Ask the County Law Librarian – Rate Increases at Self-Service Storage Facilities

Q. How much notice does a storage facility have to give before raising the fees? Is the time period covered by the law? I gave my facility plenty of notice, trying to be nice, and they replied with an increase in my last month’s rent.

 

A. Raising rental rates is common practice among self-service storage facilities, though the justification behind increases will vary from company to company. For example, some companies might have existing contract customers on a schedule that dictates the rate be increased a specific percentage after a predetermined amount of time has passed. Other storage companies may raise their rates to match the current market rate or demand, especially if long-term customers are paying very low rates based old market figures.

As with many legal issues, the answer to this question depends upon a couple of factors. Many states have laws that control the practices of storage facilities; in California, self-service storage facilities are governed by the California Self-Service Storage Facility Act in Business & Professions Code § 21700 et seq. This act applies to rental agreements entered into, extended, or renewed after Jan. 1, 1982. According to Section 21701(d), “the term ‘rental agreement’ means any written agreement or lease that establishes or modifies the terms, conditions, rules, or any other provision concerning the use and occupancy of a self-services storage facility.” So, the first order of business is to examine your lease or rental agreement with the storage facility.

The oft-used idiom “the devil is in the details” certainly applies to leases. Review the terms carefully, looking for specific timeframes for rent increases, the advance notice the company is required to provide to customers, or any general terms related to the rental rate. Often the contract will allow the leasor to increase rates as often as it pleases and by any percentage, and potential renters should inquire about these practices before entering into a rental agreement. Some facilities may let you take home a sample contract before renting, so don’t be afraid to ask for one.

If the rental agreement does not reference rate increases, then it’s possible that another California code section may apply in this case. The state laws governing self-service storage facilities as laid out in the Business and Professions Code chiefly focus on the creditor-debtor relationship created by the rental agreement, specifically as it applies to liens. But self-service storage leases also create a type of landlord-tenant relationship, in which case California Civil Code Section 827(a) might apply. This law states that if you have a lease for more than 30 days (e.g. a one-year lease), your rent cannot be increased during the term of the lease, unless the lease allows rent increases. On the other hand, if you have a periodic rental agreement (e.g. a month-to-month lease), the tenement provider can increase your rent as long as proper advance notice in writing is given. The proper advance notice depends upon the period the lease is based upon: for a month-to-month lease, advance notice is not less than 30 days; for tenancies less than one month, advance notice must be equal to or greater than the term of tenancy (e.g. one week’s notice for a week-to-week lease). The code section includes some exceptions and conditions, so you may wish to consult an attorney for a thorough interpretation of the law and advice on how to proceed.

You can read more about the California Self-Service Storage Facility Act in the Sacramento County Public Law Library’s Everyday Law article on Self-Service Storage Facilities. For more information on laws governing the landlord/tenant relationship in California, see the California Department of Consumer Affairs handbook on this topic: http://www.dca.ca.gov/publications/landlordbook/catenant.pdf

Do you have a question for the County Law Librarian? Just email sacpress@saclaw.org. If your question is selected your answer will appear in next Thursday’s column. Even if your question isn’t selected, though, I will still respond within two weeks.

 

Coral Henning, Director
@coralh & @saclawlibrarian

www.saclaw.org

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January 12, 2013 | 1:52 PM

Can your lock be cut off after 30days in public storage ?

February 25, 2013 | 6:52 PM

Just have someone call and find out or check your lease papers!

July 4, 2013 | 4:19 PM

i work for the company and technically yes it can. after 30 days in most states you are considered to be in lien. what that pretty much means is that public storage has the legal right to auction off your items to try and collect whats due. now of course there is a legal process and time frame that the company must follow and doing a visual inventory of the unit is one of steps. they generally just visually see and whats in your unit and write it down on a DTM inventory sheet which briefly describes what you have in the unit for ex: furniture, boxes bags totes tools electronics and etc. it doesn’t go into too much detail of what you are storing. in order to do all that we have the legal permissions to cut of the lock to inventory whats inside. read over your lease agreement in detail to learn more if not ask you facility managers.

February 7, 2013 | 12:34 PM

Regarding rent increase for self storage unit; I have a “month-to-month” lease which began om May 18, 2012, (that’s approx. 8 mo’s.) . The unit is very small (5×5) and with limited access, must be out by 7pm! Rent fee is $35.00 per month. I recently received a notice however that this rate will be increased to a monthly rate of $47.00. This seems a little steep to me, are there any CA laws regulating the amount they are allowed to increase your rent. I inquired about this before signing agreement, and was told any increase would be minimal ( should quoted ” $3.00 to $5.00 is all it would be). Any help would be appreciated. thank-you, Denise Macedo

February 25, 2013 | 6:44 PM

My storage rent just increased on a 5 x 5 from $40 to $45. Since I am month to month the new owners do have the right to increase. I called and they said it was due to the recession. You need to call them and remind them of what they said about what was said regarding an increase! But keep in mind a verbal agreement isn’t worth the paper it is written on! I guess the other option is to find another one cheaper if possible. Frankly, I plan to get rid of stuff I do not really need! And get out of the unit all together! If you compare rental rates $47 isn’t all that bad as they are all going up! But I would ask them why they increased more than $5.00 when they said they wouldn’t? Nothing to lose at this point! I was told that my unit goes for higher now (50 range) and I compared and some are going for more! Look under Storage Units with your Zip and check your options, negotiate and read the fine print before you re-sign should you move to another storage! Hope this helps! Sandy H.

June 23, 2013 | 8:36 PM

I have been renting a 10 x 10 x 13 for five years now. I was paying originally, $112 per month. It has increased every year and was just recently increased to $177 per month. I called anonomously to find out the going rate at the same storage facility, and I was quoted $120 per month, so they are not charging me the fair market value. Is this legal?

July 4, 2013 | 4:25 PM

unfortunately yes it is. and all storage companies do this to increase revenue by a bit. read over your agreement in detail. few things you can do is transfer to the same size for that current rate of 120 or you can speak with them and ask how much their rates for your size is going for with your units specific details at that moment and ask if they can either reduce the rent or to stop the increase from occurring. if not you can always leave that storage company and go to one that offers you a cheaper rate that your happy with.

July 28, 2013 | 4:11 PM

if on a month to month deal the rent increase is more than 10 %, then should them give at least 60 days’ notice?

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