The Straight Dope

Go Back   Straight Dope Message Board > Main > General Questions

Reply
 
Thread Tools Display Modes
  #1  
Old 08-22-2011, 12:41 PM
robert_columbia robert_columbia is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Oct 2009
Storage unit sales for delinquent fees - what if it contains someone else's property?

With reference to

http://boards.straightdope.com/sdmb/.../t-573209.html

and similar threads, and shows like "Storage Wars".

In many jurisdictions of the US, if you fail to pay rent on a storage unit, they can or will sell your property inside.

What happens if someone stores SOMEONE ELSE's property in their own storage unit, and then fails to pay? Once a storage auction has taken place, do they have any cause to get their property back or receive payment for it?

E.g.

Joe: "Hey Bill, what did you do with that refrigerator that I lent you last year? I want it back - my other one died."
Bill: "Uhh, I actually ended up not needing it after I moved back in with my parents. I put it in a storage unit that I rented but I got behind on the bill and they sold everything inside."
Joe: "!@#$%^ you idiot. That refrigerator was in excellent condition."

At this point, what rights might Joe have? Can he track down whoever bought the contents of the unit and demand that the fridge be returned or paid for, or does he have a claim against Joe?

What if the property was outright stolen? E.g. J. R. Thief breaks in to someone's home and takes jewelry, then puts the jewelry in a storage unit and then fails to pay the bill. By the time that the legitimate owners track the thief down, the storage auction has already taken place.

Mods: this is a request for legal information, not advice related to a specific case. I do not have this problem. Consult an attorney licensed in the applicable jurisdiction. This is not the baggage check mentioned in the Warsaw Convention. If you are still concerned, feel free to move this to IMHO.

Last edited by robert_columbia; 08-22-2011 at 12:44 PM..
Reply With Quote
Advertisements  
  #2  
Old 08-22-2011, 01:08 PM
aceplace57 aceplace57 is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Oct 2009
IANAL I did watch Peoples Court daily for years.

The person storing the property for someone would be still be responsible for the loss. Allowing the storage unit fees to accumulate unpaid could be negligent. Depending on the circumstances.

Last edited by aceplace57; 08-22-2011 at 01:08 PM..
Reply With Quote
  #3  
Old 08-22-2011, 02:07 PM
dolphinboy dolphinboy is offline
Member
 
Join Date: Jan 2001
Location: Bigfork, Montana
Posts: 2,955
In this case, I believe that Joe takes Bill to small claims court and hopefully the facts corroborate Joe's story and the judge is convinced that Bill was negligent.

I don't see how it could be the storage company's responsibility or the person who purchased the contents of the unit once it was legally sold... but IANAL.
Reply With Quote
  #4  
Old 08-22-2011, 02:49 PM
anson2995 anson2995 is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Sep 1999
Location: Upstate NY
Posts: 2,720
Typically, the rental agreement stipulates that the owner can enforce a lien on the property within if you default on your payment. Here's one example online... I presume state laws on the matter vary.

As others have said, any claims by a property owner would be against the renter, not the storage company.
Reply With Quote
  #5  
Old 08-22-2011, 03:37 PM
Bricker Bricker is offline
And Full Contact Origami
SDSAB
 
Join Date: Dec 1999
Location: Northern Virginia
Posts: 45,600
When Bill holds Joe's property, a bailment is created. Bill, the bailee, takes possession of personal property owned by Joe, the bailor.

Different rules apply depending on whether the bailment is for the benefit of the baliee or the bailor. In the hypothetical described by the OP, it sounds like the bailment was for the benefit of Bill the bailee. We might imagine a situation in which Joe says, "Hey, Bill? I don't have any space to store my fridge. Do you have room in your storage unit?" as being a baliment for the advantage of the bailor.

In this case, even assuming the bailment was for Joe's benefit, the most forgiving standard would be that the bailee is required to avoid gross negligence. (Different states have different rules about what duty of care is owed by the bailor under different types of bailments). In my best guesstimate, allowing property to be sold for non-payment of storage fees without notice to the baliee would be gross neligence, and Joe would have a claim against Bill.

Last edited by Bricker; 08-22-2011 at 03:38 PM..
Reply With Quote
  #6  
Old 08-22-2011, 04:04 PM
robert_columbia robert_columbia is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Oct 2009
Quote:
Originally Posted by Bricker View Post
When Bill holds Joe's property, a bailment is created. Bill, the bailee, takes possession of personal property owned by Joe, the bailor.

Different rules apply depending on whether the bailment is for the benefit of the baliee or the bailor. In the hypothetical described by the OP, it sounds like the bailment was for the benefit of Bill the bailee. We might imagine a situation in which Joe says, "Hey, Bill? I don't have any space to store my fridge. Do you have room in your storage unit?" as being a baliment for the advantage of the bailor.

In this case, even assuming the bailment was for Joe's benefit, the most forgiving standard would be that the bailee is required to avoid gross negligence. (Different states have different rules about what duty of care is owed by the bailor under different types of bailments). In my best guesstimate, allowing property to be sold for non-payment of storage fees without notice to the baliee would be gross neligence, and Joe would have a claim against Bill.
But would the "sale" of the refrigerator even be valid? "Nemo dat quod non habet" and the fact that Joe never granted permission for his refrigerator to be sold at auction for non-payment of rent. Let's assume that Joe was not grossly negligent here (e.g. standing by while he knew that his refrigerator was in a storage unit that was about to be foreclosed upon and doing nothing, neither notifying Bill to return the fridge immediately, nor notifying the landlord of the storage unit that the unit contained the property of an innocent third party.
Reply With Quote
  #7  
Old 08-22-2011, 04:08 PM
jasg jasg is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Nov 2001
Location: Upper left hand corner
Posts: 2,999
What if Bill had said "Hey Joe, come get your refrigerator or arrange to pay for the storage unit where it is stored." Joe does nothing. Is Bill still liable?
Reply With Quote
  #8  
Old 08-22-2011, 04:29 PM
Northern Piper Northern Piper is online now
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Jun 1999
Location: Back in Riderville
Posts: 17,882
Quote:
Originally Posted by robert_columbia View Post
But would the "sale" of the refrigerator even be valid? "Nemo dat quod non habet" and the fact that Joe never granted permission for his refrigerator to be sold at auction for non-payment of rent.
I don't think that Nemo dat would apply here - third party purchaser, in good faith, for value, would likely be the applicable standard.
Reply With Quote
  #9  
Old 08-23-2011, 02:52 PM
JBDivmstr JBDivmstr is offline
Member
Member
 
Join Date: Jun 1999
Quote:
Originally Posted by jasg View Post
What if Bill had said "Hey Joe, come get your refrigerator or arrange to pay for the storage unit where it is stored." Joe does nothing. Is Bill still liable?
IANAL
IMO, if Bill informed Joe that the fee for the unit is due, and that if not payed Joe will lose his stuff, and Joe doesn't do anything, then Joe is SOL.
__________________
"Always do sober what you said you'd do drunk. That will teach you to keep your mouth shut." Ernest Hemingway (1899 - 1961)
Reply With Quote
  #10  
Old 08-24-2011, 09:45 PM
JBDivmstr JBDivmstr is offline
Member
Member
 
Join Date: Jun 1999
Quote:
Originally Posted by robert_columbia View Post
But would the "sale" of the refrigerator even be valid? "Nemo dat quod non habet" and the fact that Joe never granted permission for his refrigerator to be sold at auction for non-payment of rent. Let's assume that Joe was not grossly negligent here (e.g. standing by while he knew that his refrigerator was in a storage unit that was about to be foreclosed upon and doing nothing, neither notifying Bill to return the fridge immediately, nor notifying the landlord of the storage unit that the unit contained the property of an innocent third party.
If one becomes delinquent in payment, the storage facility will usually lock you out of the unit until payment is made.
Would they release Joe's property to him, seeing as how he was not the one that rented the unit? Could they be forced to give Joe his refrigerator if Bill acknowledges that it does indeed, belong to Joe?
Reply With Quote
  #11  
Old 08-24-2011, 09:55 PM
bengangmo bengangmo is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Oct 2008
Quote:
Originally Posted by JBDivmstr View Post
If one becomes delinquent in payment, the storage facility will usually lock you out of the unit until payment is made.
Would they release Joe's property to him, seeing as how he was not the one that rented the unit? Could they be forced to give Joe his refrigerator if Bill acknowledges that it does indeed, belong to Joe?
I used to work at a storage facility (many years back in a non US country)

1. We didn't have a specific policy on this sort of arrangement. My best guess is that if the ownership could have been "proven" (not sure how, but there you go) some arrangement would have been made.
Reply With Quote
Reply



Bookmarks

Thread Tools
Display Modes

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is Off
HTML code is Off

Forum Jump


All times are GMT -5. The time now is 09:48 PM.


Powered by vBulletin® Version 3.8.7
Copyright ©2000 - 2014, vBulletin Solutions, Inc.

Send questions for Cecil Adams to: cecil@chicagoreader.com

Send comments about this website to: webmaster@straightdope.com

Terms of Use / Privacy Policy

Advertise on the Straight Dope!
(Your direct line to thousands of the smartest, hippest people on the planet, plus a few total dipsticks.)

Publishers - interested in subscribing to the Straight Dope?
Write to: sdsubscriptions@chicagoreader.com.

Copyright 2013 Sun-Times Media, LLC.