Tamara Wilhite is a technical writer, industrial engineer, mother of two, and published sci-fi and horror author.
Louisiana does not regulate self storage facilities as warehouses unless they issue bills of lading and receipts for property stored there. If warehouse receipts are issued, then the self-storage facility will fall under Title 10 of Louisiana statues.
The occupant or lessee can use the storage space exclusively for almost any purpose, though Louisiana storage units cannot be used as a residence under any circumstances.
Self Storage Lien Law in Louisiana
Louisiana law allows the owner or manager of a self-storage facility to sell the occupant’s property to pay for past-due bills. The tenant can be forced to pay both the past due rent and costs for moving the property like replacement locks. Tenants must be informed in writing well before the property can be sold. The tenant can redeem his or her property up to the start of the auction.
Facility owners must inform the tenant when there is a bill past due and the full amount owed. Payment cannot be demanded less than ten days after the tenant received the bill. This law is in place to give the tenant a reasonable time period to raise the money to pay the bill before losing his or her property. An advertisement for the sale cannot be placed until at least ten days have passed from the date when the property owner was notified. Additional time is required if the tenant is a member of the military. Louisiana storage units rented by military members may fall under the federal Servicemembers Civil Relief Act. If in doubt, hold on longer before holding the auction and give the service member more time to receive the bill and pay it.
The storage service’s lien is generally the first lien against the property being sold. However, the storage service’s lien is second to any liens against the property being sold held by creditors. For example, if a car kept in storage is being sold, the money for the car goes first and foremost to the company holding the car note, not the self-storage owner. The same is true for other property that may have liens against it like motorcycles, RVs and boats.
The self-storage company can keep the funds up to the amount it was owed. If the property sale generated more money than was owed, it must hold onto the money for the tenant and inform the tenant of the funds. If the sale did not generate enough money to pay off the lien, the storage company can sue the tenant for the remaining balance.
Louisiana state law allows the self-storage owner to accelerate the lease and cancel it when monthly payments have been missed. Louisiana storage units do not fall under the abandoned property law in most cases; contact an attorney if the property has sat for several years without payments made for its storage before reporting it as abandoned or trying to sell it.
Servicemembers Civil Relief Act from Military.com
- Servicemembers Civil Relief Act Overview
Servicemembers Civil Relief Act Overview | Military.com
Preventing Problems with Self Storage Sales
It is wise to take pictures of the unit before it is locked by the property manager due to non-payment. Lock it securely. Do not let anyone enter the unit, whether it is the tenant requesting items to be retrieved from storage or potential buyers seeking a peek at the lot pre-auction. Only open the unit when the tenant pays what is owed or when the sale starts. Tenants can arrive minutes before the sale and pay for their property.
Do not let employees or buyers peruse the property until it is certain that the tenant will not be able to recover it. This ensures that the tenant cannot sue for theft of the property after the tenant has redeemed it.
Louisiana confirmed in the court case No. 98-CA-1959, HARRY PRICE Versus U-HAUL COMPANY OF LOUISIANA, that the sale of property per the self-storage facility lien was not a violation of the Fourth Amendment of the United States right to due process before seizure of property. However, self-storage facilities are legally bound to duly inform tenants prior to the sale to remain on the right side of the law.
Questions & Answers
Question: The owners of my storage facility overlooked my unit while I was getting dinner this evening without cause or warning. My bill is current, paid in full and not due again for 20 days. Further, when we asked for an explanation and for the overlooked to be removed we were refused. What do I need to do to get access to my belongings and to protect my legal rights as a tenant?
Answer: If you've paid your bill in full, they shouldn't lock the unit and prevent your access to it. If they were inspecting it, that may be reasonable if they were controlling pests, told something illegal was going on there, or had another legal basis. If you are actually paid up and locked out, notify the police to get access to your possessions and go somewhere else your rights are respected.
Question: Can a storage facility in Louisiana have a rummage sale with the contents of the units instead of an auction or do the storage units have to be auctioned off?
Answer: The sale is authorized to pay back unpaid rent. If the self-storage unit sells the items, they're obligated to record how much it sells for so they can subtract that money from the debt.
If you just throw everything from several units into one sale, you can't track how much income went to which debtor.
That said, you don't HAVE to sell it all. Auctions dominate because you sell all of it to the buyer, and disposal of useless stuff is their responsibility. But you could sell what you could sell in a rummage sale, donate and dispose of the rest, as long as you give the original owner credit for the proceeds.
If in doubt, talk to a lawyer.
Question: Can a storage facility sell your property when you are only 45 days behind and received only one certified letter mentioning the sale?
Answer: 45 days behind means you're almost 2 months behind on rent. Some states let the facility owner sell if you're 2 weeks late, unless you're in the military and thus hard to reach.
They didn't just call you; they sent a certified letter you received. That is legal notification. Their advertisement of the sale was probably online and in newspaper classifieds. They don't have to send you the ad they sent to everyone else.
Question: My storage company won't let me make payments, only payment in full. Is there a way to make them accept a payment plan?
Answer: Unless you're in the military, probably not. They aren't a utility or medical service with pressure to make accommodations for everyone because everyone has to use them. They have the right to say "Pay in full each month or we sell it all, then pursue you for the difference."
Question: If the storage unit is in my name but someone else's stuff is in it, can I move there stuff to put my own in and not get in trouble for it?
Answer: If your name is on the unit and you're paying for it, you are welcome to add your stuff to the unit. It is, after all, legally yours. You may get in trouble with your friend if you throw out their possessions when putting your items in the storage unit.
Question: The owner of the storage facility that I'm at says that I've been evicted, but I have not received any type of paperwork or anything. She is trying to make me pay everything in full with $100 cleaning deposit per unit, and I have three of them. She is giving me five hours from the time that I pay all of it up front to get everything out, and that's it. She is refusing any type of partial payment or payment by one unit at a time. Can she do that?
Answer: Landlords can refuse partial payment because that restarts the clock on the eviction process, and it sounds like she wants you gone. You may have received warnings that you'll be evicted for nonpayment with the last bills demanding payment. Requiring all late payments plus fees to get current is reasonable. That time warning may be telling you when she's going to auction off or throw out the stuff if you don't pay. That part I don't know the legality of, but I suggest emptying your unit ASAP and worrying about bills later.
Question: If I was behind on my bill and the owner wants me to be gone when I pay my bill up, how long does she how long do I have to get my stuff out?
Answer: If you're being evicted for non-payment, the lease is essentially terminated. The date you have to have everything out is when you're officially evicted. If you're being kicked out at the end of the month because you haven't paid for that month, be out by the last day of the month. If you're given a 1-week notice of eviction, you have one week. In either case, the paperwork they give you for eviction or termination of the lease will SAY when you and your stuff have to be gone, or else they can auction it off or throw it out.
Question: In Louisiana, if the items in the units have no value, can the storage unit owner dispose of all that is in the units?
Answer: If they have the right to empty out the unit for nonpayment, they can do so however they choose. Auctioning or simply trashing are both options.
Question: If the storage unit is in my name but somebody else's stuff is in it. If they pay the bill when the bill comes due, can I remove their items?
Answer: The storage facility would allow you to remove everything from the unit, because your name is on it. However, the person could sue you for loss or destruction of property if you throw it out. Ask them to take their property back. Or ask the storage company to take your name off the unit so that it is just in the name of the person paying the bill.
Question: What type of attorney do I contact about my storage unit that was auctioned off?
Answer: You need a civil litigator, ideally someone familiar with contract law but willing to take what may be a small claims court type case.
Question: What if you cannot contact the tenant of a storage unit and their address is no longer current?
Answer: If you've made good faith efforts to contact them, I suggest documenting that. Have proof like a certified letter that couldn't be delivered. Once enough time has passed since the last payment, you can foreclose on the property.
The only possible exception is if they're in the military. The federal government has much stricter rules on selling items in storage for a deployed servicemember. In this case, you can contact someone at the base and ask for the soldier's contact information.