Guest Blog: A Look At Ohio's New Storage Lien Laws

On December 20, Ohio’s governor John Kasich signed an amended bill into law allowing self-storage operators to advertise lien sales in other commercial outlets. Operators are no longer limited to using local newspapers as advertising channels for self-storage auctions, which saves them considerable amounts of time and money. For Ohio in particular, auction notices formerly had to be published once a week for two consecutive weeks in a newspaper of “general circulation in the county where the facility was located.” With the passing of this amended bill, operators can advertise auctions in a “commercially reasonable manner,” meaning that they can use the Internet, in addition to other more effective forms advertisement.

Ohio Statehouse

While this is great news for the storage industry, which no longer has to abide by such antiquated laws and can post auction notices much faster and to a wider audience, it is no surprise that the Ohio Newspaper Association has loudly opposed the change. According to Executive Director Dennis Hetzel, “the biggest issue was the terrible public-notice language in House Bill 247...We believe we have compromise language acceptable to all sides. We hope to get this fixed early in 2013.”

Whether or not the ONA manages to follow through on this issue remains to be seen--one thing is clear for now, however: the amendment of Bill 247 ushers in a new and changing era of self-storage and self-storage auctions. Advertising auctions online allows for higher visibility in an age of diminishing print circulation. Operators could enjoy increased crowds and an overall better and more streamlined auction process. Rather than pay for ads, they can better spread their message at little to no cost.

The main contention of the ONA and other newspapers, such as The Plain Dealer, in Ohio is that the language of the bill allows for hazy and vague definitions of the phrase “commercially reasonable.” The consequences of this, however, aren’t specifically addressed or outlined--effectively, newspapers seem to be warning against some obscure omen that no one can really pinpoint. In a piece by The Plain Dealer’s editorial board, the newspaper argues:

Yes, newspapers profit by selling ads. But this, too, is indisputable: The public also profits--indeed, marketplaces are more efficient--when news of potential bargains is widely spread. A "commercially reasonable" notice option of such loose and vague definition is no substitute for the reach of printed public notices.

Yet one has to wonder whether or not newspapers have the public’s best interests at heart. If they were truly concerned with advertisements being “tangible, visible, indisputable,” then it is also indisputable that the Internet is the most tangible and visible medium currently. The number of people who get their news online, engage in social media, and use iPhones alone, for example, is enough to drive that point home.

This is obviously an issue that falls under the larger umbrella of print vs. web media, and self-storage is just one of the many industries that affects and is affected by the increasing role that the Internet plays in our lives. For now, Ohio residents and self-storage operators can enjoy the new convenience that the Bill 427 offers--and as other states begin to reconsider the existing legislation that affects them, self-storage will continue to adapt and strengthen.

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