Tamara Wilhite is a technical writer, industrial engineer, mother of two, and published sci-fi and horror author.
What are Georgia's laws regarding self-storage units, especially cars stored in self-storage? Can your car in a Georgia self-storage unit get sold if you are late on the bill? If you find a car in a storage unit auction in Georgia, can you sell it?
Self-Storage Auction Sales of Cars in Georgia
In 2000, Georgia’s law on self-service storage facilities was amended to include cars, trucks, trailers, boats, and other watercraft. However, Georgia’s law does not immediately pass the title of this property to the self-storage facility or anyone who buys it at auction. And Georgia’s motor vehicle laws do not give the title to the self-storage company even if there is no other lien against the car.
If there is a lien against the vehicle, such as a car note held by a bank, it takes precedence over Atlanta's self-storage facility lien. Section 10-4-213 of the Georgia Self-Service Storage Facility Act or SSFA includes a section where property can be listed that specifically notes what property already has a lien against it. Storage facility owners should encourage occupants to list their cars in this section to avoid problems selling the property per the storage facility lien at a later date. Vehicle owners should also note on the self-storage contract if there is a tax lien against the car for unpaid property taxes, a mechanic's lien, or a lien due to unpaid parking tickets.
Theoretically, the Abandoned Motors Vehicle Act could be used to transfer the title to the Atlanta self-storage company, but this cannot be done quickly. Self-storage companies are unlikely to transfer a title under the guise of an abandoned vehicle if the storage unit’s rent is only a few weeks behind. Georgia’s Official Code Title 44 can be invoked by self-storage companies.
When a vehicle is found in the storage unit, self-storage companies with towing signs on the property could simply have a licensed towing company take the vehicle. This eliminates the legal risks of auctioning off a car with a clouded title and potential lawsuits from the company holding the car note. If an Atlanta self-storage facility owner sells the car and the court finds that it did not have the right to do so, it could be sued. Passing this risk to the towing company can be a smart business move. However, the tower must be licensed in the state of Georgia to do this.
After a Car is Sold at a Self-Storage Auction
If the car is sold at auction, it will probably generate a large portion of the money raised at the auction. This money should be applied to the known lien holders first and foremost such as the state of Georgia for unpaid property taxes or the bank holding the note against it.
If there are no other lien holders, the balance from the car’s sale can be used toward the lien held by the self-storage facility. The remaining balance belongs to the former tenant. The self-storage facility must send a letter to the tenant’s last known address informing him or her of the property’s sale. The Atlanta self-storage facility must hold onto the remaining funds for two years.
After this point, it turns over the funds to the state of Georgia’s Department of Revenue, where it is listed on the Georgia state unclaimed property website. The state of Georgia returns the money to the individual at no cost after the person claims the funds on the Georgia Unclaimed Property website and proves his or her identity.
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.