Short Answer: In most cases, you won’t be able to find out who bought your storage unit because of certain buyer protections. But, if the storage company did not follow state laws when conducting its auction, you can take legal action. For information on lien laws and what you can do after losing your storage unit, see below.
How to Find out Who Bought My Storage Unit
Once an auction is complete, you cannot find out who bought your storage unit. Under state lien laws, storage companies have no legal obligation to share the buyer’s information with the former renter of the storage unit. And, for the buyer’s safety and to protect his/her purchase, storage companies do not share or make this information public, representatives for CubeSmart and Public Storage said.
Before an auction or sale takes place, you can reclaim your property by paying off the amount owed.
Renter’s Legal Options After a Storage Auction
State lien laws include strict requirements for the auction process. If the storage company doesn’t follow these requirements, you can take legal action to receive monetary damages and/or reimbursement for the items you lost when the company sold the storage unit.
If you believe a storage company may have broken any of the laws in your state when carrying out the auction, you should consult a consumer protection attorney. He or she will go over the facts of your case to confirm whether or not the storage company broke the law and, if necessary, he/she can help you proceed with a lawsuit. Keep in mind, even if you win your case, you likely won’t get the contents of the storage unit back; instead, you’ll receive a payout from the storage company.
Lien Law Auction Requirements
Lien laws vary by state; for details of the laws in your state as they relate to storage unit auctions, see the Self Storage Association’s public library. (Note: Alaska is the only state that does not have direct, legal regulations for storage unit auctions.)
Most state regulations include the following rules for public storage unit auctions:
- In order to foreclose on the lien and sell the renter’s property, the storage company must wait until the renter has been in default for a set number of days. As previously reported, the waiting period is usually between 30 and 90 days.
- The storage company must notify the renter whose belongings will be sold. The state may require the company to contact you by mail or may allow the company to contact you by email or by phone.
- The storage company must notify the public of the sale (usually through a newspaper advertisement).
- The storage company must create an itemized statement of the storage unit’s contents.
- The storage company must allow the renter the opportunity to repay the debt before the sale/auction takes place. If the renter repays the debt during that time, the storage company must enable the renter to retrieve his/her property from the storage unit.
- Most states require that the storage company conduct the sale/auction at the storage facility, though some states, including Minnesota and New Hampshire, allow online auctions.
We compiled this information by viewing the state legal codes for Alabama, Arizona, Florida, Idaho, Maine, Minnesota, New Hampshire, Ohio, Texas, Washington, and Wisconsin.
It’s important to note that the burden is on you to prove that the storage company broke the law. For example, if you moved without notifying the company and it sent the auction notification to your old address, you probably do not have a valid case; however, if the company failed to send a notice at all, you may succeed in court.
Most states protect the rights of “good faith” buyers and do not allow the buyer to be held responsible if the storage company does not follow the state’s lien laws. Regardless of whether the storage company follows all of the required auction procedures, the buyer is the legal owner of the items within the storage unit once he/she pays for the unit at the end of the auction. This means you cannot sue the buyer to get your stuff back.
Check for Item Returns
While lien laws protect the buyer’s investment and you cannot force a buyer to return your property, buyers will sometimes return personal items like diplomas, family photographs, and important documents to the storage company. Alternately, a manager at the storage facility may be willing to contact the buyer on your behalf to ask about personal items.
Item returns require the cooperation of both the buyer and the storage company. For example, if the storage company is unwilling to keep the returned items at its location or is unwilling to contact you or arrange for pickup, you may not find out about item returns.
But, in some states — including Maine and Washington — storage companies and buyers are legally required to return certain personal items like business documents containing client information, photographs, and papers containing sensitive information. Contact the storage company to find out if any items from your unit may have been returned.