Wednesday, April 11, 2012
Help Me Howard: Storage Rental
A South Florida woman learning everything she had in storage was auctioned off. Now she wants it back. Here's tonight's Help me Howard with Patrick Fraser.
WSVN -- You may have seen the show on cable TV or a clip like this on Youtube.
It's called Storage Wars, where people bid on a unit that a renter stopped paying on. Sometimes a financial bonanza for a bidders. And then there are the people who once owned the contents of the storage unit.
Tania Hidalgo, Storage Trouble: "Beds, books that belonged to my daughters, everything that you can think of."
When Tania and her husband separated she put everything she owned, worth about $8,000, in a storage unit.
Tania Hidalgo: "I went to go live with my mother and with my girls."
Each month she paid the rent to the storage facility and admits sometimes she paid late.
Tania Hidalgo: "Everybody's late. Tell me who isn't late on their payments?"
Then on February 21, she got this letter from the storage facility telling her that she was three months late and owed them $311. If she didn't pay by March 22, everything she owned in the unit would be auctioned off.
Tania Hidalgo: "So I had before March the 22 to pay for the items, to pay for the storage."
Three days before the March deadline, Tania went to pay up and was told the contents of her storage unit had already been sold.
Tania Hidalgo: "I was pretty much upset. I told them that there had to be a mistake, that my letter states that it would be auctioned off March the 22."
Turns out it was put up for sale on February 22. Tania complained to the facility about their typo.
Tania Hidalgo: "She just said there was nothing she could do about it."
The storage facility would not tell Tania who bought her possessions but did tell her the contract she signed cleared them. For example this clause that says the lessor will not be responsible for any damage, loss including wrongful sale, or for any other cause or reason or thing whatsoever.
Tania Hidalgo: "And I said why do I have to pay for something that you guys did? It wasn't my mistake."
Well Howard, two facts are clear. Tania was late with her storage facility rent. Secondly, the letter telling her when her property would be sold was wrong. So the legal question- who's right?
Howard Finkelstein: "The key here is that the storage facility apparently misled her about the date her property would be sold. According to their contract, it doesn't matter, they don't have to pay. However, the law requires that contracts not be unconscionable, in others words, be so one sided that it they are outrageously unfair and in this case, if they go to court, a judge may make the facility pay for what they sold."
We then contacted the storage facility. They would not return our calls, but they quickly returned this box to Tania from her unit that had some pictures and tax returns in it.
Tania says they then told her they were going to write her a check to replace the items from her unit that were sold. Howard says the typo was the key.
Howard Finkelstein: "If the storage facility had not had a typo on the letter to Tania, they would not have been responsible at all. The lesson, if you have a contract with someone, don't be late or miss your payments because you could lose you stuff."
Most of her Tania's belonging are gone, but when the storage facility gives her a check, at least she can buy some new things.
Tania Hidalgo: "Just because Help me Howard helped me. I'm very happy that they got involved. If it weren't for them, I don't think the storage facility would have ever contacted me back."
Patrick Fraser: "One thing about a contract you sign with anyone or any company- remember it was written by their attorney to protect them. Take the time to read it. If they won't let you make changes and you still decide to sign it, at least you won't be surprised when something goes wrong."
Acquired another problem you don't have space for? Wanna store it with someone? Contact us and don't worry about being late with any payments. We work for you for free. Not a bad deal.
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