Nothing can spoil a tenant’s perception of a self-storage facility quite like entering a unit and finding a pest infestation. A variety of rodents and bugs, from rats to cockroaches, can damage tenant belongings, not to mention your own property. Pests often spread disease in their droppings or by transporting germs on their bodies. As long as they’re around, you risk looking unprofessional and open your business to liability. If news spreads about the problem and you’re not working to remedy it, you can lose current and potential customers.
It’s worth the cost to protect your facility and units. While there are several do-it-yourself (DIY) tasks you can perform to help keep pests at bay, tenants should also bear some responsibility by not storing items that could carry or attract an infestation. Professional assistance may also be necessary. Let’s look at each prong: tenant cooperation, DIY methods and exterminators.
Infestations often begin with stored items that contain or attract bugs and rodents, so make sure each tenant understands the types of goods that are prohibited including food or dirty food containers, animals (living or dead), plants (living or dead), and anything damp or wet. In areas that are particularly humid or markets with high concentrations of pests, even cardboard boxes can contribute to the problem.
Create a brochure or pamphlet that covers the items tenants are forbidden to store and why. Include this information in your rental agreement, and provide instructions on how customers should prep goods for storage. All items should be clean and completely dry. Tenants should ensure no food or crumbs are mixed in with their possessions. Stored clothing and linens should be washed in hot water or dry-cleaned to destroy any eggs.
Encourage tenants to leave moth balls or cotton balls dipped in peppermint oil around the inside of their units, as these can ward off rodents. Borax, sold as roach powder, gets roaches and ants to exterminate themselves. The powder sticks to their legs, and when they clean themselves, they ingest it, leading to dehydration and death. You can suggest that renters sprinkle a light layer of Borax where the unit walls meet the floor. If a tenant must store a mattress, tell him to spray it with insecticide and vacuum it. If it has bedbugs, this tactic can kill them and their eggs.
Since you can’t look inside units once they’re rented, tenants should periodically check their own space for pests and contact the manager if they find any signs of infestation. Those who follow these rules will greatly decrease the odds of pests being drawn to their units.
There are several things you can do around your storage property to discourage pests. First, make sure any landscaping, such as trees and other plants, is trimmed away from storage buildings. This will help prevent bugs from migrating to the units.
Even small cracks can let in pests like ants, cockroaches and spiders. If possible, ensure all units are airtight and watertight. Making a unit airtight may only be possible with your climate-controlled spaces, but take measures to seal gaps wherever possible. Fill spaces around pikes and in the walls with silicone-based caulk. This should also be applied to wall cracks, the area around light fixtures and especially around pipes.
Don’t forget to dispose of garbage regularly. The longer it’s left out, the more pests will find it and breed in it. Ideally, make sure your trash bins seal tightly, and include them in your facility checks. If they’re open, close them right away.
Pests are highly attracted to water. As much as possible, keep water out of and flowing away from units. This means ensuring roof-gutter systems carry water away from the buildings and into drains. Look for any areas where puddles form on the ground and on the roof. Fix these so water drains away or, at the very least, evaporates quickly after it rains.
If you find an infestation, hire an exterminator immediately. The problem with trying to exterminate pests yourself is mistakes can cost you. Professionals are versed in which chemicals are least harmful to people and property, and they’re trained in how to seek and kill pests.
The cost of an exterminator can vary greatly depending on your climate, the type of infestation, the extent of damage caused and other factors. This makes it difficult to estimate price. Contact several providers and get written estimates from those you bring in to examine your property.
Check each vendor’s reputation. The cheapest isn’t always the best deal. Good places to read reviews are Yelp! and Consumer Affairs.
Finally, clearly understand which tasks will be performed, which might include spraying areas of the property, setting rat and mouse traps, sealing cracks, and more. Knowing the basics will give you a better understanding of what’s involved, so if you choose to do the work yourself, you’ll have a reasonable starting point. Conversely, if you decide to hire an exterminator, you’ll know what to expect from the service.
Once you’ve done everything possible to educate tenants, protect units and buildings, squash infestations and generally make your facility unwelcoming to pests, you might think you’re done. Not so. The goal is ongoing prevention.
Putting all these measures in place is the best defense you can give your facility against pests. It will require persistence to ensure tenants follow the rules and vigilance to ensure your efforts are properly maintained. In the end, staying on top of pest prevention will put your storage facility ahead of many competitors.
Jon Fesmire is a copywriter at Storagefront.com where he writes articles for the company’s blog, “The Renter’s Bent.” In 2011, he earned a Master of Fine Arts from Academy of Art University. For more information, visit www.storagefront.com.