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  1. #1
    goldie07 is offline Junior Member
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    Default Need advise on alerting tenants of roof leaking

    I'm new to the forum, and just jumped in because I feel I need a fast and knowledgeable answer to my problem.

    About me: I'm a manager/sometimes assistant manager of a facility with approx. 500 units.

    About the facility: 4 buildings, all first floor is non-CC, all 2nd floor units are CC (climate controlled).

    The problem: We've recently had really bad rain. Three days ago, I noticed that all four buildings had leakage problems, many dripping lots of water into rented CC units (interestingly, one of them was mine). I did a walk-around with our maintenance guy and documented which units I thought were being affected. The leaking was bad. Looking into my own unit, it looked as if someone had poured buckets of water onto my stuff, but it was all coming from a tiny drip in the ceiling. Drips were coming from everywhere. I estimated that over 13 units were being leaked into. Those were only the ones I could see. I would be willing to bet many more leaks were happening in areas I couldn't get a view on.

    After finding all this and alerting my immediate manager, my regional manager and one of the owners, there was basically nothing done. They began to make arrangements with a roofing company to come out and survey the roofs, but only after the rain stopped (it hadn't at this point). I was specifically told not to call tenants to alert them of the problem.

    Now, three days later, one tenant has already found out about the leaks. She has 3 large CC units, one of which was leaked into. My immediate manager told her he would get together with our maintenance guy to move some of her wet belongings into the two unaffected units. He told her this would be done yesterday, it wasn't done, now he says he may not get to it for another 3 days from now. She (the tenant) has been very calm through this whole thing, but is now getting frustrated and talking about calling a lawyer.

    I have been told by my immediate and regional manager the following things:

    "It's self storage, [the tenant] should just come and move the things herself."
    "We can't put a dehumidifier in if you can't find any outlets, the climate control will eventually even out the moisture."
    "Her stuff doesn't even look that wet, and it's too heavy for us to move, I don't even feel comfortable moving her things for her."
    (This is after he's already told the tenant that he'll do it.)

    Keep in mind I've still been told to not call any other tenants who don't know about the leaks. No one knows the leaking ever occurred (except for a commercial tenant who has 18 units, they were called right away because my manager didn't want to "upset them and lose them", and they had me do inspection of almost all their units with one of their employees, two of which had leaks). We seem to be getting no back-up from the owners, who have made no arrangements for damage control. They've only arranged a consult from a roofing company to potentially patch the roof. Nothing is being done about the repercussions from the leaking that's already occurred.

    My biggest question is this: Isn't the facility required to at least provide a sound structure to house the units, especially in climate control? The lease agreement alleviates the facility from almost all fault, to the point that tenants have come to us and said, "Why did I pay you all this money if my things weren't even safe? I could have stored them outside for free." I understand that's a ridiculous argument when you knowingly rent a non-CC unit and then complain about mold growth, but the CC units should at least have some sort of baseline guarantee that they provide protection from weather, right?? If there are holes in the roof, doesn't that fall under the responsibility of the facility? Therefore, we would be responsible for the damage created from that negligence?

    Second question: Even if we're not responsible for the leaks or the damaged created because of them, When something like this occurs, aren't we responsible for telling the tenants about it if we are aware of the problem? I've been told to NOT call anybody, and that doesn't seem right.

    I feel like I'm at a loss. I don't have the authority to boss around the staff and tell them to get their a**es over here and do damage control, I don't have the ability to buy things, including a dehumidify, and even if I bought one I wouldn't know how to get power to it since the buildings don't have outlets in the hallways. I feel like I have a moral obligation to alert people they're things might have been damaged. Time means mold growth, and mold growth means damage to their things. They pay for climate control, they shouldn't have to worry about stuff like this.

    I do not want to be responsible for the damage the water may be causing as we speak, but I also do not want to override my bosses and lose my job.

    Thanks in advance for your feedback.

  2. #2
    Gina6k's Avatar
    Gina6k is offline Moderator
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    Ethically I understand your problem & I admire you. By the way welcome to SST. I fear you are between the proverbial rock and a hard place. All I can suggest is document everything and copy your boss on all of it. At least then you're covered. You might suggest to mgmt that they are better off attacking the problem head on. Otherwise if they continue to disregard the problem, and the customer, it can become a larger problem and it is ultimately their wallet that is impacted.

    May I suggest you ask for a written policy from the owners to pass along to the tenants. This will force them to put their position in writing. Or, you can pass along the owner's phone number and let them deal with the customer directly. Not the answers I know you were hoping for, but it's probably for the best that you step out of the middle. Good luck, do your best to show compassion without admitting guilt or sharing that the mgmt is ignoring the problem. Please keep us apprised and we'll do our best to help.
    Last edited by Gina6k; 3rd April 2010 at 01:58 AM. Reason: small kybd typos
    Gina 6k
    CochraneStorage dot com
    Morgan Hill, California
    twitter.com/CochraneStorage

    You only live once, but if you do it right, once is enough!
    I am not an attorney, just an experienced manager who is willing to share what I have learned. Your thoughts, practices or opinions may vary and neither of us may be right.

  3. #3
    Autodoc's Avatar
    Autodoc is offline Mod eMeritus
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    First of all, welcome.

    I understand your problem, and unfortunately you must follow the instructions you are given.

    As Gina stated get some clear cut instructions on how the owners want you to handle the tenants when they come in complaining.

    The main thing I would advise is NEVER admit any wrong doing or prior knowledge of the situation. This will most certainly cause a lawsuit. Also (and this is hard to do) do not lie to the tenant. Acknowledge that they have an issue and document everything.

    You are in a tough position and you must follow the instructions of your boss no mater how you feel about it.

    good luck on this.
    Wayne
    Jamestown, ND


    All arguments can be resolved ... with high explosives and Humor!!!

  4. #4
    StorGirl is offline Member
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    Default Ignorance is not bliss!

    You have a real problem on your hands. Your company (employees, Owner and property manager) is now aware of a latent construction defect that has, in all probability affected unsuspecting tenants who have assumed that you have provided dry storage. In these cases, the landlord has a duty to mitigate damages by notifying tenants in a timely manner so that they can minimize their damages or determine if damage is occurring at all. By not notifying your tenants of the leaking roofs, your company is breaching your contract with affected tenants and are also acting in bad faith. Courts are loathe to enforce limit of liability or release of liability provisions in rental agreements when landlords so blatently disregard the interests of their tenants. Your company has a real problem here because you, if asked in a deposition about the discovery of the leaking roof problem, would most likely tell the truth.

    You are in a difficult position and as aptly stated by Gina6k, you should document your communications with the owners. Keep copies of emails, letters and document the date and nature of any conversations about the problem. I am not sure, by the way, how you cannot lie to your tenant by acting or stating that you had no prior knowledge of the leaking problem.

    You now have a tenant that has discovered the leaking roof problem and therefore, the need to advise all tenants that may be affected is even more imperative. This is a trial lawyers perfect case, discovery of a problem, owner ignores pleas of conscientious employee, owner allows unsuspecting tenants to sustain untold damage, employee is told by management to not divulge the nature of the problem, employee seeks advice on open, industry forum through anonimity and fears losing her job, owner hopes that everything will work out since the rains have stopped! All of these facts are discoverable when the suits are filed.

    This type of problem is usually covered by the facilities insurance carrier or, if newly constructed, the insurance carrier of the general contractor. The carrier is notified and they typically direct the insured to immediately notify the tenants so that damages can be mitigated (moved to another space) or inspected by the tenant. Outside damage control and clean up contractors are hired to dry the contents and any damaged items are adjusted and paid. There is really no reason to ignore this situation by the owners. I think your owners should seek legal counsel and work out a response plan ASAP!

    Good luck and hang in there!!!!!
    Last edited by StorGirl; 2nd April 2010 at 11:50 PM.

  5. #5
    Gina6k's Avatar
    Gina6k is offline Moderator
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    StorGirl, that was the perfect response. I wish I wasn't limited by time & a tiny keyboard earlier in the day.

    I can't even fathom ownership trying to play ostrich and burying their collective heads in the sand. That will only guarantee lawsuits. They need to hire contract labor (moving companies) to transfer items to known good spaces and hire in those companies that deal with the aftermath of floods, fires etc.

    I don't however see these owners putting their 'bottom line' in writing to the tenants from the foot dragging they've already done, but she must at least request guidance from them IN WRITING to cover herself. Either a set of procedures at the least or a letter directly to the affected tenants would be the best course of action. If they decide to be reactive vs. proactive they will be hurting down the line.

    Let me give you an actual situation. We were brand spanking new and one of the sprinkler system pipes (a big one) dripped lubricant onto a customer's elderly parents upholstered chairs when we had a super long hot spell. They were so gracious about it, but we insisted we would try to have the chairs cleaned. Even though the woman said it was not a problem as she intended to have them re-upholstered.

    We moved their items to a different unit at our cost, about $200 and we had their chairs cleaned $150. The chairs turned out so beautiful after cleaning she didn't have to have them reupholstered AND they are now in their home. They were thrilled!

    We gained some fantastic customer loyalty, some great PR and thirteen years later, and a half dozen different units for their family's needs, they are still our customers. There is a right way & a wrong way to handle things. We did it all for $350 in this case, which is one heck of a lot cheaper than paying attorney costs.

    While this case may cost a few thousand to correct, it's still better to be proactive, accept responsibility and cover the costs than to face a lawsuit(s) from the tenants.

    Maybe our newbie can use some of our collective hints and make headway with her owners to do the responsible thing.

    And to the original poster of this thread, if you are at all concerned about your logon name being a clue to your owners, you can always request a new one.
    Last edited by Gina6k; 3rd April 2010 at 02:19 AM.
    Gina 6k
    CochraneStorage dot com
    Morgan Hill, California
    twitter.com/CochraneStorage

    You only live once, but if you do it right, once is enough!
    I am not an attorney, just an experienced manager who is willing to share what I have learned. Your thoughts, practices or opinions may vary and neither of us may be right.

  6. #6
    Autodoc's Avatar
    Autodoc is offline Mod eMeritus
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    Another thought --- can you imagine the mold that will be growing in there shortly


    They need to jump on this quickly --- unless they enjoy going to court and giving money away!
    Wayne
    Jamestown, ND


    All arguments can be resolved ... with high explosives and Humor!!!

  7. #7
    StorGirl is offline Member
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    Default This problem is easily solved!

    Well said, Gina6k! Studies have proven that when a business is presented with a customer service problem and they respond to the problem quickly and resolve the problem, (and heaven forbid,they exceed the customers expectations), they actually build stronger customer loyalty than if they had never had a problem at all!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    This situation is such a no brainer, call the insurance carrier! The insurance carrier will authorize the facility to hire a contractor such as ServiceMaster, who specializes in fire and flood restoration. ServiceMaster will remove the contents, dry boxes, mattresses, etc., and place the items back into another space.

    Customers expect their self storage space to be dry and free from defects. Thefts, damage from adjoining spaces, fires; we can exculpate ourselves from those events. But customers should experience a dry, leak free storage experience. When we cannot provide that, we should "man up", take responsibility and treat our customers as we would like to be treated!

  8. #8
    lorilynhuey is offline Junior Member
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    Default Deposits

    What is the recommended amount to charge for a deposit?

 

 
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