Settling Disputes

It is always possible that a dispute may arise between you and your storage company and you will have to take steps to resolve the problem. It should be stressed that many of the reasons for a dispute can be avoided if you take care to peruse your contract with the storage company carefully, taking note of the fine print, before you sign. Some self storage contracts will allow for rates to be increased after a period of time by a certain percentage so if you have read the contract you will be prepared for this eventuality. Most storage companies will agree to neutral arbitration in the event of a dispute, and your local better business bureau (BBB) will facilitate the arbitration process in the unfortunate event that the dispute cannot be avoided.

Dispute over Charges
It must be emphasized that if you have perused your entire contract with great care a dispute over charges may be avoided. Once the rate has been specified in the contract, the warehouse operator is not entitled to charge more than 10% above the estimated amount. Of course if he does so, you have a legitimate complaint.

It is advised that at the first meeting with the storage operator you should discuss the procedure for resolving disputes. If you have a complaint you must inform the storage operator immediately and you can expect a quick response from the company. If this is not forthcoming or not satisfactory you should then contact the main office of the company if it differs from your local office. The fee schedules of companies should always be published for you to review. Your contract with the company should always be available when you are discussing your dispute.

Loss or Damage to your Property
Many disputes are caused when there is loss or damage to your property during storage. Loss or damage have many causes but you should be alert to the fact that your property should be covered adequately by insurance at the time it is placed in storage. If your items need to be stored in conditioned storage and you choose to place them in unconditioned storage, you can expect no redress from the storage company or the insurers in the event they suffer climate damage. It is advised that when you prepare for storage you draw up an inventory and state the condition of each item. Many storage companies will require this step and inspect the items with you and agree on their condition prior to storage. Keep this list available together with your contract and it will then be easy to prove that the items were damaged or lost in storage.

Dispute over Non Payment of Fees
The storage operator will be entitled to take action against you, according to the conditions of the contract, if you miss payment of your storage fees, either through forgetfulness or because you are unable to make payment. It is usual for companies to give you at least two months grace before taking action, but this point should be clearly stated in the contract before you sign, and their policy might influence your decision when you are choosing a storage company. The storage company may sell your goods by public auction if you are unable to settle the matter of missed payments by arbitration. In this event you will receive a “Notice of Sale” which will inform you of the time, date and location of the auction. It is possible for you to request a special court proceeding 10 days before the date of the sale in states where this option is available. You should note that if the goods are auctioned and do not make enough to cover all the storage operator’s losses, he can then sue you for the remaining amount. It will be easy for him to win damages if he can prove that your account was in debt and that you made no effort to pay the outstanding amount. You will only be able to counter these steps if you are able to dispute the validity of the lien over your goods, otherwise the court will order in favor of the warehouse operator. If you find yourself in this type of difficult situation you are advised most strongly to get advice and help from your local better business bureau (BBB) at the outset.

Overcharge Claim
If you think that the storage company is overcharging you, have them review your bill. You should note that you are possibly being charged for extra services over and above storage costs, such as the labor used to pack and move your goods to the storage space. If you accepted the incentive of being provided with a free truck by the storage company to move your goods to their warehouse, you should take into account that if you kept the truck beyond the restricted period of time or used extra mileage, this will be an additional charge. You should be aware of additional charges like this when you are preparing your contract as it may be cheaper for you to rent a truck and have your goods moved at your own expense.