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Self-Storage Unit Inventory: Site Audit Procedures

Linnea Appleby Comments

Performing regular site audits is an important part of any self-storage operation, and conducting a complete unit inventory is a critical piece of that process. This article covers some of the specifics of auditing and includes examples demonstrating why it is so significant. 

The inventory process is used to verify that a site's physical inventory matches its computer inventory. It involves running a rent roll or walk-through report from the management software and inspecting the property to verify the status of each and every unit. Your units are the life blood of the facility's income stream, so it's critical that they be controlled, counted and checked.

Requiring that all units be secured at all times is just good business. You wouldn’t leave vacant apartments unlocked if you owned an apartment building―the same goes here. Verifying all units is a good way to ensure tenants’ goods are secure, overlocks are used and removed as required, daily lock checks are completed correctly by staff, and there are no discrepancies between the computer logs and the property. If your units are not closely monitored, you may be losing rental income.

When conducting a unit inventory, look for the following:

  • All rented units have a tenant lock in place.
  • The lock is locked, the hasp is closed and the door is secured correctly.
  • A lock sticker is in place (if used at your site).
  • Overlocks are on if the unit is unpaid.
  • Tenants are closing and locking unit doors properly.
  • There are no rented units using company locks for any reason.
  • All vacant units are secured with a company lock and are clean and ready to rent.

The Audit

On the day of the audit, ask staff to open all vacant units. This will allow you to inspect these units quickly. If you can’t examine all vacant units, inspect random ones. If you discover something that is unsatisfactory, then check all vacants. It may be an isolated incident or an indicator of a bigger problem. Inspecting vacant units for cleanliness can uncover an unknown leak, bad door spring, rodent or pest troubles, or other issues you wouldn’t want revealed in the presence of a prospect.

Occasionally, you may find customer goods in a vacant unit. This could mean a manager is renting out the unit and collecting the money off the books. Or it may be a tenant had too much stuff to fit in his unit and is using this space as overflow without a lease or payment. You can also verify that the size listed in the computer matches the size of the unit. It's not uncommon, every now and again, to find a variance that was not caught in the beginning or somehow changed along the way.

Here are some other factors to be aware of while conducting an audit:

Holding vacates. Most agree that a unit should be vacated from the system on the day the tenant indicates he is moving out. Managers should first inspect the empty unit, making sure the lock is off, the unit is clean and empty, and all stipulations outlined in the rental agreement have been followed. Units that have been vacated by the tenant but not from the system will artificially inflate the occupancy at the site.

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