Storage Locker Dilemma: What would you do?

34 Replies

BACKGROUND:  Tenant eviction.  Tenant did not even begin to move out, even after the judge ruled in our favor.  Stayed until the Sheriff lockout.  Was not at home at the time. Single mom with three elementary school age children.  We packed up all of her belongings, cleared the apartment and put her stuff into storage at a storage facility.  We followed landlord-tenant law for Washington State, which allows her up to 30 days to reclaim her property by paying us for the moving and storage fees.  Time ran out yesterday.  She wants her property back and made it clear from the beginning that she intended to come up with the $900 required.  If she did, we would simply release the storage locker into her name as per the procedure allowed by the storage facility.  That is what she wants us to do, since she has no truck, movers, or place to take the stuff.

CURRENT SITUATION:  She has not come up with the money to repay us for our cost of moving and storage.  We have the locker rented on a deal - pay the first month, get the second month free, so the locker is paid until September 3.  Since her time has run out, our landlord-tenant law allows us to sell her property to recoup the moving and storage costs, however any excess can not be used to pay for the eviction judgement or apartment damages, which were plenty.  We are not interested in the photos, personal papers, or clothing items.  The furniture and household goods could fetch us some money, but would take more of our time and effort to sell.  Some nice paintings and art prints (gallery quality) could be consigned to a local non-profit upscale consignment shop that splits 50/50 and they donate their proceeds back into the community to support local non-profit service agencies.  Some of the furniture could be sold there too.

DILEMMA:  We don't want to deal with the storage locker and her belongings.  We moved the stuff once, and that was enough.  We also don't feel right about turning the storage locker over to her without her paying what is rightfully due to us for the drayage & storage.  We already know we won't see a penny of the money she owes us for rent, legal fees, and damages.  She is totally on public assistance, no employment, raising three children.

Me:  I want to give her back her family keepsakes, photos, personal papers, and clothing for her and her children - regardless if she pays us anything.  They are of no use to us. But some are buried deep in the locker and would be difficult to extract.  I want to keep a few things that we could actually use in our rental property business, such as a step stool and vacuum cleaner.  I want to return to a restaurant some goods we believe may have been stolen.  I am considering selling the good furniture and household goods at the non-profit consignment shop.  Will be satisfied if we can recoup the $900.  Then will be glad to let go of anything remaining.

My Husband:  Doesn't want to do anything more with the stuff.  Would even consider just turning it all over to the tenant, if she comes up with some of the money or none at all, just to be done with it.  Feels bad the 11 year old son's x-box and sports equipment are locked up.  Computers too.  Has a feeling the tenant will fall behind on paying for the storage locker and will lose all the stuff anyway.  As this has happened to this tenant before.

Both of Us:  Overwhelmed by the thought of dealing with the stuff.  Feel the stuff has bad mojo.  Don't know the best way to move the goods.  Don't know how other landlords would handle this situation.  This is only our second eviction in 19 years.  The last time, the tenant paid up on the last possible day and got her stuff back.  Not so lucky this time.

What would you do?

That is the problem with being a Landlord.  We sometimes want to help the people that stab us in the back.  It's clear that you have a good heart and want to give the old tenant back her stuff, but where was she when you had to remove all of her stuff on your time.

If the tenant really wanted her possessions, she would at least took anything of value with her.  She is taking advantage on your  kindness to get all of her stuff back.  Remember this is a business and right now you actually have the most leverage to get some money back.

If I were you, I would try and get at least half of your rent back and release the stuff back to her.  If she doesn't pay, I would donate it to a women's shelter or another social organization that could help someone else ( and get tax deduction in the process).

Good luck.

I definitely agree with the keepsake items being returned to her. Out of principle, I think you have the right idea. You've got to stand up firm to her and since she hasn't come up with the money to pay for the storage and moving, that was an expense you had to incur. Really, you, in a way, were paying for her in more ways than one since her life is being funded by taxpayers.

You are out there taking risks and she isn't doing anything. You might even be doing the 11 year old a favor by taking away his XBOX so he doesn't end up a government parasite one day. I think you'll have to pull out the keepsakes anyways, so you might as well go get them from the storage unit, inventory what's there, photograph it, and you may have some luck just selling it on Craigslist or Ebay. Both good sites for quick sales. Hope this helps, let us know what you do.

She's not going to give you any money, ever. She obviously doesn't care about the personal items, or she would have at least taken them. She is on public assistance and can't pay rent, etc, but they have an Xbox, computers and gallery quality art prints? Sheesh.

I would check with the storage company and see if you can have a "garage sale" right there at the unit. Pull out her photographs, but sell everything else. Tell her she has one last chance to come get the photographs and hold her to it. If she doesn't show, toss them. It isn't your responsibility. If she wants them, she'll come get them. Whatever is left over, keep what you want and donate the rest.

If you really don't want to deal, then just call the Salvation Army, or whoever, and have them come pick everything up. You have to decide if spending the time selling the stuff is worth it or not.

your all crazy. Life is short. Save your soul and give her the things back and be done with it. Your not going to teach her a lesson and your not going to get any money from her. At least have a heart for the kids and return their things to them. I just went through this and even though they trashed my place in a month and a half I chased them down to return the kids shoes and personal items. I didn't care about her or her belongings but I did the kid.. Your being petty, get over it and give it back to them. 

I agree with @Bobby Beard  

You have been fortunate that this is only your second eviction in 19 years.  Give her back her belongings and perhaps you will have 19 more years of good Karma.

@Marcia Maynard  

Personally I would donate/sell everything but the clothing and personal items.  Those I would give back. I would than give back the kid's personal stuff of interest and sell everything else. 

I would treat this like a business with a heart. Those items that don't fetch you anything but have sentimental value give back. Those that can cover you cost sell. i would not just give in and sell it. I would give back the kids stuff. 

who knows her story?! Maybe she is mental?! There is two sides to every story.. Obviously not to smart to leave everything or maybe had no choice. I couldn't live with myself for taking a family's entire belongings over money and not knowing the entire story. Something is off for her not to get their expensive items.. I would rather go through my life less a couple hundred bucks then to know I took it personally and hurt somebody bc they owed me money.. 

Like Michelle Na posted, if they really valued anything there, they would have taken it with them when they left in the first place.

If you have been a landlord for long enough, you know that tenants always leave unwanted stuff behind - whether it is to downsize, or move less stuff with them, or to have somebody else toss the unwanted stuff into the trash.  Same thing if you buy at foreclosure auctions - lost of stuff gets left behind.  Sure it has monetary value, but why didn't they sell it at a yard sale or on Craigs List?  Sure some stuff has sentimental value - but when something is truly valued, you don't just leave it behind; you find somebody to help you move it out or to store it until you can get it. (Cue up Dionne Warwick: "That's what FRIENDS are for ..." https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a1iXlyRa47A )

Sure, you feel sorry for the kids, but the problem they really have is the parents - and you can't solve that problem ...

@Steve Babiak  

My guess is this tenant doesn't have the same caliber of friends as you, me or Dionne. 

I can't believe you have only had 2 evictions in 19 years. That's my takeaway from this thread.

Around here, an auction solves everything! Call around & when you find the right outfit, they will advertise the sale, pull all the stuff out of the locker, sort it (you can pick out the photos, etc. if you set it up ahead of time with them), conduct the sale & poof! All the stuff is gone & they hand you some money.

If your previous tenant is really interested in her stuff, she can show up & raise her hand with the rest of 'em.

Put the photos, etc. in a big box & send it to her via UPS/FedEx & say "Done!"

You've done what you're required to do (& more) regarding her possessions. They seem to be getting along all right so far without them. 

It looks like you are not going to get a penny from her. Gallery quality art work while on public assistance and  sounds like she is clueless about financial responsibility. I wouldn't blame the Xbox though but feel sorry for her kids for having to go through this.

Here is what I would do - sell the big ticket items like furniture and artwork through the easiest channel and hand over the storage locker to her. She gets to do what she wants with it and you get to cut your losses and move on. 

Tough situation, I would step back and put business hat on.  Appears you are out quite a bit of lost rent, etc. and she has possibly taken a few things from a restaurant, maybe give her notice that she has the remaining 30 days and contact a thrift store, auction house, etc during that time to get a firm bid, then on day 30 if not paid sell it all for what you are owed or what you can get...  You will have showed twice the compassion that was required and if she can either find someone to assist her or learn the hard lesson, maybe it will change her direction.

Side note, can remember some tough times my Mom and I went through and in my late teens early twenties I went through, did not take handouts and learned to buckle down, made me the man I am today!  Also, have bought storage units and houses with stuff like that in there, we liquidate, donate, etc. knowing full well they had a choice.

**Great story about one of my properties...tenant would not pay rent because landlord needed to fix a few things so landlord had no money to pay mortgage or make repairs, long story short, they both lost out and bank too, now I have a nice rental.

I agree with either selling or auctioning off the storage unit to recoup part or all of your storage fees.  If you have someone you know who might be interested in the project, you could do a 50/50 deal (you each get half of the proceeds) and request that they give you the keepsakes after they weed through it, for you to return.  If we were a little closer to you we'd take it off your hands.  Storage Wars TV shows have glamorized the storage lockers and it would be  a fun adventure for someone.  Have you considered contacting the emergency contacts and references on the application to see if they'd like to buy it on her behalf?

@Marcia Maynard  

I was thinking some more about it. Honestly due what allows you to sleep at night. It sounds like they are out and no longer doing any damager to your apartment. There are definitely "better" business moves, but I would go with the what makes you the most comfortable.

Originally posted by @Michele Fischer:

Storage Wars TV shows have glamorized the storage lockers and it would be  a fun adventure for someone.  

 Storage Wars, and the shows like it, plant things in lockers to make the show exciting.  I have even read of them filming at an storage facility on days when there wasn't even a real auction being held.  It is amazing that they can get away with that type of BS. 

I have been to storage auctions on multiple occasions.  Out of all of the lockers I viewed, I found maybe 5% were worth bidding on. 

Originally posted by @Bobby Beard:

your all crazy. Life is short. Save your soul and give her the things back and be done with it. Your not going to teach her a lesson and your not going to get any money from her. At least have a heart for the kids and return their things to them. I just went through this and even though they trashed my place in a month and a half I chased them down to return the kids shoes and personal items. I didn't care about her or her belongings but I did the kid.. Your being petty, get over it and give it back to them. 

 Thank you Bobby for restoring (a bit) of my faith in the humanity of BP posters.  

@Marcia Maynard  

I would just cut your losses and move on.  Most likely you won't get anything out of them and this is probably just inducing stress into your life and you and your husbands discussions about this issue.  It's not worth it.  Turn it over, move on, and forget about it.  Chalk it up to the cost of an education and bad luck on this one. 

1) You already lost some rent with her, had to evict her, and had to pay to fix the apartment. 

2) You gave her a deadline and she missed it. 

3) If you are the nice lady who takes your time to track her down and return all her belongings to her at your cost, she isn't going to learn any lesson. She will do the same thing to the next landlord. If these were prized possessions, she wouldn't have allowed herself to become evicted in the first place. 

4) She waited all the way to the Sheriff's lockout. She had no plan in place during that time for how to move on. Sometimes you need to let people hit rock bottom.

@Marcia Maynard  Sometimes doing the right thing costs us money but so what, money isn't everything. Give her back her stuff and move on selling her stuff for $900 isn't going to make or break you this year.

Michelle Na Selling the children's xbox at a garage sale isn't fair to the children. Why should the children loose their toys because of negligence of their parent. Have a heart Michelle.

I would first ask. What was this tenant/landlord relationship like? Was it cordial and she worked with you or did you have to fight her every step of the way. It sounds like you had to fight every step of the way. 

If that was the case, I would be selling the big ticket items to recoup the costs I was legally allowed to do. I would deliever the items that don't sell and the personal items myself to a place of her choosing. I would not sign over the storage unit as the bill will not get paid and the storage property owner will then be stuck with the same problem. I have seen from my experiences that there are many people that you cannot help. Don't push off the problem on anyone else. You are in the best position to stop the issue. You might even be able to work a deal with her. If you can get more than you need let her know that you will return her clothes and special effects and write off the rest of her debt if you can keep whatever you make from selling the items. 

This may seem harsh judging by several folks comments on here but I think it is really the most compassionate path. You and this lady's relationship is now ended forever. You haveforgiven her debt. She would have lost these items anyway and not gotten this good of a treatment from anyone else. She won't learn a lesson however maybe someday she will realize that her choices have cconsequences for not only her but her children as well. Maybe this will give her children the desire to never be like mom and make better choices. Heck buy her a book or to give her a solid step forward.

While I have not had this exact issue, I do think people who keep talking about "teaching" this woman anything are a bit off. Someone with the avoidance issues you describe probably has some mental health issues. You are not going to "teach" her anything. People offering this advice seem to me to be creating a rationalization for their actions. If you mustkeep her tthings and sell them, do so. But don't pretend you are somehow doing her or her children a favor.

Originally posted by @Richard C.:

While I have not had this exact issue, I do think people who keep talking about "teaching" this woman anything are a bit off. Someone with the avoidance issues you describe probably has some mental health issues. You are not going to "teach" her anything. People offering this advice seem to me to be creating a rationalization for their actions. If you mustkeep her tthings and sell them, do so. But don't pretend you are somehow doing her or her children a favor.

 It may not seem like a favor, but if she were to just give everything back, what does the deadbeat former tenant learn? That would tell her this: 

"Hey, just don't pay rent, stay til the last minute and oh yeah, I will come find you and deliver all these things that you left at my property and I had to haul off and store because I follow the laws that favor people like you."

Deadbeat Tenant: "Really? I just got a free ride on rent for a few months and now this poor sucker came and found me to give me all this stuff I didn't even want. Wow, I'm gonna get this new landlord who just rented me his place. He didn't even check my references neither, cause I told him I would take his place and didn't even want to see the inside. He's just greedy and would be getting so rich off my section 8 rent anyways"

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