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Auditing Your Self-Storage Facility: A Checklist for Owners and Operators

Alyssa Quill Comments

The self-storage industry has the ability to attract and retain some excellent property managers. They love the autonomy, great hours and responsibility provided to them while running a multi-million-dollar business almost on their own. Luckily, most of the great managers we find stick around.

However, we’ve all heard the horror stories—and many of us have experienced them—about the self-storage owner who completely trusted his employee only to discover the manager had been stealing from the company. Ouch! Employee dishonesty hurts. But it does happen, and it’s one of the reasons completing frequent audits of your facility is important.

It’s not the only reason, though. We’ve all read articles about the self-storage facility that sold the goods of a paying customer by mistake because it had them listed in the computer as renting a different unit number. Honest mistakes, misunderstandings, poor training, tunnel vision, software bugs, and normal wear and tear can cause issues to arise at a storage facility. Without completing property audits, those issues can fester for months and become costly. Here’s a recommended list of items to include in your facility audit, and why they’re important. 

Handling Cash

Here’s one example of mishandling cash: You have an incredibly honest property manager, but he’s not great at giving people the right amount of change. He’s been pulling money out of the petty-cash drawer at the end of the day to fill the shortfalls in the change drawer. An honest mistake, but it can add up if not addressed quickly.

Another scenario could be one in which a property manager is short in her own bank account. She spends most of her time alone at your facility—with access to your cash. She’s a good person, but behind on her bills. She promises herself she’ll pay back the money she borrowed from the cash drawer as soon as she gets her next paycheck. Then, nobody notices. She tries again, and nobody notices. It’s almost too easy—a no-interest loan or paycheck advance.

To avoid these situations, audit your facility’s cash drawers monthly—or, at the very least, quarterly—against your daily transaction reports and petty-cash receipts. If there’s any discrepancy, there had better be a good explanation. If you’ve given your manager a form or tool to balance the cash at the end of each day, look at the past several weeks to make sure it’s being used. 

Lock Audits

Every week, self-storage managers should conduct detailed lock checks, comparing the locks on every unit to a list generated by your facility’s management software. The purpose is to make sure units that are supposed to be vacant are in fact empty, units that are supposed to be rented have a tenant’s lock on them, and units that are past-due are handled appropriately.

Managers should walk through the facility a couple times a day, checking locks and ensuring the facility is maintaining a clean, safe, well-lit appearance. Any unit without a lock should be addressed immediately. Overlocks should be placed for past-due tenants.

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