18 Mar Florida’s Self Storage Lien Bills Die After Legislative Session Ends
By Alex Hassel, Storage.com
Storage operators in Florida are dealing with defeat after efforts to change the state’s lien law came to a halt. The Florida Self Storage Association (FSSA) and Self Storage Association (SSA) lobbied to change the law that requires all storage operators to advertise lien sales in a newspaper. After sitting in limbo during postponed committee hearings, the SB 720 and HB 559 bills, which were filed in early November 2015, died when Florida’s legislation session came to an end on March 11, 2016. Now, the associations are making plans to try again next year.
The purpose behind the bills was to remove the newspaper advertisement requirement in lien sales. Doing so would end the newspaper industry’s monopoly on self storage operators and allow operators to publicize a sale through other mediums like websites and social media. Language in the bills would’ve also allowed storage facilities to set contractual value limitations for rentals and remove defaulted vehicles from their properties.
SB 720 was postponed in early February 2016 when Senator Travis Hutson, the bill’s sponsor, couldn’t make it to the last hearing due to a family emergency. SB 720 proposed that public notice of self storage lien sales could be posted on a public website that customarily conducts personal property auctions. The Regulated Industries Committee added a pending amendment, though that would require a website for lien notice to be maintained by Florida’s Chief Financial Officer. The committee didn’t want to move forward without Senator Hutson’s involvement so it postponed further hearing. A new hearing was never scheduled.
A few weeks later, the hearing for HB 559 was also postponed. That bill would have allowed operators to advertise lien sales in a “commercially reasonable manner” other than a local newspaper, as long as at least three independent bidders attended the auction. The Florida House Appropriations Committee had scheduled to discuss an amendment just a week earlier that read: “The Office of the State Courts Administrators is not liable for technical failures or any other cause that may interfere with or interrupt the required 14-day notice or for the content of or any defects in the notice posted on the website.” Unfortunately, complications never allowed that hearing to take place. HB 559 was also never scheduled for further consideration.
Marcus Dunn, SSA Director of Government Relations, says the associations were doing all they could to help the pieces of legislation move along, including compromising with amendments. Opposition from groups like the Associated Industries of Florida (AIF) caused some setbacks, though. Brewster Bevis, Senior Vice President of AIF, didn’t believe removing newsprint notifications was fair to renters. He argued that newspapers were the best possible way to inform defaulted renters about a lien sale.
“The thing that aggravates me is that’s inaccurate,” Dunn says. “The AIF said we were out to eliminate lien notifications altogether. That’s not the case. For the first time in 40 years, operators would have had a choice on how to notify the public about a pending auction. Notifications to the defaulted renter already happens through multiple vehicles.”
Dunn explains that a required newspaper ad is impractical both for the defaulted renter and storage operator. “Newspapers are an ineffective way to communicate with the public. The other part is the wide ranging costs for the ads. If it’s $200 or $50, it’s going on the defaulted customer’s bill anyway. With newspapers taking advantage of their monopoly, why does the state want to continue to put that penalty on the customer? Why do the newspapers insist on putting the added burden on backs of people who are already having monetary difficulties?”
The associations plan to try again next year, although they’ll have to start the process all over again. “I believe the bill is strong on its merits,” says Dunn. “We need to do a better job educating the legislature as to our intentions and do a better job illustrating the interest from the newspapers. Newspapers are afraid of losing revenue, but it’s coming down on people down on their luck. We didn’t do a good job laying that groundwork.”
“It’s easier to defeat a measure than it is to get one passed,” Dunn adds. “You get smarter each time, though. It’s rare that anyone can pass something on their first try.”