Storage Woes

Posted: January 25, 2009 in Misc Thoughts
Tags: , , ,

For the last decade or so we have been renting a storage space at Strata Storage in Little Collins Street Melbourne, to store all of our excess junk (and we have a lot of excess junk!). Last week we moved all of our stuff to another storage spot and I am glad that we did as for the last few months we have had a lot of trouble with our old storage place.

The trouble at Strata started in October when we received a call saying that the owner of our storage space had decided to take the space back, and that we had to move to another spot within the building. This seemed to be very weird and I wondered why the owners would decide to take the spot back even though we paid the rent on time every month. I naively thought that perhaps the owner needed the space for his own storage needs.

When we turned up at Strata to move our stuff back in October, the guy working there told us a different story. He said that the owner wanted us out of the spot ASAP and had broken our lock and wanted to move our stuff out himself. The only reason the owner, who we were told was a big shot with BHP did not just turf our stuff out was because Strata had told him that what he wanted to do was illegal. Priscilla was made highly suspicious by this story but I stupidly took it on face value.

Then we read an article in the Herald Sun that made us make up our mind to finally move from Strata storage. The crux of the article said that Strata Storage and their parent company Beluga Investments had not been passing on the rent that was paid to them to the owners of the storage units. Apparently over $500,000 is owed to the owners in unpaid rent. Reading this set off alarm bells for us and we decided to plan to move our stuff somewhere else.

After all of that planning we finally moved last Thursday and Friday. On Friday there was another article in the Herald Sun about Strata Storage and the owner of that company Mark Baranov, who ironically enough, was also at Strata on Friday morning. (I had to subtlety point out to Priscilla that he was the guy pictured in the Herald Sun.) The new article said that Strata was insolvent and gave the impression that the company may not be around for much longer. We figured that it was a good thing that we moved out on our own terms rather than being forced to move out later. We noticed that a lot of people have had the same idea as us, as there were quite a few storage spaces that have become empty in the last couple of months. Hopefully we won’t have any trouble with our new storage space in Port Melbourne.

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Comments
  1. Tracey Cheshire says:

    WOW, that made for interesting reading.
    My husband and I are owners in the facility at 601 Little Collins Street.
    Some of the above is accurate from our point of view but to fill you in completely we haven’t been paid rent since April 2008. It has taken our group of owners a lot of work and diligence but we’ve finally managed to put Bar Um into liquidation. Strata Storage does and will continue to trade. Both the above business are owned by the same person who also owns the business Beluga Developments (who now operates Strata Storage).
    The owners had no intention of moving any tenants out. No locks have ever been broken by an owner. In fact, we put secondary locks on the units owned by investors who had decided to terminate their lease with Bar Um. The only way for us to gain contact with the tenants and to inform them that their rent was not being redirected was to overlock the units.
    Bar Um wrote to the tenants telling them they had the option to move out.
    A large group of owners have terminated their leases with Bar Um, now in liquidation, and have started their own business, The CBD Storage Place and are determined to run our units as a viable alternative to Strata Storage, even though we operate in the same building.
    We have no way of contacting our tenants except to pay a manager to be on site for us and contact tenants as they come in to access their stored goods. A costly and slow process.
    If anyone wants more information please don’t hesitate to contact our group at strata601@gmail.com

  2. Tracey Sharpe says:

    As an owner of two units at 601 Little Collins Street, it is a shame that you didn’t ring the number on your storage door and you would have had the full true story from me as my name was on the notice.
    There was never any discussion about moving tenants’ belongings out of their unit. We over locked the units so that we could make contact with tenants because Mark Baranov would not pass on tenant details when we terminated our lease.
    For the many tenants (including large companies) who did not move out, nothing has changed for them except they now know that their rent is being passed on.
    FYI, these units are owned by ‘mum and dad’ type investors not corporate bigshots. In fact many of the investors were relying on the income for the superannuation.
    As for 601 Little Collins Street, it is still the only storage facility in the city centre and will therefore continue to operate with no closures.
    I should also point out that the ‘boys’ in the office are employed by Mark Baranov and therefore have no choice but to play by his rules. Thanks.

  3. What a disappointing story for us owners that you chose to leave our storage facility. We are just small investors that have been hard done by by the Big end of town. Fortunately however, we have a most wonderful and dedicated committee who are spending every minute of their spare time gratis to keep this facility going in a very professional manner.Thanks to them, our future is looking very bright. We would nevertheless be grateful for the support from the our storage clients,present and past,to stay with us and help us to receive a small return on our investment.

  4. mathewm1 says:

    It is interesting to see that there have been a few really well thought out comments on this post. In light of these comments there are a few other things that I would like to my post.

    Firstly someone (Tracey) said that none of the owners broke any of the renter’s locks, and that they just put their own locks over the top. I must reiterate that someone did break our two locks, as when we arrived at the storage space neither of our locks were still attached to our storage door. We were told that our locks were broken and that another lock was put onto the door. We were also told that Strata’s staff told the owners that what they were doing was illegal, and that they had to hand the key over to them, to give to us. I do not see why Strata would lie about this, or why they would have broken the locks themselves and told us that the owners had done it. I also do not see how the owners could have put another lock on the door without breaking our two locks, as there was no space to put a third lock without breaking either of the other two locks.

    I also do not see what the owners were trying to achieve by disadvantaging the people who were renting the storage space (us), because Mark Baranov had not passed the rent that we had paid to Strata to them. This is akin to a landlord changing the locks to an apartment whilst the tenant is out, because they are having a dispute with the real estate agent. Then again, as you said it was the only way that you could make contact with the tenants, as Mark Baranov would not pass our details to you. We had no idea of the situation between owners and Beluga and would probably have stayed if we had known what exactly was going on.

    What really caused us to move away from the storage facility completely was when we were told that we had to pay our rent by direct deposit. For the ten or so years we had been at 601 Little Collins Street we had always paid by cash, but in November we were told that we had to sign over our bank details to Beluga Developments, so that they could take out our rent every month. I hate this type of inflexibility and had no intention of giving my bank or credit card details to anyone, but when we asked if there was any other way to pay we were told “No!” Apparently Mark Baranov himself had told the staff that we had to sign up to direct deposit. Considering how dodgy Beluga and Mark Baranov have turned out to be, I am glad that I never gave them any of these details.

  5. Tracey Sharpe says:

    You made a very sound decision under the circumstances Matthewm1. CBD Storage (alternative management company run by volunteer owners), invoices tenants monthly who are responsible for depositing rent into the account by their own means. I can understand why you would be reticent about giving your details to MB. In fact, this is one of the points brought up at the Supreme Court when Barum was put into liquidation.

    As for the locks. We can provide documentation from the locksmith that will show we did not break any locks at all. We did seek legal advice before over locking units and were told under no circumstances should be break locks.

    Please be aware that the boys in the office, through no fault of their own, were working for Baranov and directed by him to say and do what ever he said.

    The invitation is still open to give you full information supported by evidence at the email address above.

    Of course, The Herald Sun have also been committed to covering this story along the way.

  6. Tracey Cheshire says:

    Dear Matthewm1,

    Firstly I should have thanked you in the first instance for posting your comments in the first place. The internet is a very important forum to people to be able to ‘google’ anything and everyone to find information. I only wish the information we now have on MB was available when we googled him five years ago.

    I would like to reinterate what Tracey said. At the time the locksmith entered the building she was accompanied by two very trustworthy owners who volunteered to help on the day. All were acting on strict instruction from Counsel not to break any locks and in fact when they came across unit doors that the locks would not fit the locksmith came back at a later date with a different lock to ensure that it would fit and everything would be above board. They did report that they had found some locks that had been cut when they arrived but I stress that no-one that we know of in our group was involved.

    At no time has the IAG group or any of its member owners overstepped the line. We are very sympathetic to the tenants and hold no grudges against any of them. Our only motivation was gaining contact with them to explain what had been happening with Bar Um/Strata Storage and to arrange for them to sign up with The CBD Storage Place Melbourne or to vacate the units.

    I also fully understand your reticence to hand over any banking details for a company to deduct monies. Flexibility in business is a key and payees should always have options.

    Thank you again for bringing this subject out into an open forum.

    Watch this space.

  7. […] ago we changed to a new storage space in the city. There were a number of reasons for doing so, which I hinted at in a previous post. I am now wondering if we made the right […]

  8. Miss Smith says:

    Your comments are very interesting. I am looking after my fathers affairs and am trying to ascertain what is happening for him with his unit. I have been in contact with the ‘boys’ and a man upstairs, who have informed me of the goings on. I am trying to work out how I move forward with my fathers unit. We do not live in Melbourne so I cant pop by to find out what is happening. But I am coming down for work at the end of the month – so can make time to get something sorted. I have emailed the address provided in the link above for more info. I am finding it difficult to find out about the status quo and it all seems a real mess!

  9. David Goldsmith says:

    To all of the above and others,
    I was introduced to Mark Baranov back in 2005 at a Business lunch with some of Melbourne Largest respected Jewish Business men. Once meeting Mark, my first observation was that he was very sleezy and arrogant. I was told by another person that my observation of Mark was spot on and never to trust him. I was also informed that he was in debt approx 3 millon dollars to the director of Dodo. My advice to anybody that comes across this guy is to stay away.

  10. Richard says:

    My partner and I are currently in the UK and have just found out the issues re 601 ltl collins street. We have been trying to contact Strat Storage re our furniture, however, are not receiving a reply. we were renting a unit on level C – does anyone have any advice of where our belongings would be? or who we can speak to (administrators/police etc)?

  11. Tracey Sharpe says:

    Hi Richard,
    Since this forum started there has been an additional split between owners because one group were not perceived as doing the right thing, but rather looking after their own interests above all other owners.

    Your property should still be there, but it is likely that they have moved it around to make space for others.

    The city police have been involved in this matter and I think it’s a good idea to go directly to them. Perhaps they can take you there and encourage CBD Storage to locate your property.

    Alternatively, you can contact CVA Property in the city who are the Body Corp managers (of sorts). They may have another suggestion.

    Good luck.

    Tracey

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