30 days late. It also officially marks the start of the company’s repossession of the given unit and its contents. At the company’s and the manager’s discretion, your unit may be overlocked at this point, which means the manager will put a company lock on your unit so that you cannot get into your unit even if you do come down to the property. This 30 day lien fee may be higher than the usual late fees.
Don’t Expect Favors at this Point
Any good manager will refuse to let you into your unit at this point until you make your payment in full. Some unscrupulous customers will ask for a special favor to be granted temporary access into their unit so they can get a few things they care about and then skip out on the rest of their bill forever. It’s really not fair to ask the manager to let you into your unit. Remember that only your non-payment put the overlock on your unit and that you are putting the manager in an uncomfortable and risky situation by asking them to give you access. Usually, they should just say no.
The 48 Day Notice of Sale
If you don’t settle your account by this point, you are begining to cut it quite close. The next official action is a 48 day notice of sale. 18 more days following the 30 day lien notice you will received a 48 day notice of sale usually by certified mail. This is basically your last chance to set things straight.
The End of the Line
Shortly after failing to deliver your full payment (now massively increased by late fees and lien fees) you might see an auction notice in your local paper for 2 days before your belongings are actually sold off to the highest bidder!