The laws regarding self-storage facilities vary greatly state-to-state, but with more and more people downsizing their homes because of the economy, rental facilities are doing a booming business. Here’s a short introduction to the Illinois laws.
Many people assume that they’ll never get behind so the rules of property forfeiture don’t apply to them. Then, they don’t look into the state’s laws until it’s too late. While the rules that follow are only the law in Illinois, here are the rules we must follow to seize your property for non-payment.
As I understand it, very few of the Illinois facilities follow these rules. I’ve heard horror stories from clients who claim that they were one day late and their stuff was thrown away. I’ve had panicked phone calls from customers who forgot a payment and are asking me, “Did you get rid of my stuff yet?” If you’re in Illinois and the facility failed to follow these laws, you may be able to recoup your losses.
To start off with, let me let you in on a little secret: We don’t want to sell your stuff.
Holding an auction is a hassle and chances are we will get far less out of your stuff than what you owe us. Our facility, and most storage facilities, auction seized property off by units. We cut the lock, open the door, and let the bidders make an offer. Think less than yard sale prices. Even furniture and appliances won’t bring us much.
And, we hate to throw out your personal stuff that means nothing to us, but means the world to you or your kids. Family photos, your child’s kindergarten artwork, and Aunt Sally’s crocheted shawl may be just about worthless in terms of recouping our lost money, but they are important to you. It’s awful when they end up in a dumpster.
But we can’t afford to hold it indefinitely and for free. So, we will make arrangements as long as you are actively attempting to pay the past due amounts.
Now, as for the actual law in Illinois. Illinois storage facilities are covered by the Self-Service Storage Facility Act, 770 ILCS 95. It covers a lot of things you as a consumer need to know.
Illinois law provides that you as the tenant are liable for the contents of your storage unit. Most people will have homeowners insurance or renters’ insurance that may cover things stored at a mini-storage facility, but under no circumstances will the self-storage facility be responsible for your items. We are, in essence, renting you space. There are no guarantees that come with it.
The specific rental agreement will cover the late charges and when the rent is due, but most storage facilities will have rent due on the first. Be sure to read through the agreement and get the particulars before you move in.
Furthermore, if you are more than a month late and make a payment, the payment will generally be applied to the oldest balance, just like a credit card. So paying a month’s rent on January 1 when you still owe December’s rent does not prevent late fees in January.
Also, just because you ignore the late fees owed on your storage unit does not mean they are not accruing. As a courtesy, I send out notices to customers when late fees start to build up, but the law allows us to charge late fees whenever more than ½ month’s rent is overdue and that includes from accumulation of late fees.
To explain, if you pay January’s rent five days late, and have $5 in late fees that you don’t pay, that gets paid first out of your next payment, effectively making February’s rent $5 short. In just three months time, paying five days late each month means you owe a half month’s rent on our smallest units. We will lock you out and charge you late fees on the past due balance.
Selling Your Stuff
Illinois law is generous to tenants who hope to keep their stuff. First, we have to tell you, twice, that you’re rent is past due. The second notice must be at least 15 days after the rent was due.
Then, we have to send notice to your last known address that we intend to sell your stuff and give you 15 days to reclaim it by paying all the back rent and late fees. After those 15 days, we must place a classified ad in a newspaper of general circulation in the community where we are located. That ad must run two times, at least 7 days apart. Then, 15 days after the first newspaper ad, we can hold an auction or otherwise dispose of your stuff.
Please note that the law says the storage facility MAY hold an auction. It also may decide not to, especially if the former tenant shows up and tries to buy his or her own stuff back at less than the amount due.
If the sale of your personal property at auction gets the owner more money than you owe him, you can contact the owner within two years to claim that excess cash. I have never seen this happen, but it is part of the law.