Sunday, August 17, 2014

Proposed Massachussetts Bill Gives Police Access to Customer Records

If you are like the millions of Americans who are concerned about “Big Brother” watching your every move, then you’re not going to feel too comfortable about this next bit of news. In Massachesetts, Senate Bill 158 is being proposed which would require self storage operators in the state to keep an record of tenant information, which would be accessible by the police and other authorities at any point in time.

The bill was introduced by Senator James E. Timilty and was referred to the committee on Consumer Protection and Professional Licensure on January 22, 2014. This committee is responsible for considering all matters that deal with consumer credit, consumer protection, and various trade registrations and other matters. The House concurred on the matter and a hearing was held on January 28, 2014, which is still pending the results.

If this bill is passed, then self storage owners and operators in Massachusetts would be required to maintain names and addresses of every tenant along with information such as unit number and the duration of the rental. Police and other authorities would not need a search warrant to access the information. If self storage operators refuse to comply, then it could cost them up to $500 and 90 days in jail.

What does this mean for the self storage industry? Self storage operators would need to start paying more attention to customer records in order to avoid the repercussions. While a $500 fine might not seem excessive, the 90-day jail sentence is sufficient to cause anyone to panic. This also means that there will be less anonymity in self storage rentals. As things stand currently, there have been instances where police have discovered anything from bodies to drugs in self storage units. In some circumstances, the owners of the units have not been tracked down. This new bill would help to eliminate the occurrence of this and hopefully bring those who abuse self storage units to justice.

Persons in the self storage industry in Massachusetts are not taking this proposed bill lightly. Members of the Massachusetts Self Storage Association (MASSA) and the national Self Storage Association (SSA) testified this week in a hearing in Boston to voice their views. There is no doubt that the additional burden this new requirement would put on self storage operators is cause for concern. The maintenance of these records could possibly require additional manpower. There is also a privacy concern for renters as well. There is a reasonable expectation of privacy whenever consumers conduct any form of business. Giving the authorities access to information about whenever you rent a self storage unit would make any one a little uneasy.

No matter what the eventual outcome of Senate Bill 183, we can expect to see a heightened discussion in privacy debates from those in the self storage industry and consumers in general.


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