Storage Guide: Settling Disputes
By Vanlines.com Staff
In the unfortunate event you have a dispute with your storage company you will need to understand what steps to follow to resolve the issue. There can be many reasons a dispute may arise and this is discussed in detail below. Most storage companies will participate in a dispute settlement program which offers neutral arbitration in the event a dispute arises. The Better Business Bureau (BBB) in your local area can facilitate the arbitration process however the hope is that you never need to use this service.
It cannot be stressed enough that you must read the contract carefully as this may prevent any dispute in the first place and always read the fine print. Some contracts may allow the storage company to increase rates after a period of time by a certain amount or percent and if you examine the contract carefully at the start you will not be surprised when this happens.
Dispute Over Charges:
You may have a dispute over the rates you are being charged. If the rate was estimated originally and this is specified in the contract the warehouse operator can charge no more than 10% above the estimated amount. If you are being charged more you have a legitimate complaint.
Initially you should have a conversation with the storage operator the first time you meet to talk about their procedure for resolving disputes. It is expected that you get a quick response from a storage operator in the event you have a complaint. You should first request a response from the storage company.
Always have the contract available when contacting the storage company. If a response is not forth coming or you do not get a satisfactory response you will need to contact the storage company's main office if different from the office your local office. Storage companies should always have their fee schedule published for your review.
It is important to point out again that you must read the small print in the contract upfront as this may save a lot of hassle and confusion.
Loss or Damage to Your Property:
A dispute may arise in the event loss or damage happens to your property while it is in storage. There can be many reason damage can occur so be sure to protect yourself with adequate insurance but remember if you store items in unconditioned storage that actually need to be in conditioned storage and they get damaged due to the climate you will have little or no recourse with the storage company or the insurance company. Insurance is probably your best option to help in recouping damage to goods while in storage.
You will also need to prove the damage happened while the goods were in storage. You can do this by creating an inventory and the condition of each item as you put it in to storage. Some storage companies will require you to do this and will examine each item with you and agree on its condition before it goes in to storage. The storage company will then keep one copy and give you the other. Keep the inventory sheet with the contract in a safe and secure place so you can reference it when you need to.
Dispute over Non-Payment of Fees:
In the unfortunate event you forget to make your payment or you cannot pay the storage operator can take the action as laid out in the contract. The contract should also lay out how may payments you need to miss before any action is taken. Most companies will give you at least two months before any action is taken however be sure to check your contract or ask the question upfront before you make any decision on which storage facility to use.
The storage company will try to recoup their losses by selling your goods at public auction. In the unlikely event the storage operator offers your goods for sale through public auction due to missed payments and you are unable to settle the matter in arbitration you will receive a "Notice of Sale" giving you information on the time, date and location of the auction and you can request a special court proceeding within 10 day of the date of sale.
This is not available in all states so check with your local Better Business Bureau for details. If the storage operator does not recoup all his losses he can sue your for the remainder. In this situation the storage operator will often win damages if he can show that your account was in arrears and no effort was made by you to pay. It is strongly recommended that you only take this step if you dispute the validity of the lien, otherwise the court will order in favor of the warehouse operator. If you do end up in a situation like this contact your local Better Business Bureau for advice and help.
You should always ask for your bill to be reviewed if you feel you have been overcharged by the storage company. You may be charged for extra services such as the labor used to pack and move your goods to the storage space. The truck you were provided with as an incentive by the storage company to move your stuff to their warehouse may have had restrictions on time or mileage and if you go over this you will be required to pay up.
You will often be charged a premium rate for these services so be careful and read the small print on the contract. These charges will often be much higher than if you had used a rental truck yourself.