Storage Units or the City Dump?

May 1, 2000

4 Min Read
Storage Units or the City Dump?

Storage Units or the City Dump?

By Pamela Alton

One day, as you are making your rounds at your facility, you notice a broken lamp withno shade sitting beside your dumpster. Within 15 minutes, there also appears an olddresser with one drawer missing. By the end of the day, there is an old, stained mattress,a cat-clawed sofa, a coffee table with three legs and several boxes. Does this soundfamiliar? It almost seems that once one item is left by the dumpster, it breeds andmultiplies.

You ask yourself: Is this a storage facility or the city dump? Many tenants think youare the latter. This sort of thing happens all too often at our facilities. How can youprotect yourself from this?

There are several things that you, as the facility manager, can do to keep thisoccurrence at a minimum. First of all, avoid offering those $1 move-in specials that someof the "big guys" offer. I don't know about you, but I think $1 is a heck of alot cheaper than paying the $15 or higher fee for taking a truck-load of junk to your citydump. Tenants realize this, too.

Next, you should have concise rules and regulations regarding what happens if a tenantleaves items behind. What will be the fine for leaving a unit dirty, or items in thehallway, on the driveway or around the dumpster? Will you even allow your vacating orcurrent tenants to use the dumpster for their personal use? I look down all the dumpstersat my facilities--they are for the management's use only. On our rules-and-regulationssheet we clearly state that the dumpsters are for our use and that there will be a$50 fee for use of the dumpster. Make it perfectly clear that any and all itemsstored should be taken when vacating the unit.

One of your job duties as the manager should be to actually walk vacating tenants outto their unit and check that they have removed all items and left the unit in the sameclean condition as when they rented it. Let them know that if they leave items behind, youcannot remove their names from the computer, and rent will continue to accrue until theitems are removed. If you find tenants have vacated after office hours, call to tell themthe same thing--it certainly can't hurt. You would be surprised how many vacating tenantsactually return and remove the items rather than pay the additional fees. Let tenants knowthat any balance due and not paid will be turned over to collections (even though youprobably would not do that).

Post signs in your hallways or the inside of interior-hallway doors stating your rulesregarding leaving items behind. Conducting regular walk-throughs of your facility willalert you to tenants vacating. Stop, ask if they are vacating and, if so, tell them to besure to take all items with them and stop by the office to sign the vacate notice so youcan remove them from your database. Be sure to immediately remove any items found inhallways, driveways and the dumpster. This will help eliminate any "breeding"and multiplying of other items.

Some of you are thinking, "Well, why don't we just take a cleaning or securitydeposit?" You could. That is one thing that might deter the tenant from leaving itemsbehind; however, deposits can be a bookkeeper's nightmare. Most of the time, when thetenant has moved, the address is no good and the deposit checks end up being returned.Added move-in cost at the time of the rental should also be taken into consideration. Ifyou are taking deposits and your competitors are not, it might cause a prospective tenantto rent elsewhere.

Being aware of what your tenants are storing and having them sign arules-and-regulations sheet explaining what happens if they leave junk behind in theirunits could help. Conduct regular walk-throughs of your facility and have the vacatingtenants come to the office and sign out. Escort the tenant to the unit to make sure theytake everything they stored with them. These are just a few of the things that mightensure that your storage facility won't become the "other" city dump.

P.S. Thanks to Chris at Shurgard for asking me to write on the subject of "tenantjunk."

Pamela Altonis the owner of Mini-Management®, a nationwide manager-placement service.Mini-Management also offers full-service and "operations-only" facilitymanagement, training manuals, inspections and audits, feasibility studies, consulting andtraining seminars. For more information, call (800) 646-4648.

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