Self-storage operators are always looking for better ways to use their valuable space and increase revenue. Many owners with land slated for additional storage units are now considering the boat/RV-storage storage trend. This type of expansion is usually much less expensive than the construction of traditional units, but adding boat and RV storage requires changes to many facets of your operation.
Before you implement a new offering, you need to determine the insurance exposures and risks involved and the requirements to protect your business. The best way to do this is to confer with your insurance agent and legal representative to ensure you have all your bases covered. Here are some items to keep in mind:
The lease. Your rental contract should be written specifically for the storage of moving vehicles and boats. It should contain wording that limits or restricts the storage of hazardous fluids, gases and tires.
Drip protection. This should be mandatory for all vehicles and written into the lease agreement.
Insurance and registration. All tenants should provide copies of the owner’s vehicle registration and insurance auto policy. Make sure both carry the same name as your tenant. Do not accept either if it is written to another individual or business. Also, establish a system to obtain copies of renewals to keep your files current.
Photographic evidence. Taking photographs of the boat or RV will be helpful in the event of a claim regarding the condition of a vehicle. Keep the photos in the tenant’s file.
Minimize facility damage. Install crash posts around building corners to protect the facility from damage. It’s important to make sure the aisles are wide enough for trucks and trailers to move in and out of assigned spaces.
Special gate sensors. Boats and RVs are much larger than cars, so you might need special gate sensors that allow the gate to stay open for a longer period.
Number spaces and update software. Even for your outdoor storage, you should have distinct parking lines to avoid tenants crowding each other. Spaces should be numbered in sequential order and included in facility-management software.
Hazardous waste. This is separate from the different types of fuel sources. Cleanup costs and property damage for your or your neighbor’s property and tenants’ stored goods can be substantial from an ongoing fuel leak. Ask your insurance agent about pollution coverage.
Follow state lien laws. It’s just as important to follow state lien laws for RV and boat storage in the event of delinquency. Although it’s never easy to dispose of a vehicle, many states offer a way to re-title one. Your best line of defense is to consult an attorney.
If you’re already storing boats and RVs or want to add this service to your existing storage operation, these guidelines address some of the liability items you need to consider to keep your business as safe as possible. Your attorney and insurance agent will guide you through the process.
If you decide to provide additional services such as parking, fueling or washing, you assume care, custody and control of the vehicle. This could also affect your insurance coverage. Ask your insurance agent about increasing the limits on your customers’-goods and the sale-and-disposal legal liability coverages, particularly because RVs are valued higher than most items in a typical storage unit.
Remember to stay in touch with your insurance agent with any updates or changes to your facility or services.
Jenny Bortman is an account executive for Phoenix-based Universal Insurance Facilities Ltd. For more information, call 800.844.2101; visit www.universalinsuranceltd.com.