When renters at storage units like these turn into deadbeats, operators must send a certified letter before selling the unit's contents. If there is no response, they're then required to list the renter's name in the local newspaper once a week for two weeks, but legislation moving at the state capitol would remove the newspaper requirement and say only the sale must be announced on a website. That’s drawing powerful opposition from newspapers and others.
"59% of those 65 and older don't use the internet. 28% of Hispanics and 27% of African-Americans," said Jeff Kottkamp.
Three months ago, there were 36 units in a complex of almost 900 units that were in default after registered letters and newspaper ad just six of them were auctioned on Saturday.
Keith Norrie, a Panama City Storage broker, makes his living buying and reselling the left behind contents. He got a unit for 575 dollars.
"What I bought for two units and I need about a thousand bucks. So I gotta see three grand back; if not I've lost," said Norrie.
But Norrie, who was once in the storage business, worries more people will lose their stuff if it's not advertised in the paper. He says it’s usually not the renter who reads the alert. "Somebody might see them in the paper. Their name in the paper and they might call them and say listen your name is in the paper you need to check this place out because they're going to sell your stuff," said Norrie.
Under the law, if a unit brings in more money than the renter owes, that renter has two years to claim the leftover cash.
The legislation will be heard in a Senate Committee on Tuesday.