Maryland Boaters: Don't Lose Your Stored Watercraft To Identity Theft

Identity theft can wreak havoc on your finances. If a thief gets ahold of your personal information, they could take all the money in your bank account and max out your credit cards. That's not all that you could lose, though. If you're storing a boat in a Maryland storage facility for the winter, and someone steals your debit or credit card information, you could eventually lose your boat. To prevent this from happening, you need to let the facility storing your boat know if your financial information has been stolen. Here's why.

The Laws Governing Maryland Storage Facilities

There are two main laws that govern the operations of Maryland storage facilities: House Bill 786, which went into effect on October 1, 2015, and a law from October 2013.

House Bill 768 gives storage facilities in Maryland the right to auction off all the contents of storage units when the lessee renting them falls at least 60 days behind on payments. Before the bill went into effect, storage facilities could auction off most items in an overdue storage unit, but they couldn't auction off vehicles. House Bill 768 grants permission to auction off vehicles -- including boats.

The October 2013 law regulates what notifications a storage facility must provide before they auction off the items in a unit. Storage facilities must send a notice to the lessee of the overdue account, and they must post a public notice of the upcoming auction. Both of these notices can be sent electronically, though. As long as a storage facility sends an email to the email address they have on file and a posts an online notice that attracts at least three bidders to the auction, they've met this law's requirements.

Thus, if your storage unit's account falls 60 or more days past due, whatever is stored in your unit could be auctioned off -- including your boat. The storage facility must send you an email and post an online notification, but these are easy to miss. The email could be sent to your spam folder or accidently deleted, and few individuals regularly look at online auction notices.

Your Payment Won't Go Through If Your Card's Stolen

For most people who store a boat at a Maryland storage facility, these laws aren't a concern. As long as you pay your bill on time, either manually or through auto-pay, your account will never be in default.

If your credit or debit card information is stolen, however, your account might accidently go unpaid. The stolen card won't be valid anymore, so any payments charged to it will be declined.

While it's easy to call a storage facility once you've been issued a new card and change your payment information, it's also easy to forget to tell them. In the midst of changing passwords, seeking refunds for fraudulent charges and filing formal grievances, you may overlook a bill -- especially if it's set up on auto pay. At this point, the facility would have the right to auction off your boat. You might never realize what's happened until you went to take your boat out of storage in the spring.

You Can Avoid Falling Behind on Storage Unit Payments

There are two ways you can avoid the above scenario and ensure that your account remains in good standing, even if your identity is stolen.

If you're organized and remember all of your bills, you could simply make sure to notify the storage facility when you have new payment information. You may even want to call them when your card is stolen to let them know what happened and that you won't have any information for a few days. Most facilities will be understanding and wait for you to be issued a new card.

If you aren't organized and are afraid you'll overlook a bill like this, you can pay several months in advance. Rather than waiting for the storage facility's bill each month or setting up automatic payments, pay for each month your boat will be in storage when you sign the contract for the unit. You probably know what month you usually get your boat out of storage, so you can pay through that month.

Identity theft is a common crime. If you're a victim, you'll have to call your bank and sort out the fraudulent charges. Don't forget to also make sure your boat's storage bill is still paid on time so that your boat will still be in your storage facility come spring.