Illinois Legislators Must Create Legal Balance Between Owners and Tenants of Storage Units |

During and since my time as an active duty officer in the military, I have devoted much time and energy to protecting the military from financial predators. Last year I focused on passing the Predatory Lending Prevention Act (PLPA) and nationwide repeal of a comptroller of the currency rule that protected payday lenders using evasive schemes. to circumvent state-imposed attrition rate caps. Although these efforts have been successful, much remains to be done.

Recently, I learned of a bill from the Illinois Legislature, HB 4627, that would allow owners of self-storage facilities to completely avoid the required public notice of sale to auction of tenants’ items when their property has been confiscated. These auctions often take place without the knowledge of the tenant, who may be abroad to defend our country or help fellow citizens who are victims of natural disasters. Illinois law requires landlords to notify tenants of an auction only by sending notice to the tenant’s “last known address”.

A closer look at Illinois’ Self Storage Facility Act reveals a surprisingly lopsided law in favor of locker owners at the expense of tenants. It is a law that needs to be reformed.

Whether the tenant is an active military member, our neighbors in the Military Reserve or National Guard called up for duty, the victim of an eviction, or the victim of a house fire, every effort should be made to locate the tenant before selling this which could be their worldly possessions. Public notice in newspapers and their subsidiary websites helps.

California law requires landlords to allow renters to submit the name and address of a second person to whom all notices must be sent. Additionally, California law also allows tenants to formally object to an auction, after which the landlord must obtain a court’s blessing before proceeding. Illinois law should do the same.

Locker rent increases and late fees should be looked at. How many rent increases does a tenant have to take after their belongings are in storage? Active duty military or reservists and guardsmen called into service may find themselves unable to make competitive purchases or even receive notice once deployed. The current law must be considered from the point of view of transients and vulnerable people, and not only from the point of view of landlords.

I know only too well the real-life cases in which deployed service members have literally lost everything when storage facility owners sell their assets. I am sure that, given these difficult times, many other Illinois have suffered or will suffer in the same way.

There are several other changes in Illinois law that could help protect tenants of storage lockers. Many of these changes have been proposed by my colleagues, including the Woodstock Institute, Chicago Urban League, Housing Action Illinois, and Legal Action Chicago. These amendments include several provisions that would benefit tenants and help balance the rights of tenants and landlords. I urge lawmakers not only to reject HB 4627, but to reform Illinois’ Self Storage Facility Act as soon as possible.

Retired Army Col. Paul Kantwill is founding executive director of the Rule of Law Institute at Loyola University Chicago School of Law. He previously ran the Service Member Affairs Office at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. He had a 25-year career as an active duty officer in the US Army and served in Afghanistan and the Persian Gulf.

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