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Maintaining a Safe Self-Storage Business: Practices for Protecting Tenants and Staff

By Linnea Appleby Comments

Managing a self-storage facility is more than operating the office and keeping the place clean. Maintaining a successful business requires creating a safe and hazard-free environment for tenants and staff. Neglect will quickly diminish the value of an otherwise viable facility. On the other hand, a facility that’s cared for and appropriately maintained will enjoy greater rental rates, a higher occupancy, happier tenants and a longer life span.

When a property is in good working condition, tenants are less likely to complain about rent increases because they can see the benefit of their dollars at work. Here are some strategies operators can use to be smart and safe, and keep equipment in good working order.

Repair or replace faulty equipment quickly. This includes cameras, gates, door closers, lights and switches, locking mechanisms, unit doors, and other items that break down. If tenants see a light bulb has been out for months or a door closer has been broken since they moved in, it devalues their opinion of your site, making them less likely to refer new business to you. They also may use it as a complaint during rent increases. Handle small maintenance items quickly before they become larger.

Lock up equipment. Keep electrical outlets, thermostats, breaker boxes, water spigots and other facility equipment covered and locked to avoid unauthorized use or potential vandalism. Keep company units closed and locked at all times and don’t leave keys, locks or other company items on the golf cart.
Check elevators and HVAC units. Make it a regularly scheduled task to ensure the phone or emergency contact system in the elevators is working properly and access to fire panels, HVAC units and other important equipment are clear of debris. Don’t use HVAC, elevator or electrical rooms to store company items like documents and decorations. This equipment requires proper ventilation. Without it, failure can occur and it becomes a potential fire hazard.

Keep Tenants Safe

In addition to keeping the property in working order, you must also keep your tenants safe when they’re accessing their units. Here are two important factors:

  • Door maintenance. Identify and fix unit doors that stick, have bad springs, hasps that don’t close properly, missing pull ropes or rubber bottom strips that have failed. Hasps, ropes and other door components don’t have the same life span as the door itself. Unit doors are your inventory. Keep them in good repair at all times. Handle a tenant complaint about a door quickly to avoid injury or accidents.
  • Check the emergency exits. Are they appropriately marked and alarmed? Ensure that the landscaping has not overgrown the outside so it’s clear if it needs to be used. If the alarm is monitored, do a test with the monitoring company on a regular basis.

Keep Yourself Safe

Like any business, self-storage facilities can be susceptible to theft. As most self-storage managers are alone on the property for hours at a time, personal safety measures are a must. Managers should:

  • Be smart about money handling. Don’t count the cash drawer with tenants in the office. Lock the doors before you do your daily close. Be aware of your surroundings as you enter or leave the facility.
  • Know emergency procedures. When the place is on fire, there won’t be time to read the manual. Know the proper emergency steps before they’re needed. When things are going bad, they tend to go bad quickly. Don’t hesitate to call 911. It’s always better to be safe than sorry.
  • Be smart about showing units. If you’re uncomfortable with a potential customer, ask for a driver's license and leave it in the office when you show the unit. Pick up the phone and call your supervisor or another property manager and say, “I am going to show a unit, I’ll call you back when I am done.” This alerts the customer that someone will be expecting a call back shortly.
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