Alaskan landscape

30 Mar Self Storage Operators Lobbying for Alaska’s First Lien Law

By Alex Hassel, Storage.com

A group in Alaska is pushing to pass the state’s first self storage lien law. At this time, Alaska and Nebraska are the only states left in the U.S. without one.

Charles Brobst, a self storage auctioneer, is spearheading the bill for a lien law in Alaska. He says he wants to protect tenants, storage owners, auctioneers, and buyers involved in a lien sale. Brobst, President of North Pacific Auctioneers, is well-known with self storage operators in Alaska. He’s pushed for a law off and on for about ten years after hearing of a few cases where self storage lien sales happened when they shouldn’t have.

Discrepancies in Alaska’s state laws didn’t give tenants a happy ending either. Even though Brobst is less likely to face a liability situation as an auctioneer, he doesn’t like hearing about these kinds of stories. He wants to fight any bad stigma involved with self storage.

“If something goes sour with one location, group, or whatever, it puts a black eye on everyone,” Brobst says. “I don’t want to see something I’m involved in as a shady operation. It’s not.”

Brobst has tried to get a bill passed before. He worked with a legislator several years ago, but at the time, the bill wasn’t strong enough. However, after reworking it, and getting some advice from the Self Storage Association (SSA), a new bill is moving through the legislature with Representative Chris Tuck as the sponsor.

HB 360 was introduced in February 2016. It reads: “An Act relating to self storage facilities for personal property, including vehicles; distinguishing self-storage facility liens from another type of storage lien; and excluding self storage liens from the treatment of certain unclaimed property.”

What it basically provides is a set of rules (similar to the rules in the 48 other states with lien laws) for storage operators, renters, auctioneers, and buyers to follow in a lien process. Brobst wants fairness for everyone involved, even buyers at an auction. “People have to realize that the buyer has rights. If they buy stolen items, police get involved. In fact, there was a case in Alaska where someone just lost a $2,500 bicycle because it was stolen. In these incidents, you’ll find out there are some shenanigans.”

Representative Tuck says he sponsored the bill because the need for a self storage lien law in Alaska seems clear. “It sounded like at the time that some facilities have not been disposing of property properly. People were losing their belongings and heirlooms without notification, so we’re coming up with a proper process that’s fair to the consumers and protects the facility owners. It also makes a level playing field for all storage facilities to obey the same rules.”

Since Representative Tuck introduced the bill, many storage operators have contacted him and shared their stories, he says, which is making a better bill. One person helping in the process is Tyler Scott, manager of several Publix Self Storage locations in the Anchorage area. In the past, Publix Self Storage has used California’s lien law as a guideline, but Scott says there are others who make up their own rules.

“I know other operators will sell stuff willy-nilly,” Scott says. “I’ll ask, ‘How come your income spikes in April?’ They’ll answer, ‘Oh, that’s when we do lien sales.’ People need to know this isn’t the wild wild west, although sometimes you might think it is. Everybody kind of just goes by their own rules, so it makes sense from a competition standpoint that I would be held to the same standards. Outside of Anchorage there are a lot of mom-and-pop self storage places that don’t know that.”

Interestingly, HB 360 has gained traction without any kind of self storage association in Alaska. “I haven’t heard from anyone else on this,” says Scott. “We used to have a state association. My father-in-law was involved when municipalities started to implement code in 2003. There hasn’t been anything to do since then though.”

So Brobst took it upon himself to get the ball rolling. “Representative Tuck is pushing it really, really good, and some of the storage facilities are behind this 100%,” he says. “It was a gray area. Now, it lays it out in black and white what to do. Everyone wants to sue so the law would be something that protects everybody.”

Those involved hope to get HB 360 passed before Alaska’s legislative session ends on April 18, 2016.

Alex Hassel is News Reporter for Storage.com. If you’d like to pitch Alex a self storage industry news story, email [email protected] or call 402-779-7328.

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