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Self-Storage for Boats and RVs: The New Hot Spot for Thieves

Jim Chiswell Comments

Across the country, there has been a dramatic increase in the theft of catalytic converters from all types of vehicles. As the price of recycled metals has spiked, a black market in catalytic converters is emerging, according to a spokesman for the Washington, D.C.-based Institute of Scrap Recycling.

The part, easily removed by a portable saw from under a vehicle, contains a variety of precious metals including platinum, palladium and rhodium. The amounts in each converter are tiny, but the current prices of $2,000 an ounce for platinum and $9,000 for rhodium are tempting thieves to take their chances. The converters can net anywhere from $70 to $200 per part. Although typically covered by insurance, a vehicle-repair cost can run from $500 to $2,500.

I issue this warning for several reasons. First, you need to ensure RV- and vehicle-storage customers are properly protected. Do you have adequate lighting and security cameras watching your parking areas?

Under the terms of a self-storage lease, managers do not have care, custody or control of tenants’ belongings, including vehicles. However, it behooves us to be aware of the growing problem and watchful of activity within outside parking areas. A loss of even a few catalytic converters from customer vehicles could produce negative reactions in the form of move-outs.

The second reason is to make sure the legal basis of the relationship with your customers, as it relates to insurance protection, is not skipped over or rushed during the rental agreement review. The Texas Self Storage Association felt that the issue of vehicle storage was so important that it commissioned attorney Jeffrey Greenberger ( to assist in the creation of a totally separate document to be used by member companies.

Finally, this is to make you aware of the problem because some thieves may be using units to keep their ill-gotten gains until they can be sold to a scrap-metal dealer. A catalytic converter is not easily dropped into a paper bag and secretly placed into a unit. They are large and dirty; any tenant loading a half-dozen of these parts into a unit from a pickup or van should be easily pegged.

Stay on guard. Your actions could help to keep your facility off the front page of tomorrow’s newspaper or local newscast. Spread the word in your self-storage community.

Still Some Tough Times Ahead

As the third-quarter of the year comes to a close, we are still seeing weakness in many areas of the economy and steep declines in some cities and communities. The staggering financial losses of GM, Ford and Chrysler have put them in jeopardy. The closing of entire restaurant chains like Bennigan’s makes us look closely at consumer patterns. The decline in home values and the numbers in foreclosure are also still alarming.

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