Aug 012009
 

QUESTION: I have read in several places that you say you do not like the term “Climate Control”. What is wrong with this term, and given that the industry uses it everywhere, what term should we use?

ANSWER: My concern with the term climate control is exactly is what you identify in your question, it is used by so many operators to mean so many different things, that it potentially leads to the public confusion and unintentional misrepresentation of the services you are providing.

First let’s look at the definition. The word Climate is Noun meaning the composite or generally prevailing weather conditions of a region, such as temperature, air pressure, humidity, precipitation, sunshine, cloudiness, and winds throughout the year, averaged over a series of years. Therefore, my first problem with the term climate control is that you are representing that within your facility you are controlling not just the temperature but all climatic conditions such as humidity and precipitation. The term climate control is simply a misnomer. You are controlling the temperature and in some facilities perhaps the humidity, but not the climate.

This bigger problem however, is that the term is used so ubiquitously that it can mean different things between two facilities down the street, let alone two facilities across the state. For example, a customer calls one self-storage facility that advertises climate control and is told that for a certain price they can rent a unit in which the owner keeps the temperature 72 degrees year round by heating and cooling, that there are redundant heating and cooling systems so that the system will not fail due to one compressor or heater failure because of the redundancy, that all of this is hooked up to a backup power generator so that the temperature can be maintained regardless of a blackout, brownout, or anything short of a roof being blown off the building. Further, the operator represents that the humidity is controlled by special humidity control devices to maintain a 50-55% humidity range throughout the year regardless of whether the air is being heated or cooled. This has now become the consumer’s definition of the term climate control. When he/she calls the competing facility down the street that also advertises climate control and finds a lower price, he/she will probably rent at the lower price facility not knowing that the owner’s definition of climate control is that there is air conditioning which the owner turns on in the summer, and cools the building containing unit to no higher than 85 degrees. No heat is provided in the winter and certainly no humidity control is provided. The system is not redundant and is not backed up by a generator. Imagine a tenant’s “disappointment” when he/she finds the goods, that he/she thought were going to be stored at 72 degrees year round, ruined because the unit reached 85 degrees during the summer and froze multiple times during the winter.

As an industry we developed a term for which there is no definition and as a result everyone uses it freely to mean anything and everything at their facilities. This subjects the consumer and the facility to unpleasant surprises. I have not even mentioned the issue out in the West where air is swamped cooled rather than air conditioned, which means that indoor ambient air temperature can be reduced 5-10 degrees lower than the outside temperature, while it will feel cooler than the outside air, the air is not really cooled to a temperature range just cooled lower than the outside air temperature.

Additionally, Nevada passed a statute which provides that in any advertising if you use the term climate control you must disclose in the advertisement what you mean by that term. Your failure to do so is a misdemeanor (yes a crime) under Nevada law (NRS 597.890). I have every reason to believe that statutes like this will probably spread across the country as consumers complain that they did not get what the bargained for when they rented a “climate controlled” space.

What can you do about this issue now:

1. Call the service you provide by a true name. If you are air conditioning and heating, call it temperature controlled storage. If you are swamp cooling, then call it air cooled storage, if you are only heating, call it heated storage. If you are controlling humidity definitely tout that fact, but if you are not controlling humidity be careful that people do not assume that you will be controlling humidity.

2. Have a clause in your Rental Agreement which defines what you mean by whatever term you selected: air cooled, air conditioned, temperature controlled, etc. The lease clause should specifically set forth what service you are providing by defining the term, as an example, what you mean by air cooled: the range of temperatures you are going to hit or maintain; whether or not your controlling humidity; and whether or not the temperature is subject to variation in the event of utility brownout and blackouts, equipment failure, and breakdowns.

My concerns and why I have written cautions about using the term climate control in the past and will continue to do so is that, the industry is using a term that is not defined and it is used too loosely by too many people to mean too many different things for it to make sense anymore. Help your tenants avoid unpleasant surprises, use a term that correctly discloses what you are providing.

You can send your questions, comments, or suggestions for future topics to Jeffrey Greenberger at info@test.selfstoragelegal.com or mail them to Jeffrey Greenberger c/o Katz, Greenberger & Norton LLP, 105 E. Fourth Street, Suite 400, Cincinnati, Ohio 45202 or you can reach Mr. Greenberger at (513) 721-5151, or visit his website at www.selfstoragelegal.com. 

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