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Screening Your Self-Storage Tenants: Preventing Internal Threats to Your Business

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By Lubabah Memon

As a self-storage operator, you have a pretty big responsibility on your hands: You need to ensure the security of the entire facility as well as the units within so tenants’ belongings aren’t vulnerable to theft. Although you may have taken multiple steps to safeguard your property, you’ll continue to face new challenges every day.

You would think your security measures would be enough to keep out thieves, but sometimes they’re not. Criminals are getting smarter and more strategic. To them, storage facilities can be untapped gold mines, and they’re figuring out how to get around your defenses. In today’s tech-savvy world, gate passcodes and surveillance cameras aren’t always enough to prevent someone from getting to their sought-out treasures.

In fact, the easiest way to get around your security is to become a tenant. This may be shocking, but if you think about it, it’s quite brilliant. A thief who’s a tenant has easy access to units and can literally walk right past you without causing a doubt in your mind. You might have a break-in every month, increase security accordingly, and never know the burglar was right under your nose the whole time.

What’s even worse is these crimes won’t just cost you time and money, they’ll cost you customers and your company’s reputation as well. Let’s talk about ways you can prevent one of your tenants from becoming the victim of another.

Put on Your Detective Hat

The best thing you can do is initiate strict tenant-screening practices that include background, credit and rental-history checks. You can also consider fingerprinting tenants and obtaining their Social Security numbers. This can seem a little extreme, and not all customers will be willing to jump through these hoops to rent a storage unit. You’ll need to decide if potentially losing some business is worth keeping your facility extra secure.

Essentially, you’re looking for red flags. The focus should be on individuals who’ve committed theft-related or violent crimes as well those who have a history of late or defaulted payments. Even something unrelated like missing child-support payments could be a cause for concern. A tenant’s history with all of these things can tell you a lot about whether he’s reliable or a risk.

Background checks can be a bit costly, but it’s better to invest in them than to risk a break-in. There are some cheaper and more efficient ways to get consumer information as well. Getting courthouse records can be time-consuming, so you might consider Internet databases such as Criminal Searches, Search Systems and Virtual Gumshoe. However, be careful and keep the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) in mind. The act places some restrictions on landlords and typically applies to all landowners, including storage owners and managers.

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