Changes to storage unit law proposed

Current law requires notice via certified letter, newspaper ad

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - State law makers are considering legislation that would make it easier for storage operators to sell someone's belongings when bills aren't paid.

The operators of mini storage units in Florida want out from under a requirement that they advertise in a newspaper before they sell someone's belongings.

Instead, they want to just post a notice on the Internet –- an idea that has been met with plenty of opposition.

The legislation will be heard in a Senate Committee on Tuesday.

According to current state laws, operators must send a certified letter before selling the unit's contents. If there is no response, they're then required to list the renter's name in the local newspaper once a week for two weeks.

Legislation moving at the state Capitol would remove the newspaper requirement and say only the sale must be announced on a website. That's drawing powerful opposition from newspapers and others.

"Fifty-nine percent of those 65 and older don't use the internet; 28 percent of Hispanics and 27 percent of African-Americans," said Jeff Kottkamp with the Public Notice Coalition.

At one storage complex visited by Mike Vasilinda with the Capitol News Service, 36 of almost 900 units were in default three months ago after registered letters and newspaper ads. Just six of them were auctioned on Saturday.

Keith Norrie, a Panama City storage broker, makes his living buying and reselling the left behind contents. He got one unit for $575 dollars.

"What I bought for two units and I need about a thousand bucks. So I gotta see three grand back. If not, I've lost," said Norrie.

Norrie, who was once in the storage business, worries more people will lose their stuff if it's not advertised in the paper. He said it's usually not the renter who reads the alert.

"Somebody might see them in the paper, their name in the paper. And they might call them and say, ‘Listen, your name is in the paper -- you need to check this place out because they're going to sell your stuff," said Norrie.

Under the law, if a unit brings in more money than the renter owes, that renter has two years to claim the leftover cash.

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