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Do I have a lawsuit with a self storage facility that wrongfully sold my belongings because their numbering was wrong?

Hartford, CT |

I had 2 storage units both directly billed and paid in full monthly. I was at my storage units weekly for 5 months. Before I left on a trip I noticed a red tag on one of my units. I brought this to the attention of the manager and he stated they were organizing all of their numbering because a prior employee had caused some discrepencies. He checked the computer and stated everything was all set and the mishap was a mistake of the faulty employee. I went on my trip and returned a few weeks later to gather my belongings and close my unit only to find one of my units ahd been auctioned off! According to their records, one of the 2 units I had for 5 months and paid for was not on my contract and there was no one assigned to it so they auctioned it off. What recourse do I have?

Attorney Answers 2


Here is an outline and a web site where you can determine if your rights were violated.

Sec. 42-160. Owner's lien upon defaulting occupant's property. The owner of a self-service storage facility shall have a lien upon all personal property located at such facility for the amounts of any rent, labor or other valid charges incurred in relation to such personal property, for any valid expenses incurred in the necessary preservation of such personal property and for any expenses reasonably incurred in the sale or other disposition of such personal property pursuant to law. Such lien attaches on the date of default by the occupant. Notwithstanding the provisions of section 42a-9-333 such lien shall not have priority over a lien or security interest which has attached or been perfected prior to such default.

(P.A. 81-428, S. 2; P.A. 01-132, S. 172.)

Sec. 42-161. Satisfaction of lien. Notice to occupant and holders of security interest. (a) No owner may satisfy the lien provided for in section 42-160 unless he complies with the procedure set forth in this chapter.

(b) The owner shall notify the occupant and any person who has filed a valid security interest in such property with the Secretary of the State of his intention to satisfy the lien with a written notice which shall be delivered in person or sent by registered or certified mail, return receipt requested, to the last known address of the occupant.

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Disclaimer: This answer does not constitute legal advice. I am admitted in the States of New York, New Jersey and Massachusetts only and make no attempt to opine on matters of law that are not relevant to those three States. This advice is based on general principles of law that may or may not relate to your specific situation. Facts and laws change and these possible changes will affect the advice provided here. Consult an attorney in your locale before you act on any of this advice. You should not rely on this advice alone and nothing in these communications creates an attorney client relationship. The opinions expressed herein are those of the author only and the fact that he has worked as an Assistant District Attorney; State Supreme Court Clerk; Special Assistant United States Attorney (Hawaii); Assistant Cornell University Counsel or Judge Advocate, United States Marine Corps should not be relied upon to assume that these statements reflect the policy of these organizations.

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Depending on your rental agreement, and if the actual cash value of the sold property is large enough, you may have a wrongful-sale lawsuit and might find it helpful to consult with an attorney.

Recourse for a wrongful sale will be for damages as the person purchasing storage unit goods sold to satisfy a lien (even if storage facility failed to comply with the law) takes the property free of any rights of persons against whom the lien was valid (see Conn. Gen. St. §42-166).

Generally, a self-service storage facility owner has a lien upon all personal property located at the facility's storage unit, however, the lien only attaches on the date of default by the occupant. (See
Conn. Gen. St. §42-160). In addition, the facility owner may not satisfy its lien after default until it gives the unit owner written notice delivered in person or sent by registered or certified mail, return receipt requested, to the last known address of the occupant. (See
Conn. Gen. St. §42-161) and the sale cannot take place until sixty days after the date of default (see, Conn. Gen. St. §42-164).

In general, most storage unit renters will have limited recourse against the facility owner because most rental contracts specifically contemplate the rental of storage space and disclaims a bailment (taking possession and control of the renter's (bailor's) personal property) and limits the dollar value limitation of stored property and the type of items stored in the premises (I.e. prohibit antiques, collectibles), plus includes a release from the renter to the facility owner from liability for loss of or damage to the property stored.

However, your case might rise to a higher level as 1) no default occured (if you can prove payment for 2 units) and, 2) it appears the facility owner was not only negligent in not associating the storage unit with its lawful renter, but when the error was brought to the manager's attention (and acknowledged) it failed to act to correct the mistake.

Compensation for the loss would be the actual cash value of the wrongfully sold property (the depreciated value of the property) and unfortunately not replacement cost for the goods. Its advisable to consult with an attorney in this situation as he/she MAY identify other possible causes of action, including possible claims for punitive damages and attorney fees, if unfair trade practices or other violation can be proven.

Disclaimer: The foregoing answer does not constitute legal advice, is provided for informational and educational purposes only for persons interested in the subject matter. Each situation is fact specific and may be subject to state specific laws. Without a comprehensive consultation and review of all the facts and documents at issue it is impossible to evaluate a legal problem fully. This answer does not create an attorney-client relationship.

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