ISS Blog

Bad Roof = Bad Self-Storage Business

Self-storage operators use a rental agreement that generally protects them from liability for damage to or loss of tenants' goods, whether due to fire, flood, theft, etc. But there are grey areas in which the question of negligence comes into play, and those are the ones for which you have watch out—and possibly take responsibility.

Last week an article on DCist.com outlined a situation in which tenant goods at a self-storage facility were damaged due to leaks in the roof. We all know leaks can happen, but in this case, the owners admit to knowing the roof was faulty—and for more than a decade. Even still, they say the fault lies with the contractor who was brought in to repair the roof ... and with the renters themselves.

According to the owners, the contractor hired to do the work failed to tarp the portions that were in progress. Heavy rain that occurred in mid-May soaked through the roof in those areas and pooled in units. After the damage was discovered, the contractor was kept on to finish the job and handle the water extraction. But though the facility owners hold the contractor liable, they claim renters should know "Things can happen to your stuff in storage."

So the owners admit to having consistent problems with the roof over many years,  experiencing "minor roof and water infiltration in that building" since it was purchased in 1998. But they want to blame the contractor for the recent water damage and tenants for being surprised and upset. Huh?

I encourage you to read the story and give this some thought. Some might say it's negligence on behalf of the owners to have not replaced and/or repaired the roof long ago. Or to have assumed exposed areas were being tarped by the contractor without confirming it for themselves. Or to have failed to notify tenants of the work being done and the potential for complications.

If I were a tenant of a self-storage facility undergoing a roof restoration, I'd like to know of the work and have the option to tarp and/or pallet my own goods. Would you? Better yet, I'd like to be informed of the building's history of water infiltration and be properly armed to make the decision about renting there.

If this were your facility, what would you have done? Would you come clean with tenants from the get-go? Notify them of work being performed over their goods? Take a different approach to repairs? Please comment here on the blog or, if you want to jump into an active discussion, check out these threads on Self-Storage Talk:

Want tips on keeping your roof in tip-top shape? Check out these past articles from ISS:

Why We Love and Hate Metal Roofs: Rekindling the romance through repairs and retrofits

Got It Covered: Metal-roof maintenance, repair and restoration

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