ISS Blog

Spring Brings Critters, Critters Create Cranky Customers

Ah, spring. So many lovely and yet maddening things about it. The earth re-awakens, blanketing the world in fresh scents and colors. That means leaves and buds abound (thank you, allergies). The days are getting longer (more time to work in the yard—thank you, allergies). And the air and land are buzzing with all manner of critters who slept through the winter or were just hatched this season. (Last week, a giant wasp camped out on my back door and would not leave. For two days, I refused to take out the trash. It was terrifying.)

All of this can bring challenges for the self-storage operator, who now has to keep on top of landscaping and pest-control issues. April showers may bring May flowers, but they also bring the threat of water damage and mold as well as swells of birds and bugs.

Last week, a self-storage tenant in Orlando, Fla., submitted a letter to Greg Dawson of the Orlando-Sentinel. Greg writes a column called "The Last Resort," a consumer-advocacy initiative. The self-storage customer wrote to complain about a rat attack:

We had all of our household belongings stored at Compass Self Storage in east Orlando for about 13 months ... During the time our stuff was there the building became infested with rats. All our belongings were covered with urine and fecal matter. Management has been dodging us. They will not do anything to replace our stuff and won't say whether they will compensate us. We had $5,000 to $6,000 of stuff damaged or ruined by the rats.

I'm still baffled by the total worth of goods tenants will store in a unit (doesn't the operator include a value limit in his rental agreement?), but that's beside the point. The issue here is rodents and who bears the liability for the damage they cause. In this case, Greg contacted Compass President and CEO Todd Amsdell, who explained that the facility butts up against a nature preserve, and managers put out rat traps after the issue was reported. Todd assured Greg the issue would be resolved, and it was: The tenant wrote in to say he and the storage operator had come to an agreement.

Yesterday, a Self-Storage Talk member shared a problem she recently had with a tenant. The customer complained about having mice in her unit, but because her daughter had asthma, she didn't want to use poisons. One day, she barged into the office with some clothes in hand, claiming the mice had eaten holes in them. She was upset and unreasonable, threatening to sue and get local TV stations involved. The manager had to call the authorities. (For the full thread, including pest-control tips, read "Rodent issues and more.")

Pest-control problems are not new to self-storage, but they can be extreme when they occur. Thankfully, most are manageable with a few preventive and actionable measures. For example, managers report using Cedarcide and bait stations as non-toxic solutions. If you're interested, here are a few articles you may find useful:

If you've uncovered any nifty pest-nipping tricks, please share them in the blog. You may just save a fellow operator from pulling his hair out this season.

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