Wednesday, June 18, 2008
Help Me Howard: Storage Surprise
It's supposed to be a safe and sound place to put your extra things. But one couple says their storage unit got soaked and to top it off, they weren't told about it. Here's Help Me Howard with Patrick Fraser and this Storage Surprise.
WSVN -- Maribel and Johnny have been married six months, but not only do they love and like each other, they think and talk alike.
John Garza: "We're still on the honeymoon phase."
Maribel: "Still on the honeymoon phase."
Of course getting married means adjustments, meshing two ways of life and combining two households.
John Garza: "And, when everything didn't fit, we had to put what we could in storage."
Into the storage unit went their clothing, extra kitchen items and, most importantly, their wedding mementos, which in turn created the newlywed's first nightmare.
John Garza: "We had a lot of plastic bins with our belongings, and everything was underwater."
The second level storage unit that they paid for safekeeping was soaked.
Maribel Garza: "All his clothes, he had like 30 shirts there, they all had mold. They had the black spots. The smell was really bad."
The moldy clothes can be replaced, the kitchen appliances bought again, but then there were the wedding treasures.
John Garza: "All the cards people gave us for our wedding and mementos, all gone."
Further infuriating Maribel and Johnny, the flood happened three weeks before they found out, and they say no one notified them. They happened to find it when they came to drop off Maribel's wedding dress.
Maribel Garza: "When we asked why we didn't get a phone call, at first he said, 'Yes, we called, and I said, 'Really? it's been 21 days, and I still haven't gotten a message."
A storage employee told them he knew they had a water problem from the rain or a leaky air conditioner, but they weren't sure it affected the Garzas. Johnny and Maribel say, if they weren't positive, they should have told their customers that.
John Garza: "Especially since I live three and a half miles away. If I had known there had been water intrusion, and that some our stuff may or may not have been affected, I would have been there immediately."
Of course they complained to the storage company, but they hit a brick wall.
John Garza: "'You didn't have the insurance, you are not covered, and pretty much, we are not responsible.'"
The Garza's contract clearly states "All personal property is stored by occupant at occupant's sole risk," but these occupants argue, if they were told sooner, they could have saved their things.
Maribel Garza: "Even three days after we would have been able to save some of it, but 21 days, nothing was salvageable. I still can't comprehend why we couldn't get a 30 second phone call."
The storage company did offer two months free rent in a different facility, but the Garzas lost $4,000 in things, not only losing precious items but priceless memories.
Maribel Garza: "Any girl can tell you wedding mementos is a big thing. You always want to look back, especially if you are a girl, want to look back at your scrapbook and cards. Just not having anything left is pretty heartbreaking."
OK, they realize they should have had insurance, but does the storage facility have the responsibility to notify a customer that their items are underwater, Howard?
Howard Finkelstein: "The storage unit is not responsible for the damage initially caused by the flood. They are protected by that contract. However, if additional damage was caused because they did not call their customers to warn them of the flood, they may be responsible for that subsequent damage like mold, mildew and decay."
We called the storage company several times. A spokesman finally told us there is no purpose for us to talk to you. We will only talk to the customer. Johnny called them again. Instead of only two months free rent, he says they offered a storage unit for free for 6 months.
He accepted that. As for whether they should have had insurance, Howard says it depends.
Howard Finkelstein: "If the items are not expensive, insurance is not necessary in a storage unit. If it's valuable, insure it because you risk it getting damaged or stolen or, if it's sentimental, find a way to keep it at home because you can't insure sentiment."
With their first big headache as a couple behind them, Maribel and Johnny can continue to build their new life together. They won't have all their wedding mementos, but they have something nothing can wash away, their memories.
John Garza: "Couldn't have asked for a better wedding, still to this day, six months later, I'm still getting comments about how much fun everyone had. It went without a hitch, it really did."
I have always heard that you cannot sign your rights away. Howard says I have heard wrong. If you sign a document that says the company is not responsible, in most cases, the company is not responsible. You learn something every day.
Troubles got you all wrapped up? Want to store them with someone else? Contact us. We can make one promise. We'll think outside the box and flood you with legal advice.
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