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Amy Campbell,

This Is Not a Home: Preventing Self-Storage Tenants From Living On Site

By Amy Campbell Comments
Posted in Blogs

Earlier this week ISS posted a news item about a family of eight living in a self-storage unit. It had been going on for about five years with the blessing of the self-storage management. The story came to light when CPS found out about it and yanked the kids from the parents’ custody. Mom claims they’re doing OK, the facility is safe and she’s doing right by her tots. CPS, of course, disagrees.

Regardless of how “down on their luck” a tenant gets, a self-storage facility simply isn’t the right place to put down roots. Even though electricity can conceivably be possible in a storage unit—such as the case of the family above—self-storage units were built for things not people.

Let’s set aside all the safety issues of allowing a tenant to live in a unit, and just talk security. What if—and it happens—there’s a break-in at your facility? Will your full-time onsite tenant be tempted to get involved? After all, you’re looking the other way and letting him live there so maybe he feels some loyalty. If he does get involved and is injured or even killed—and this could happen with an accident—you’ll be liable.

And what will other tenants think? Will they disapprove of your generous nature and decide they’d be better off storing someplace else? Worse, will they think it’s OK to move in, too?

So how do you prevent this from happening at your facility? First, state it nice and bold in your rental agreement. Maybe even ask the tenant to initial near this clause. In addition, being an active manager or operator will enable you to keep tabs on your tenants’ comings and goings. Obviously, if you have a tenant spending a little too much time in his unit, you may have someone who’s residing in it.

If you do find someone living in a unit, it’s your duty to stop it. Be nice, but inform the tenant that he simply cannot live in the unit. You don’t need to point out all the reasons why, just note your lease prohibits it. 

When I posted a thread about this news item on the Self-Storage Talk forum, the majority of members agreed that allowing a tenant to live on site courts a host of problems. One member, finallyfoundit, did a little digging and found more info on the family above. Turns out there may be more to the story than originally reported in the news. You can read more here.

However, I stand by my headline: Self-storage facilities should never serve as a home for tenants. With so many people out of work and losing their homes, it can be a hard thing to enforce, but it’s necessary for the safety of the facility and all your tenants. Not to mention, most states have laws against it.

Have you discovered a tenant living in a unit? How did you handle it? Share your story by posting a comment below or on the Self-Storage Talk thread.  


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