Rhode Island Storage Manager Won’t Foreclose On Dolls

August 26, 2012 6
Rhode Island Storage Manager Won’t Foreclose On Dolls

Despite the fact that an elderly woman hasn’t paid her storage rent in over four years, a Rhode Island self-storage manager refuses to foreclose on her abandoned unit containing around $27,500 worth of collectible dolls.

To date, manager Alfred Costantino has lost nearly $8,500 in unpaid rental fees on 84-year-old Evelyn Camara’s 10 x 15, climate-controlled unit. Exasperated, son Tom said: “My Dad’s just hoping that one day maybe she’ll come in and pay.” Unfortunately, it does not seem that day is coming any time soon.

While Camara claims to have given up on the dolls, it is quite feasible a foreclosure would trigger her suing the facility. In fact, Costantino’s son describes the situation as “a lawsuit waiting to happen.”

The Doll Situation: A Timeline

2007 Eveyln Camara’s 1,320 square foot, doll-filled home in Smithfield, Rhode Island is valued at $186,200.

July 2008 – After a hole in her ceiling causes massive water damage, Camara moves into subsidized housing and leaves the dolls in the water-strewn house. The house is now valued at $165,800. Camara signs a rental agreement at Northern RI Self-Storage for $168 per month.

August 2008 – Smithfield municipal officials pay about $48 for a rental truck to transport Camara’s dolls to the self-storage facility.

2009 – The Town of Smithfield condemns Camara’s home, and she sells it for $50,000 to Bruce Beaumier, a member of the town municipal planning board. After buying the home, Beaumier hires a structural engineer, who certifies that the house can be saved. Beaumier has the demolition order reversed, fixes up the home, and plans to sell it for a market value of up to $200,000.

Subsequently, an enraged Camara sues the town for $3.7 million, claiming the municipal officials condemned her home without due process, specifically so that Beaumier could buy it for much less than it was worth. Not only does Camara go after Beaumier, she also sues the Building and Zoning Inspector and  Town Manager, asserting they forced her to sell the home under duress. According to Camara’s lawsuit, the Inspector insisted the house be razed, and he never allowed prospective buyers inside.

2011 – Camara receives a $35,000 settlement.

Today – Northern RI Self Storage’s Costantino is stuck between a doll and a hard place. All of his climate-controlled units are filled to capacity, so Camara’s dolls are taking up a potential $168 per month in opportunity cost. If Camara’s locker were to go to auction, Costantino could ostensibly recoup some of his losses. The 100 dolls, many of which are Ashton-Drake collectibles, are valued as high as $275 a pop.

On one hand, if Costantino forecloses, he runs the risk of bad publicity, and possible legal action from the litigious Camara. On the other hand, if he returns her dolls and doesn’t charge her the $8,500 she owes, other tenants may come out in droves, citing financial hardship and asking for help with rent. It would be a risky precedent for Costantino to set.

What do you think?

Image courtesy of ashtondrake.com

  • Paul

    I would say sell the goods, as she has made no attempt to repay the account and that as long as her agreement states that you can auction her goods, then goodbye debt and hello income. I think she is taking him for a ride :)

  • Kristine Shustock

    You have to
    feel bad, it does sound like she was taken advantage of by the town. Given RI’s
    reputation I would not be surprised if it were true. Perhaps the town would like
    to pay the bill. I might pose that. Too bad her attorney only got her $35k. I’m
    not sure what RI law is on auctioning units or how the facility prefers to
    handle it. I suggest a diplomatic solution would be to sell the dolls one by one
    until the bill is satisfied and return the rest to her. OR sell the unit as a
    whole and at a premium and pay her the difference over the rental fees.
    Certainly starting the foreclosure process is necessary. People will make a move
    with that hanging over them. If they don’t then you can’t feel too
    bad.

    • CallCenterGuru

      I think that is how auctions work, any profit after the overdue amount is settled is returned to the original owner of the unit. I think that’s fair. She should have settled her bill when she got the settlement in 2011 if the dolls were that valuable to her.

  • DavidDee

    I say auction the unit, unless there is something that the storage operator didn’t do at the time of the rental and is not saying anything about it. Think about it. You’re an operator of a self storage facility and you dotted all your “I’s” and crossed your “T’s”, than it should stand up in court. Self storage laws are so “lacked” in this country, but the rental agreements are usually written in black and white and very easy to understand.

    • http://www.selfstorageinvesting.com Self Storage Investing

      I agree, auctioning might be a good option here.

  • SRuona

    I say auction the unit if he has done everything correctly there should be no problem. If you have a sound rental agreement most lawyers wont even touch it. And it was mentioned about just giving her items back but then there might be other customers that come to him about their hard ships well what he is doing now is no different by not letting the unit go to auction. We are not in business to sell peoples items however if your business is loosing money you have to do what you have to do.