Enforcing Your Storage Unit Agreement in California

Enforcing Your Storage Unit Agreement in California

Posted on 22. Mar, 2012 by in Law

Many of our clients are perplexed about what to do with a garage or storage unit rental when they want to terminate the tenancy and receive back possession. Is an eviction required? The answer depends upon whether or not the garage or storage unit falls under the California Self-Service Storage Facility Act. If it does, an eviction is not required. This article is designed to clear up the confusion so you will be able to act appropriately whenever you want to terminate a storage rental lease.

California’s Self-Service Storage Facility Act does not include garages, storage areas in a private residence, or warehouses. So what are self-storage facilities? The law defines them as real property used for the purpose of renting individual storage spaces or containers to tenants, who access the space for the sole purpose of storing and removing personal property. In other words, self-storage facilities must include multiple units and/or containers where a tenant may self-store and access his belongings. Therefore, a storage unit is not one single unit in an owner’s garage.

If your tenant is storing his personal property in a garage, you are not permitted to go through the Self-Service Storage Facility Act to obtain possession. Instead, you have two basic choices: go through with the eviction process, or if you have a reasonable belief that the tenant is never coming back and has abandoned the property, you may be able to regain possession by serving a Notice of Abandonment of Real Property. Please consult with an attorney prior to deciding which way to go as each situation is different.

On the other hand, if your facility falls under the California Self-Storage Facility Act, the method in which you enforce a storage agreement and regain possession from a tenant who fails to pay rent under the agreement is a lien sale of the personal property within. To accomplish the lien sale and regain possession of the unit, the following two notices must be served on the tenant.

1. Preliminary Lien Notice
If a tenant fails to pay rent under a storage agreement for 14 consecutive days, the owner must first serve a Preliminary Lien Notice. This notice allows the owner to terminate the right of the tenant to use the storage unit. Specific language must be included in the notice in order to comply with the Self-Service Storage Facility Act. If the tenant has  not paid the sum owed as of the date specified in the Preliminary Lien Notice, the owner may deny the tenant access to the unit, enter the unit and/or remove the property found in the  unit for safe-keeping.

2. Notice of Lien Sale & Declaration in Opposition to Lien Sale
The owner must now serve the tenant with a Notice of Lien Sale, which, in pertinent part, states that the tenant no longer has access to the unit and that the stored property is subject to a lien and will be sold to satisfy the lien on a specific date unless the lien amount is paid in full. Attached to the Notice of Lien Sale is a blank copy of a Declaration in Opposition to the Lien Sale provided to the tenant, who may execute and return the form to the owner if he decides to oppose the sale of the stored property.

Court Filing When Necessary
If the owner receives an executed Declaration in Opposition to the Lien Sale from the tenant prior to the date of the lien sale, the owner cannot proceed with the lien sale and must now file a lawsuit with the Court providing facts upon which the lien sale is based.  Once the lawsuit is filed, the tenant has 10 to 15 days to file his response.  If the tenant fails to respond, the owner may apply to the Court for a judgment in the amount of the lien, including costs, and the right to proceed with the lien sale. If the tenant responds, a trial will be set before the Court. If a judgment is received against the tenant, the owner may now proceed with the enforcement of the sale of the stored property and regain possession.

As the notices and complaint require specific language to comply with California law, we encourage you to have your notices reviewed and lawsuit prepared by an attorney.

Kimball, Tirey & St. John LLP is a full service real estate law firm representing residential and commercial property owners and managers. This article is for general information purposes only. Before acting, be sure to receive legal advice from a lawyer. If you have questions, please contact your local KTS office. For contact information, please visit www.kts-law.com.

© 2011 Kimball, Tirey and St. John LLP

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