An Overview of Self-Storage in Latin America: Word of Mouth, New Laws and an Emerging Customer Base

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By Lucia Darnell

“Self-service storage” is a relatively new concept in Latin America, which comprises Mexico as well as the Caribbean, Central America and South America. Companies providing self-storage in these regions have only been around about 20 years or so compared to the United States, where they’ve existed for almost half a century. But though self-storage is young in this region, it’s growing, with support coming from word of mouth, new laws, a growing customer base and an industry-specific association.

Spreading the Word

Most Americans are at least somewhat familiar with self-storage. Even those who’ve never used the service are aware of what it is and have a basic idea of how it works. This is due to many factors such as the vast number of storage facilities along roadsides and in neighborhoods, word-of-mouth testimonials from current and past tenants, and even popular television shows.

But industry familiarity is not at all the case in Latin America. Since self-storage is such a new concept in these countries, it’s important to get the word out to potential customers. It’s common for facility operators to employ outside sales personnel whose main job is to visit office buildings, manufacturing companies, apartment complexes and so on, promoting the advantages of renting storage space.

New Laws

Passing laws and regulations that pertain specifically to self-storage is essential in Latin America, both for facility owners as well as tenants. Laws act as guidelines for self-storage operators, and can even protect  them from hefty fines resulting from lawsuits. In addition, self-storage legislation can regulate rental agreements, lien sales and value limits on items stored, which protects all parties involved.

For example, in the United States, it’s understood that each tenant is responsible for the items in his own individual unit. If someone stores stolen property or other contraband, that person alone is held accountable. But if this situation were to occur in some Latin American countries, the entire self-storage complex might be shut down and all business brought to a halt until justice is decided. This obviously can cause a severe hardship to the owner as well as customers renting space at the facility.

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