Legal Issues – Q and A

storage unit legal issues
Q: Do we need to check for liens or are they legally owned now by the winner of the auction?

A: Always good to know what you are buying at a distressed “as is” sale. However, it usually does not matter with vehicle and boats over 10 years old. You can do U.C.C. lien filings online in the name of the tenant if you are concerned.

[ig_divider style=”dotted”]

Q: Do the Auction rules supersede the rules of the state that the auction is being held?

A: The auction rules will supersede most state rules. State laws governing auction sales are default rules and govern when there are not auction rules (a contract) that governs the issue. For example, if the facility rules state that the sale is final when the amount bid is paid to the owner and the property is removed from the space, that rule applies.

Read More: Uplifting: Father’s Portrait Returned to Son by Auction Winner

[ig_divider style=”dotted”]

Q: If you don’t clean the room out within the time frame but instead, rent the room from the facility, can the contents still be purchased back by the original owner?

A: NO. Once the unit is paid for and possession is taken by the high bidder (especially if the unit is leased by the high bidder), the sale is completed.

[ig_divider style=”dotted”]

Q: Normally on a sale of a unit, the amount of the normal rent would be recuperated and the additional amount would go either to the tenant or to the state. What if a unit is sold but the buyer doesn’t show up in 48 hours or whatever time allotment is given. Can the operator keep the deposit and other fees and still collect the normal rent amount from the secondary bidder, or is the amount kept by the operator limited to the amount of normal rent and everything else goes to the original tenant or the state?

A: BY Bid rules, you are entitled to keep the first deposit. You are also entitled to collect the second deposit and the purchase price for the goods. If ALL monies collected exceed ALL the expenses of sale plus rent owed, the tenant is entitled to recoup the proceeds. If the tenant doesn’t recoup the proceeds some states require that the funds be paid to the state, other laws allow the operator to keep the proceeds after a period of time.

[ig_divider style=”dotted”]

Q: I bought a unit at a self-storage auction and was sued by the prior owner. I was disappointed that the Storage association did not offer help. I spent thousands in legal fees!

A: The SSA does not get involved in direct actions like you have described. But the law typically provides a direct defense when tenants make claims against the buyers of their property after foreclosure. I hope you won!

[ig_divider style=”dotted”]

Q: What if unit contains a large amount of hazardous materials that a dangerous to handle does seller assume any liability in their description of contents?

A: This is a distressed sale and you purchase the contents at your sole risk. Buyers need to be aware of this. You take the risk that the property you purchase has no value or could cost you money to dispose of legally. If you determine the space contains toxic material you could just walk away from the sale. However, you may become involved in litigation over who is responsible for legally disposing of the property. If you suspect the space has a trace of toxic materials, do not bid on it.

[ig_divider style=”dotted”]

Q: What about things like stock or bond certificates, etc.?

A: If you discover these items in an abandoned space, many time you are able to convert the abandoned certificates into your name. But it depends.

Selling The Missing Piece


If you’ve ever “completed” a 5,000-piece puzzle only to discover it’s missing pieces, your sense of accomplishment might be dimmed. Because of this, it’s bad form to resell games or puzzles that are missing pieces, unless you clearly state what’s missing. Some venues don’t even allow that. After all, these products are supposed to be fun diversions, not exercises in futility.

So, can you make money off incomplete board games, Lego sets, and puzzles? Here’s the scoop:

Read More: Meet Vivian Maier, A Storage Treasure

Game Pieces

There’s been a lot of buzz about game pieces lately. Hasbro’s Monopoly, for instance, retired the boot, wheelbarrow, and thimble. If you’re superstitious and swear that you can only win if you play the thimble, you can buy a replacement game piece online. It follows that you can sell game pieces individually as a complete set or in a bundle. The same is true of dice, cards, and other parts or accessories.


Legos get everywhere. Show me a kid who keeps his or her Legos perfectly organized at all times, and I’ll send a team of researchers to study the phenomenon. But Legos aren’t just for kids; in fact, the more complex builds are designed for teens and adults. Understandably, if you’ve spent hours putting together an expensive set only to find you’re missing a piece, you’re going to look for that piece everywhere.

Once you’ve overturned the couch cushions, moved the furniture, and emptied the vacuum cleaner, you might look online. If you do, you’ll find there’s a whole community dedicated to Legos, where you can buy the parts you need.


Selling individual replacement puzzle pieces isn’t a realistic option for a number of reasons. Identifying each piece is time-consuming for starters, and even if you and the potential buyer both identify it correctly, there’s no guarantee it will fit due to the way puzzles are made. However, you can get crafty. A quick search on Pinterest might inspire you to start a puzzle piece side business.

Instruction Booklets

Don’t forget there’s also demand for instruction booklets. This applies not only to games and Lego sets, but also to embroidery kits, model-building kits, and basically anything where someone would be lost without the instructions. Manufacturers will sometimes replace booklets for free, or make them available as downloads, but not all instructions can be tracked down this way.

If you want to resell games, it’s a good idea to check that all the pieces are included. In the case of puzzles and complex building kits, if you don’t want to check by putting them together, it might be enough to list the item with a “buyer beware – used items may not have all the pieces.”

Hunting for puzzles and Legos? Check out our Toys, Baby & Games auctions!

Terrible is the New Valuable: VHS Edition


Let’s take a walk down memory lane to the time of brick-and-mortar video rental stores. There were two kinds of stores back in the day: the big chains and the local curiosities. The chains would fill most of their shelves with revenue-generating titles, which meant mostly new releases and popular films. As the industry digitized and brick and mortar stores tried to maximize profits before closing, fewer kitschy titles were stocked on the shelves.

Read More: How to Tell if Autographs are Authentic

VHS Tapes Value with Collectors

This is too bad because half the fun of browsing a local video store was stumbling across bizarre, questionable, and/or truly ridiculous titles. In fact, the video store has not gone extinct even in 2017, and those still in business capitalize on having a diverse range of titles — many of which aren’t available for streaming.

Okay, sure, they might not be available for streaming in part because they’re terrible flops. But Mystery Science Theater 3000 remains popular because it features films that weren’t exactly blockbusters. The Rocky Horror Picture Show and other cult classics are beloved for being more than a little off (off the mark, off-color, off in left field – you know, just off). And we all have that friend who cajoles us into watching a movie because “it’s terrible, but it’s AWESOME!”

Point being? If you find some truly weird video or even DVD titles in a storage unit, don’t assume nobody will buy them. Films that never made it to DVD can fetch three figures – yes, without a decimal point! Look for wild cover art, hackneyed genre flicks, exploitation films, foreign films (including anime), banned titles, complete TV series, and wrestling. The black diamond Disney collection claims are false, but you might strike gold with Bash at the Beach 2000.

Those VHS tapes you found in our Movies, Music & Books auctions may actually be worth something.

Warp Speed, Mr. Sulu! Star Trek Props in Storage

star trek

If you’ve ever wanted to boldly go where no one has gone before, you might want to take a second look at furniture finds. Star Trek: The Original Series possesses a campy charm when we watch it over 50 years later. These were the olden days of TV production when custom props were no more than slightly altered everyday objects. Because of this, the future doesn’t always look particularly futuristic; a fact that Dax nods to during the classic DS9 episode “Trials and Tribble-ations.

Read More: Getting Started Reselling Toys from Storage Units

Take Kirk’s chair, for example. It’s a receptionist chair manufactured by Madison Furniture Industries. The original captain’s chair used on the Star Trek set sold for over $300K at auction in 2002, but if you’re handy, you can make your own using the ubiquitous office chair as a base.

The Enterprise briefing room was furnished less elaborately than the bridge. It’s easy to give any place a 23rd-century feel with Burke chairs, models 115 and 116. Dress up the chairs with a few triangles, and you’re ready to explore the galaxy.

Even if you’re not a Trekkie, you can take advantage of this Hollywood intel to market old office furniture to those who might want to reconstruct old set pieces for themselves. Finding these chairs in a storage unit won’t be quite a profitable as finding original props, but you might be able to put some gold-pressed latinum in your pocket nevertheless.

As a lasting pop culture staple, Star Trek memorabilia still sell strong. How can you tell if something is an original prop or a replica? You could look for manufacturer labels. Or, you could look for Tootsie Pop residue courtesy of Mr. Spock. According to props master John Dywer, Leonard Nimoy found it perfectly logical to stash lollipops in the tricorders used on set.

Live long and prosper on your next auction journey.