Storage Unit Belongings to be Sold at Auction

December 8, 2010 17:46 by Consumer Ed

Dear Consumer Ed:

I was unable to make my last three payments on my storage unit. I found out that there is a notice in the paper to auction off my belongings. How can I stop this?

Consumer Ed says:

If the rent has not been paid, the owner may be allowed to sell the contents of your storage unit. However, before your belongings can be sold, he must take certain steps.  First, he can only sell your property to recoup back rent if you are more than thirty days behind on your payments.  Next, you must be notified, in writing, of his intent to sell your belongings.  The owner must deliver this notice to you in person, or send it by certified or overnight mail.

The notice must allow you more time to make the payment in full; at a minimum, the owner has to give you an additional fourteen days to pay.  It must also tell you that if payment is not received, your belongings will be advertised for public sale.

After the fourteen days has expired, the owner must then advertise the sale in a local newspaper, once a week, for two straight weeks. If you pay the back-rent in full before the date of sale advertised in the newspaper, the owner does not have the right to sell your belongings, and you may collect them.

If the owner has not complied with all of these steps, he may not legally sell your belongings.  Note also that these steps must be described, in detail, in your storage unit rental agreement, so you should read this agreement.

If you think the owner is in the wrong, you should contact an attorney immediately to remedy the situation.

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Free trial offer no longer free

December 2, 2010 00:20 by Consumer Ed

Dear Consumer Ed:

Last month I signed up for a 30-day free trial for a credit monitoring system. I just got my latest credit card statement and see that the company just charged me a $29.99 fee. When I spoke to them they told me that since I never called to cancel after the free trial, they had automatically renewed my service. I don’t think I should have to pay this bill. What can I do?

Consumer Ed says:

This practice – automatically renewing an agreement unless the customer specifically notifies the company in advance not to renew – is called “negative option billing.” It is a tactic that is being used by more and more businesses, often to the detriment of consumers. Although it is a “legal” practice, there are rules that businesses that engage in this type of billing are required to follow:

  1. Any promotional materials, such as advertisements, sent to you before you contracted with the business must clearly describe billing details, and whether you are automatically re-enrolled after the initial trial period. These materials must also describe how you are to contact the business to cancel your account before the next billing cycle.
  2. After your agreement is in effect, the business must mail you, before any automatic billing, a form notifying you that the agreement will be renewed unless you specifically cancel. The business must also tell you what method you need to use to cancel – i.e. by email, in writing, etc.

You are not bound by the automatic renewal if the business has not complied with these requirements. Therefore, you should go back and read your agreement closely, as well as any promotional materials you received before you entered into the agreement.If you were not appropriately notified of the negative option billing, you should not have to pay the money. You may want to consult with a private attorney to discuss the specifics of your situation.  

Also, note that you do not have to pay for a credit monitoring service in order to review the information contained in your credit file. Under federal law, you are entitled to a free credit report every year, and under Georgia law you are entitled to two free reports. You may want to consider this option instead of paying a company for a similar service. To receive your free reports go to annualcreditreport.com or call 877-322-8228.

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Car Dealer Charging Usage Fees

November 19, 2010 17:36 by Consumer Ed

Dear Consumer Ed:

I purchased a new car and arranged for financing through the dealership. They said I could drive the car home that same day. Now, two weeks later, they say my financing was denied and I need to bring the car back AND pay a fee for the mileage I put on the car. Can they do that?

Consumer Ed says:

Possibly, yes.  You entered into a conditional sales agreement know as a "spot delivery" transaction-which is legal in Georgia.  Although you took possession of the car, you did not buy it.  You instead promised to buy the car if a lender would finance the deal according to terms you negotiated with the dealership.  The car therefore belongs to the dealership until a lender finances the deal.  Since the dealership was not able to find a lender to finance your deal, you must return the dealership's car and pay for using it.  The amount you must pay depends on the terms described in the paperwork you signed when you took delivery of the car. You probably signed a "Bailment Agreement," which allows you to use the car but requires you to pay usage fees if the deal falls through. Some contracts allow the dealership to deduct the usage fee from your deposit and/or the value of your trade-in vehicle.
 
"Spot delivery" transactions may be helpful in some cases; however, the practice can be abused if a dealership waits weeks or even months before notifying a customer that the deal could not be financed. The delay costs the customer usage fees, (which eats away at any down payment), and forces the customer to either give up the car or agree to additional fees or excessive financing terms.  Backing the customer into this corner is unnecessary.  Dealers have access to a customer's credit information before the customer leaves with the car. As a result, the dealership should know if the customer will qualify for a loan, or at least know the status of the customer's loan application, within a few days of the spot delivery.
 
No customer should be strong-armed into accepting a bad deal.  The best way to protect yourself is to refuse to accept a vehicle on spot delivery.  You may also want to arrange for financing through your bank or a third-party lender before you go to the dealership.  You should be able to leave the vehicle on the lot and then pick it up once financing is approved.
 
If you decide to accept a spot delivery, then be sure that you understand the terms to which you are agreeing - if you sign a bailment agreement, then read it.  Ask what is meant by "excessive mileage" and "excessive use" and ensure that these descriptions are clearly written in the bailment agreement.  You should be sure that the bailment agreement describes the method you must use to request a refund of your down payment.  Don't forget that the vehicle isn't yours until financing is approved, so don't treat it like you own it.  Understand that you may be responsible for excessive mileage and plan accordingly.  Finally, remember that if the dealership is unable to secure financing for you under the terms of the original agreement, then you can return the vehicle and request that the dealer return your down payment and trade-in.

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