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Queens Chronicle

Avella’s new bill may brew ‘storage war’

Senator seeks to reform lien law

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Posted: Thursday, January 2, 2014 10:30 am | Updated: 11:23 am, Thu Jan 9, 2014.

It might do for TV ratings with nail-biting bids and the opening of sealed doors, but the popularity of public storage auctions is what prompted state Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside) to call for legislation to help the very delinquent tenants that fuel auction shows.

Avella will seek a sponsor for the bill in the Assembly once the Senate resumes this month.

Under New York’s lien law, storage owners can collect overdue fees or auction off items of a unit for delinquent tenants. Only after confirmed notification is delivered, are 10 days then given to dispute the debt before an auction is scheduled. Avella’s bill seeks to extend that period to 30 days and calls for the owner to make two attempts to contact the occupant or an alternative person.

“It occurred to me, why would anyone walk away from these valuable storage units?” Avella said about his initial concern.

On reality shows such as Storage Wars, winning bidders of auctioned units can find a range of valuable items from international pieces of art to gold coins worth $250,000.

Citing the 10 days as an insufficient period to resolve payment, Avella said he is seeking to protect consumer rights.

In response to the bill, Matthew Powers, president of the New York Self-Storage Association, said it already recommends that storage businesses have an occupancy agreement that includes a second contact and notice standards greatly exceeding the minimum 10-day requirements.

For example, Sonia Roopwah, manager of Treasure Island Storage in Jamaica, said that she gives tenants at least 90 days to settle their debt, with monthly notifications. Despite industry standards, members and nonmembers of NYSSA do not have to abide by the recommendations.

Calling the reality shows a “sensationalized version of what our business is all about,” Powers added that if anything, the show helped bring awareness to tenants about the consequences of unpaid fees.

“It is a central philosophy of the association and its membership to only utilize the lien law auction sale process as a matter of last resort, that the best auction for landlord and tenant is no auction at all,” Powers said.

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