Tenants of a Croydon, England, Shurgard Self Storage facility that was destroyed by fire on Dec. 31 are planning to sue the company. Though it’s not clear if legal steps will include a class-action suit, 1,198 customers lost belongings in the blaze. Affected customers are expected to claim that safety failures contributed to the loss of personal property, according to the source.
It took more than 100 firefighters nearly 24 hours to extinguish the fire. Customers have said the London Fire Brigade (LFB) was notified via phone calls instead of fire alarms because the South London facility wasn’t equipped with a sprinkler system, the source reported.
“Sprinklers could have suppressed and controlled a fire until the first-response team arrived,” tenant Rachel Gould told the source. “Fire extinguishers are only useful if someone operates them and, as far as has been reported, there were no Shurgard staff on site to operate those.”
“We couldn’t find the stairs to get down. They were not signposted, which means the fire escapes weren’t either. There were no signs to tell me how to get out,” added customer Carol Addy. “Somebody could have been in there when the fire started.”
Steve Reed, a member of parliament representing North Croydon, indicated he’d support legal action including the potential for claims that Shurgard’s advertising was misleading. Some customers have reportedly complained that rental agreements indicated items of sentimental value shouldn’t be stored, which they say ran contrary to marketing messages.
“I would, of course, support a legal challenge given the concerns about the lack of fire safety and the concerns about whether the product being sold was what they were told it was,” Reed told the source.
All customer contents at the facility were destroyed, and the building has been set for demolition, according to an official statement released by Shurgard on Jan. 4.
“In common with all Shurgard properties in the U.K., the Purley Way store was fully compliant with all national building regulations,” officials said. “We continue to collaborate closely with the LFB, the local police department and our insurance company, in order to identify the source and cause of the fire.”
Shurgard reached out to tenants on Jan. 2 and 3 to “explain the situation and answer any questions,” including insurance-related inquiries. “At Shurgard, we require all our customers to have insurance cover for their belongings,” according to the company statement. “Customers have the option of purchasing insurance cover offered at Shurgard, or through their own broker. The value of insurance cover is based on each customer’s declared value. Policies offered through Shurgard are fully flexible—this means that customers can choose to adjust their insurance cover at any time as they add/remove any of their belongings in storage.”
“We know that this is a devastating event for all our customers,” company officials said. “We remain committed to updating them, and providing support, for as long as necessary.”
Shurgard Self Storage Europe SARL is the European affiliate of U.S.-based real estate investment trust Public Storage Inc. Shurgard operates 229 self-storage facilities comprising about 12 million net rentable square feet in Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, The Netherlands, Sweden and the United Kingdom. Its network serves 150,000 customers and employs more than 700 people. Shurgard is listed on Euronext Brussels under the symbol Shur.
Based in Glendale, Calif., Public Storage has interests in 2,615 self-storage facilities in 39 states, with approximately 171 million net rentable square feet.
The Telegraph, Victims of Self-Storage Warehouse Fire to Sue Over Safety Failures