NEW - 2023 Towing Legislation Passed
SSA and VA-SSA backed SB976 and HB1930 were both signed into law on March 22, 2023 by Governor Glenn Youngkin and will take effect July 1, 2023. The bills provide owners with an optional remedy to tow watercraft in lieu of conducting a public sale of the property, if the occupant has been in default for more than 60 days. Before the watercraft is towed, the owner must send notice by verified mail or electronic mail to the occupant's last known address at least 10 days prior to the tow date, and the notice must include the name, address, and telephone number of the tow company. Owners have a choice regarding how the notice is sent. The required elements may be included in the existing default notice that owners currently send. Alternatively, owners may send the notice independent from the existing default notice. Regardless of what method the owner chooses, it must include the elements list above and must be sent at least 10 days before the tow date.
The amendments also confirm that the owner is immune from civil liability for any damage to the watercraft that occurs after the tow company takes possession. Owners retain the right to sell watercraft, if they wish to do so. The VA-SSA is working with the Department of Wildlife Resources to update the form owners use for that process.
Separately, the VA-SSA has heard from members about some challenges associated with the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) process to tow motor vehicles. To help clarify the process, the DMV provided responses to a list of Frequently Asked Questions and also provided DMV user guides. Click here to view the guides and other information on this new legislation.
Virginia Eliminates Advertising Requirement
Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin signed SSA-backed Senate Bill 199 into law in May. It took effect on July 1, 2022. The bill eliminated the advertising requirement. Virginia owners are no longer required to advertise upcoming lien sales in a newspaper of general circulation before it is conducted. The law previously stated:
“An advertisement shall be published in a newspaper of general circulation in the locality in which the public auction is to be held, or in the case of an online public auction, in the county, city, or town in which the self-service storage facility is located, at least once prior to the public auction. The advertisement shall state (a) the fact that it is a public auction; (b) the date, time, and location of the public auction; and (c) the form of payment that will be accepted.”
That entire section was removed from the lien law as well as any other reference to advertising. While Virginia storage owners are no longer legally obligated to advertise their sales, we recommend that some form of advertising be done to ensure that the maximum number of bidders attend the sale. Many online auction companies will permit the sale to be advertised on the platform free of charge if the sale is also conducted on the platform. We recommend that the owner advertise the time and terms of the sale on an online platform at least three days before the sale is conducted. This method of advertising should help drive traffic to the sale. This amendment does not require any changes to rental agreements or default notices.
The amendments also include a statutory reference to an optional alternative contact provision as follows:
“The rental agreement may provide the occupant with the option to designate an alternative contact to receive the notices required by this section. Failure or refusal of an occupant to designate an alternative contact shall not affect the rights or remedies afforded to an occupant or owner pursuant to the provisions of this section or any other provision of law. No alternative contact shall have any right to access the leased space or any personal property stored within unless expressly stated otherwise in the rental agreement.” [emphasis added]
All Virginia owners should consider providing the occupant with the option to designate an alternative contact to receive default notices. This provision is a useful collection tool to assist in finding delinquent occupants. However, this will require an amendment to the rental agreement if your agreement does not already provide space for the occupant to disclose an alternative contact.
The updated Virginia Annotated Lien Law is available on the SSA’s website. It explains all of the new amendments in depth as well as the other sections of the law and provides recommendations for implementation.
Congratulations to the VASSA on the recent legislative win, vehicle towing.
Virginia SB 1160 passed both the Virginia Senate and House of Delegates and was recently signed into law by Governor Ralph Northam. The law takes effect on January 1, 2022. Once effective, it will permit Virginia storage operators to tow vehicles off the premises upon the occupant’s default, if the operator follows the requirements of the new law.