Every storage facility is different. Asking questions before you rent a unit is important!
Is the facility really secure?
Every storage facility will claim they have security lighting and video monitoring, but realize those are general terms. Ask for specifics, such as:
- Are the cameras recording 24/7?
- Is the facility well lit at night, so the cameras aren’t just capturing blackness?
- Are there more than just a few cameras?
- Does each building have cameras, including ones over the doors to record entry/exit behavior?
- Is the gate electronic access?
- Does each client have their own code?
- If so, are entry/exits automatically recorded?
What days/hours can I access my unit? Is it 24/7 access?
It’s your stuff, and you’re paying to store it. But, that doesn’t necessarily mean you can access it whenever you want. Crazy, right?! Do your do diligence and ask some questions about access:
- What are your gate hours? (Most facilities are not 24 hour access.)
- Can I come on the weekends? (Again, not all facilities allow you access on the weekend)
Beware of the “Move-in Discount”
It sounds great – “$1 for the 1st month!” But have you stopped to inquire about the 2nd month? Some facilities will raise rent significantly on the 3rd or 4th month, knowing you’ve already moved your items in. They’ve got you over a barrel, of sorts. Don’t be duped by a seemingly good savings, only to get gouged a couple months in. Ask a few things, whether a move-in discount is a factor or not:
- How often do you raise rates?
- How long is my rent guaranteed not to be increased?
What additional fees do you charge?
Nobody talks about it, but many facilities sneak in extra, hidden fees. When inquiring about rental prices, also ask if they charge:
- Reservation fee
- Booking/setup fee
- Processing fee
- Move-in fee
- Administrative fee
- Security deposit fee
- Cancellation fee
- Early move-out fee
- Cleaning fee
- Utility surcharges
Am I locked into a contract, or do you allow month-to-month rentals?
Before signing your contract, ensure you aren’t signing a year long lease that will charge a cancellation fee if you move out early. Month-to-month rentals are becoming increasingly the norm, but you want to confirm be signing!
What is your late fee and auction process?
Most nightmares surrounding self storage are auction-related. You rent a unit, store your items and forget to pay your bill. Next thing you know, your belongs are gone – sold at auction. While every facility will have an auction and late fee policy, ask how it works. Be informed!
- Do you send clients invoices before the rent is due each month?
- How much is your late fee? (Typical would be $10-25)
- Is there a grace period before the late fee is applied to my account? (Usually this is about 1 week)
- Do you call, email or mail me late reminders? (Doing this a couple times per week would be typical)
- Do you lock me out of my unit if I’m late? (A typical policy would be to disable your gate code after a few days, and overlock the unit a week or two later)
- If I don’t pay, how does your auction procedure work? (Generally auctions are scheduled after 30 days, although state law determines the procedure, proper notification, newspaper adverts and more.)
Do I need renter’s insurance?
Insurance is not included in the rent of your unit, unless your contract specifically states so. In which case, you’re likely paying more for rent to compensate for the extra service. Some facilities provide insurance for an additional, nominal fee (normally $10 or less per month). If not, ask for a referral to a local agency who offers renters insurance. Either way, read the fine print & make sure you’re not getting stiffed on a useless insurance policy!