How Does the Self Storage Lien Law and Auction Process Work in Pennsylvania & Maryland?

There are a lot of questions and maybe some confusion that surround the self storage lien law and the auction process. We are here to help you understand the complete process. The last thing we want to have happen is to auction off your storage unit. Follow these simple guidelines and you can prevent an auction from happening to you.

Here’s what to do if you receive a self storage lien notice.

Pennsylvania & Maryland Self Storage Lien Law

First of all, at Moove In we never want to auction off a unit, for any reason. A storage facility will only auction the contents of a unit if the owner fails to pay their rent for an extended period of time. We never profit from any auction. All proceeds go first to pay back rent and fees, then the balance goes to the tenant.

In the states of Pennsylvania and Maryland, the lien law allows self storage operators to place a lien on the stored contents of a unit once the rent has become a full 30 days past due. Operators and property managers will make multiple attempts to contact a tenant who remains in past due status, prior to a lien being placed on the storage unit. At least four phone calls and emails are initiated from the contact information on file.

If the property manager cannot reach the tenant through these attempts, they may contact the alternate person listed on the account as a next step. Moove In will send several paper notices – at five, fifteen, and thirty days past due. We make many attempts to bring the account current and prevent a lien on the unit. If the tenant provided an email address to the manager, these notices will be forwarded in an email as well.

How Liens Happen

In Pennsylvania, when an account becomes a full 5 days past due the unit is over-locked, and at 30 days past due a self storage lien is placed on the stored contents. In Maryland, the unit is over-locked at a full 15 days past due, and a lien is placed on the contents at 30 days past due. Operators are required to send a notice of this lien to the tenant via USPS certified mail and regular mail at the last known address on file once the account is 30 days past due. The lien notice informs the tenant of the past due status. It also provides the total amount due to bring the account current and lists the scheduled auction date.

Late fees and the subsequent auction of storage contents are not contingent upon the tenant receiving the notices that have been sent. Tenants are responsible for keeping their accounts current as contact information changes. We send these notices to the last known address on file. That means it is important to notify us when something has changed! Contact us for changes to your phone, address, and email to ensure we can reach you.


Storage facilities are required by the self storage lien law to advertise the sale of each individual unit publicly. This advertisement will appear at least 10 days prior to the scheduled sale. We run these ads in a publication for any auctions we have scheduled each month.

Tenants are able, and encouraged, to make their payments at any time up until the moment the auction begins. If full payment of past due rent and fees is made prior to the auction, the sale is canceled. All ownership of the contents is restored immediately to the tenant and the over-lock is removed.

How Self Storage Auctions Work

Storage auctions are held once per month at all Moove In Self Storage facilities as a standard part of the self storage lien process. All storage auctions are open to the public. However, employees of Moove In Self Storage and their immediate families are not permitted to participate in the auctions. The auctioneer will open the unit so attendees can examine the contents. Attendees are never permitted to enter the unit or touch any items inside the unit.

The auctioneer will begin the sale with a minimum bid. Attendees are bidding on all the contents inside the unit, not individual items. Just like any other auction, the sale is closed by the auctioneer to the highest bidder. Payment is taken, in cash only, and applied to the auctioned account. If the auction brings in an amount greater than the balance due, the overage will be sent to the tenant. If we cannot locate the tenant to refund the proceeds, they’re sent to the unclaimed property division of the Pennsylvania or Maryland state government. Moove In Self Storage only retains the original debt of the tenant.

Recap: Self Storage Liens & Auctions

Keep in mind that storage facilities never want to auction the contents of a unit. Storage operators and property managers are not enemies in these unfortunate situations. You can avoid an auction for your self storage unit. Abide by the terms of your rental agreement and make your payments when they are due. If you end up in a situation where an auction is imminent, can contact your property manager to discuss your account and arrange for payment to avoid an auction sale.

For more information on the Pennsylvania lien law please visit, information on the Maryland lien law please visit or contact us at any time.

2 thoughts on “How Does the Self Storage Lien Law and Auction Process Work in Pennsylvania & Maryland?”

  1. Will the Self Storage facility notify the tenant about the proceeds from the auctioned items?

    Which ministry in Maryland oversee the activities of the self service storage operators?

    Thank you.

  2. Thank you for asking. When a storage unit is in lien and is put up for auction, the contents of the unit become the property of the storage facility.

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