Company responds after COVID-19 storage rental issue

Posted at 8:37 PM, Apr 29, 2020

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — It’s another consequence of COVID-19; with many people out of work unable to pay their bills, they’re selling their personal belongings to make ends meet.

But one mid-state man says he’s caught between a rock and a hard place when it comes to getting access to his own property.

Dave Mabry is making his living these days by selling his property he has stored in storage units across Nashville. He's a tour manager for a band and lost his job when COVID-19 struck.

"All of our tours cancelled and rescheduled," Mabry said.

But when Mabry lost his job, he fell $400 behind on payments for his unit at Storage Rentals of America in Old Hickory.

"What I have in there is worth more than $400," Mabry said. "If they’d let me in, I could sell power tools and some things. I could gladly pay them off and find someone else willing to work with me and move my stuff."

But Mabry says Storage Rentals of America hasn’t been understanding with his job loss following COVID-19.

"They said, 'Nope, we don’t take partial payments, we want payment in full'," Mabry said.

Mabry says that means he no longer has access to his storage unit full of equipment he could sell to pay the company and his other bills.

NewsChannel 5 spoke with an out-of-state representative of Storage Rentals of America. They said they were unfamiliar with the specifics of Mabry's issue, but that each situation is handled on a case by case basis by a district manager, one of which the representative told NewsChannel 5 would get back in contact with us with more information. The representative said they are complying with local and state guidelines.

Dave thinks Gov. Bill Lee should lead the change in those guidelines with an executive order saying that storage companies can't hold on to a renter's property if they cannot pay, similar to executive orders Lee has already issued mandating that power and water can't be shut off for non-payment during the crisis.

"You write executive orders to protect people from price gouging, but there’s no rule book for this, we’re operating outside the rule book," Mabry said.

While the corporate office of Storage Rentals of America did not immediately respond before the original publication of this story, the company issued this statement Thursday morning following NewsChannel 5's original reporting:

"Here are the facts associated with Mr. Mabry’s long history with our Old Hickory location, where he has been a tenant since April, 2018. Our company assumed management of the property in December, 2019 and his rent relief requests to us began immediately, as he was already 39 days past due. We made initial accommodations to his late rent payments (late fees waived) and we suspended the auction process all prior to the Covid-19 crisis. It’s important to note that his is a “month to month” lease agreement where he can move out anytime. He has decided to continue to rent the space."

"We are a business accountable to our investors, and in our case that means a high percentage of teachers, first responders, nurses, fire, police and even commercial and food workers -- the hardest working Americans in this crisis. As we told Mr. Mabry several times, we cannot give him free rent no matter how many times over the past two years that he has requested relief from the property manager. Our company is a proud member of the Nashville business community where we are an essential business, and provide jobs and opportunity.”

In a follow up email, the company responded:

"SROA’s VP of Operations has told Mr. Mabry numerous times that he may come and remove his belongings – all of them – if he cannot afford the rent. His overdue rent due plus all late fees will be waived. This suggestion to Mr. Mabry pre-dates your story and every time he communicates with the company, he is told the same thing. If he vacates the unit, the company can re-rent it."

"But it appears that Mr. Mabry wants to remove just one or two items from his unit which is currently in line for auction of the contents. That would mean that SROA would need to re-commence the auction process, preventing re-rental of the unit for another 3 months or so – whatever the waiting period is in Tennessee. Mr. Mabry is well aware of the legal procedures involved in non-payment of rent on storage units, as he has units in a number of other storage places around Nashville as well, he advised SROA. So we assume he has signed a number of storage unit contracts in addition to the one we’re discussing."

After NewsChannel 5 once again reached out to Mabry in response, Mabry said Thursday was the first time SROA's VP of Operations has reached out to him, offering the deal they outlined in the above statement.