Apr 022009

QUESTION: Can I change a Tenant’s address based on his/her email to me? (this particular question comes from the State of Florida )

ANSWER: Maintaining an accurate database of your occupants “last known address” is one of the most important and challenging aspects of the operation of your self-storage Facility. Lets face it, when your occupants move updating their address with the self-storage Facility is never high on the list of priorities.

In many states your self-storage statue speaks a little bit to the concept of what exactly is a “last known address.” The last known address is critical to know and to accurately change your tenants address because the notices you are required to send under the statue or in the states without a statue under the Uniform Commercial Code lien will be to the “last known address.” Many state statues define the last known address to be, and again I am summarizing many states statues together, the address provided by the tenant in the latest Rental Agreement or the address provided by tenant in a subsequent written notice of change of address.

With the definition of a term such as “written notice” so loose and open to interpretation, like many other items in your operations, you must define in your Rental Agreement what written notice means for a change of address and how you are willing to receive it. If you do not define this in your Rental Agreement you are open to anyone’s interpretation of a 1970s or 80’s statue that did not anticipate the concepts of notice of change of address by fax, FedEx, email, instant messages, and etc.

We advise our clients to specifically define in their Rental Agreement that written notice of change of address can not be accepted by many of these methods for which there is no record or proof that you received the change of address. We have received so many calls over the years from clients whose tenants claimed they emailed or faxed a change of address, the unit went into default and is now sold, now the occupant is alleging our client sold the property without sending notice to the “last known address”. Our clients fear the litigation that may ensue because they have no record of a change of address in their file that occupant is alleging came by email or fax.

Thus, our client’s leases generally require that a change of address is only accepted if made by hand delivery to the office or by certified mail, or any other methods our clients find acceptable and can confirm.

If our clients get a change of address by a different method, we use these as “supplemental” addresses and send the Default notices to the last known address in the lease as defined by the statue with a copy to any “supplemental address,” we do not just simply ignore these supplemental address, but we do not treat them as valid address changes for the purpose of notices we need to give in a default situation.

Florida, where the question came from, is a little different because the Florida Statue specifically defines last known address as the address provided by the tenant in that latest Rental Agreement or the address provided by the tenant by hand delivery or certified mail in subsequent written notice of a change of address. The Florida statue is actually written more like the way we construct our Rental Agreements and the way you should too, if you are in a state that is not specific about what written notices mean.

As for the reader in Florida, who asks if they can change address or accept a change of address based on an email in Florida, the answer is clearly no, the operator should not accept this change but use it as a supplemental address. Then try to get the occupant to give you the new address in an appropriate manner. In other states an email is open to interpretation as to whether or not that is “written notice” as in anticipated by the statue. Thus, it is important to have your rental agreement define that email, fax, instant message, and etc., an not acceptable ways to change an address, unless you want to run the risk of not receiving the change.

You can send your questions, comments, or suggestions for future topics to Jeffrey Greenberger at info@test.selfstoragelegal.com or mail them to Jeffrey Greenberger c/o Katz, Greenberger & Norton LLP, 105 E. Fourth Street, Suite 400, Cincinnati, Ohio 45202 or you can reach Mr. Greenberger at (513) 721-5151, or visit his website at www.selfstoragelegal.com. 

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