The boating season is longer in Maryland than it is in states farther north, but even in Maryland most recreational boaters eventually take their boat out of the water for the winter. For these boaters, storage units provide an affordable and convenient way to store boats during winter. Thanks to a new law, however, boaters who fail to pay their monthly storage unit fees could lose their boats. If you're keeping a boat at a storage unit in Maryland, sign up for automatic payments so that you don't forget to pay your monthly storage bill and lose your watercraft.

The Law That Lets Storage Facilities Auction Boats

Last April, House Bill 786 unanimously passed both the state house and state senate in Maryland. This bill, which went into effect on October 1, 2015, revises Maryland's laws governing self-storage facilities, particularly past-due self storage units. This new bill builds on an October 2013 law.

Together, these two laws let storage operators auction off the contents in a storage unit if the lessee is more than 60 days behind on payments. While most states let storage facilities auction off the contents of past-due units, House Bill 768 changed Maryland's laws in two important ways.

First, the 2015 law updated Maryland's regulations for the Internet Age. Storage facilities in Maryland can now auction the contents of past-due units online. Previously, they were only permitted to host in-person auctions. Now that they can hold online auctions, facility operators stand to earn much more from auctions, especially auctions for significant assets like boats, because they can attract more potential bidders. They don't have to market their auctions only to locals but can attract bids from throughout the state, region and, if the asset's worth enough, country.

Second, the new law also gave storage facilities in Maryland permission to auction off vehicles—including boats. Previously, cars and boats were more protected than assets of lesser value, but now they can be auctioned off just like any other personal property in a unit.

You May Overlook a Notification

Before hosting an auction, storage facilities are required to try and notify the holder of the past-due unit and to post public notifications of the auction.

The new law also altered how these notifications must be made. Prior to October 1, 2015, storage facilities in Maryland had to send written notification to the lessee and publish public notifications of the upcoming auction in print, which they usually did in a local newspaper. Now, however, facilities can simply email the holder of the past-due unit, and they can post public notices online instead of in print.

Because storage facilities are able to send and publish electronic notices, it is easier for individuals leasing storage units to miss a notification. An email can be mistakenly deleted more easily than a piece of mail can be mistakenly thrown out (although both can happen). Also, individuals usually don't peruse sites listing storage facility auctions, although they might notice a posting in the local newspaper.

Set Up Automatic Payments

When putting your boat in a storage facility for the winter, it can be easy to forget a payment. After all, you haven't had a storage unit bill for the entire summer and fall while your boat was in the water.

Should you miss two payments, your storage facility could legally auction off your boat. Even though they have to make a good faith attempt to contact you, you could miss their notifications, and they could sell your boat.

Thankfully, preventing such a scenario is easy. All you need to do is set up automatic payments. With automatic payments in place, you won't have to worry about missing a couple months' bills and losing your boat. Each month, the payment will be made—even if you're not thinking about your boat. Come spring, when it's time to get your watercraft out again, it will be right in the storage facility where you left it. Look for storage facilities in your area to get started.