By Melanie Wichelman
Even the most diligent and involved self-storage operator is likely to suffer damage to his facility from time to time. While it’s true that preparation and awareness will help you minimize claims, some things will be out of your control. When a property-damage incident occurs, the first step is to remain calm so you can evaluate the situation and learn how to better avoid similar scenarios in the future.
Let’s take a look at some common damage-related incidents that occur at self-storage properties, how to avoid them and how to address them after the fact.
Property claims are the most common claim type in the self-storage industry, particularly those relating to weather. Strong storms can blow with fierce strength. The best way to prepare for Mother Nature is to stay on top of your basic facility maintenance.
Make sure roofs and connecting structures are well-maintained. The good news is self-storage buildings are usually constructed of metal, which generally requires minimal upkeep over the course of its life. However, some minor issues will require your time and attention to prevent more severe problems. For example, you may think a tiny roof leak is minor, but it’ll be no match for a hurricane blowing through town. Buildings made with wood frames or other materials are even more susceptible to weather-related issues, even when in tip-top shape.
Mother Nature isn’t the only culprit that causes property damage. Sometimes it occurs from man himself.
You have many customers coming and going, and they’re often driving cars and big trucks through your aisles. More often than not, tenants borrow or rent trucks to move in or out of their units. Maneuvering an unfamiliar vehicle through narrow lanes can be a challenge, and then bam! They hit and dent a unit door or gutter while backing up. Another common offender is the tenant who wants to get home after a long day of moving and tries to trail behind another vehicle at the automatic gate.
Even with warning signs posted, customers don’t always make the best decisions. While it’s important to do everything you can to prevent accidents from occurring, there are simply too many variables outside of your control. Don’t let this discourage you. Minimizing the frequency and extent of incidents is key.
Again, stay on top of facility maintenance. Keep your facility in the best shape possible, and take care of any and all issues right away. Post proper signage to give customers some guidelines. Are the aisles meant for one-way traffic? Should only one car travel through the gate at a time? Not everyone will follow the rules, but clearly posted policies will make most people think twice.
Making a Claim
When an incident does occur, there’s no need to panic. Take a look at the damage and evaluate the situation. Is it something you can quickly repair on your own, such as some paint scratches, or will you need a professional to step in?
Taking your deductible and the severity of the damage into consideration, it’s advisable to call your insurance agent to file a claim and report the loss as soon as possible. The insurance company can help guide you through the next steps to get the issue resolved quickly.
Typically, your agent will ask you to take pictures of the damage as soon as possible after the incident. Keep notes and a record of what happened along with what was damaged and its value. It’s also smart to prevent further damage where the incident occurred; for example, place a tarp over a compromised roof or transfer a tenant from a damaged unit to another space. When damage is left unfixed, it leaves you at greater risk.
Working with the insurance company will keep things moving smoothly so you’re able to make repairs quickly. Once they’re complete, think of what you can do to prevent this specific accident from occurring again, and make any necessary improvements.
While you may not be able to prevent all property damage, you can minimize the impact it can have on your business. Discuss your facility insurance needs with your agent. It’s imperative to ensure your property limit is sufficient. This will be dependent on facility size, number of buildings, type of construction, etc. Don’t forget to consider your entire property, including fences, gates and signage.
For example, most package policies will include additional sign coverage; but if you have a more elaborate sign, such as an LED screen or other lighting fixtures attached to it, you might want to consider increasing this coverage. Your agent should be able to talk to you about what’s covered in your property limits and how. Ask if the buildings will be covered with a blanket limit or a per-building scheduled limit. Usually, a blanket gives you a little more flexibility. Keep these things in mind as you talk to your agent, and together you can determine the best coverages for your facility.
Handling property damage doesn’t have to be a scary ordeal. If you’re prepared with the proper coverages and steps to take in the event of a claim, the process won’t be daunting.
Melanie Wichelman is an account executive with Universal Insurance Programs, which has created and provided specialized insurance coverages to the self-storage industry for more than 20 years. For more information, call 800.844.2101; visit www.universalinsuranceltd.com.