State Law on Collection Practices May Impact Self-Storage Operators

Posted by Modern Storage Media on May 3, 2024 9:15:07 AM

In 1978, The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) was enacted to protect consumers from abuse by debt collectors in all 50 states. Florida took things a step further, creating The Florida Consumer Collection Practices Act (FCCPA). This state law works with the federal act to help limit phone calls, threatening letters, and other types of unfair actions from collection agencies and other types of debt collectors. 


Now, there is a developing legal issue in Florida whereby the plaintiffs’ bar is pursuing cases against businesses that send out rent notices (invoices, late fees, lien notices) to tenants between 9:00 p.m. and 8:00 a.m. While this is only applicable to Florida for now under Section 559.72(17) of the FCCPA, it could snowball and lead to other states enacting similar laws or even a class action lawsuit. For this reason, it’s important for all self-storage owners to understand the implications of the law, regardless of whether they’re in the Sunshine State.


“Recently, we have seen some lawsuits against self-storage operators for alleged violations of this section because they sent rent invoices to tenants via email between the hours of 9:00 p.m. and 8:00 a.m,” says Scott Zucker, a partner in the law firm of Weissmann Zucker Euster + Katz P.C. “While we disagree with the application of this law against self-storage operators and managers – who are not debt collectors – until the courts have clarified the law, we would recommend that you update your notice policies to avoid sending texts or emails to tenants during those hours.”


Zucker also recommends that operators update their rental agreements to include language under which the tenant consents to receive communications from the operators at any time. “This language could simply be added to the already existing provisions in a standard rental agreement that permits the operator to call, text and email its tenants,” Zucker explains. 


While this law may only apply to Florida operators, Zucker says there is a lesson here about consumer protection actions that could apply to operators around the country. “Operators in all states should update their rental agreements to address this consent for communication, both as to time and method.”


In addition to updating notices and rental agreements, Zucker says operators should also consider the addition of an arbitration provision with a class action waiver right. “A class action waiver may further protect operators. It would make it so that claims could only be brought on a tenant-by-tenant basis, and only through arbitration rather than through a class action remedy in the courts,” he concludes. “This may potentially reduce the risk of these types of consumer protection actions going forward.”


Legal Minute