If you rent a storage facility, what kinds of contractual rights and obligations do you have?

Renting a storage facility for your things involves signing a lease, just like renting an apartment. Leases are supposed to state what rights and obligations the owner of the facility and the renter have and what should happen if either of them doesn’t complete the obligations. Typical terms in this kind of lease include: the cost of rent and when it is due, a description of the space available in the rented storage unit, a list of any items that the owner won’t allow to be stored there (explosives, biological hazards, illegal goods, flammable materials…), an explanation of the security deposit, a disclaimer saying that the storage place is not liable for injuries to people who get hurt while storing or removing their things, and the inevitable declaration about what will happen if the rent is not paid.

     A lease is a form of contract which means that it is a legally enforceable agreement. Because it is ordinarily fully written when it is presented to the person wanting to rent storage space, rather than being the type of contract that is written by both parties to the agreement who negotiate the terms before writing them down, the renter has very little room to bargain. It is as if the owner of the storage facility is saying, “You can rent a space if you agree to all of these terms.”

     If you are not willing to agree to any particular terms that are written on his lease, you have to write that on the document to be signed. To convey definitely that you do not agree to terms, circle or mark out or underline or otherwise note any terms you cannot agree to and state in the margin near each of them that you do not agree to abide by that requirement. Simply telling the facility owner that you do not accept his terms will not protect your interests.  A judge is unlikely to believe that you truly did not agree with the written contract if you read it well enough to discuss unacceptable terms with the owner and then you signed it anyway, without changing the written terms. Remember, of course, that the facility owner does not have to agree to your changes any more than you have to agree to his terms. He has the space you need and he can leave it empty or rent it to someone else if you refuse to use it according to his terms.

     Some states have statutes for the sole purpose of backing up self-storage leases. These statutes give the rules for evicting the possessions because there isn’t a human tenant or business to evict from the owner’s premises. One of the standard rules is that the owner of the possessions is supposed to be notified by mail, at the last known address, that the owner of the self-storage place is going to sell the possessions if the owner of those possessions does not pay the past-due rent.

     For people without homes, this is a completely ineffective form of notice. In Delaware, the law requires that in addition to mailing that warning, the self-storage place must advertise the warning in the newspaper.[i]  This would not be a big expensive embarrassing ad in the social section; it would be a small cheap formulaic ad buried in the classified section. A person who had missed enough rental payments to be at risk of having his or her possessions sold would either have to read all of the legal notices in the classified ads every day or somehow know exactly when the storage facility happened to be advertising.

In Michigan, instead of requiring the newspaper ad, the law says that owners of self-storage places should mail the warning to the last known address of the possession owner and also, if the renter has provided adequate information, to another person who is likely to know how to locate that person.[ii]   Some of these laws may seem to be insensitive to the difficulties of homeless people, however, if renters have not paid their bill and have not appeared in person or otherwise made themselves available for communication, the law has to protect the other party to the contract who has held up his end of the bargain.


[i] 25 Delaware Code Section 49.

[ii] Michigan Code 570.523 Section 3(4).

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21 Comments »

  1. The self storage industry uses very cumbersome contracts the are heavily weighted in favor of the landlord (i.e. not the renter) which are backed by the self storage statutes of the various states. A self storage renter should not be afraid to ask to take the lease room and read it before signing. After all, your goods are important to you or you wouldn’t need to store them.

    • This article is heavily one sided. We own and operate 3 facilities: (North Phoenix Storage Solutions) http://www.nphxstorage.com, (Elliot Kyrene Storage Solutions) http://www.elliotkyrenestorage.com, and (I-17/Thunderbird Storage Solutions) http://www.i17tbirdstorage.com. Self storage is a business that in many cases is a necessary evil, but we don’t operate for free. We also don’t want to SELL your stuff. In Arizona, we now have lien laws that allow email as a formal notice and we, at the Arizona Self Storage Assoiciation of which I am communication chair and co-develope, have developed an auction website @ http://www.selfstorageauctionsaz.com/ to serve as official notice. Don’t forget, when we are busy hunting down delinquent renters, we are losing money b/c we can’t rent that space to someone who will pay. We don’t like selling tenant possessions and we DON’T make a profit like some like to say. As for modifying leases, our members use a standardized lease that is in accordance with AZ Revised Statutes that is non-negotiable. If you don’t like it, don’t rent there. Why would you want to rent to someone who modifies a lease? It only sends a red flag up that they are going to be trouble.

    • Leeya Loe said

      I have a question me and my family are homeless and are renting a storage unit . My boyfriend was shaving in their bathroom quickly and a employee walking in on him by accident . He said that because of what he saw he would not continue the lease with him because of it. Not to long ago we got a call saying because of what they saw on camera which is is coming in and out of the storage unit they will limit our hours from office hours (which are the times we work) instead of the hours outside of the storage unit that say 6-10 . Can they do such thing !? NoNE of this is mentioned in the terms and conditions or on their lease

  2. Derrick said

    I seriously don’t ordinarily comment however gotta admit thankyou on your own post about this amazing one : D.

  3. The mere fact that our local state government allows a contract to be in full favor of the person or persons who own a self storage facility is just crazy!

    case in point: My wife and I rented three 12×30 storage units we own a small mom & pop business and the place we are going to lease for our shop had to be remodeled and via bad luck in sub contactors and slow workers plus the shop was very old and in need of repair, what we thought would take 4 months to fix and set up for our needs is now into 11 months of pure remodel hell!

    Under the circumstances and with no company income My wife and I condensed from 3 storage units to 2 to save money.

    this is where our saga get’s good…

    at our new shop location we also rented a 8X40 mobile storage container
    and due to some city rules we had to remove it.

    When one of the contactors heard about this he offered to move our items inside the mobile storage container to our storage place and pay for 2 or 3 months until he built us a permanent storage shed at our new shop that the city will allow.

    My wife and I was very grateful and felt this would be awesome!
    we told the contactor the name of the storage facility and drove there to meet him.

    The storage facility had a sign out front saying they had a special on larger size units as long as you pay 3 months in advance.

    this was the same as when we first moved in along time ago, so we thought why not let the contactor get a good deal and tell him about it.

    the manager at the storage facility said “nope not going to rent to you” because you just moved out of one unit a short time back and now you find some guy to sneak you back in on a special!

    our contactor tried to explained that the personal things we had stored before was not the same as the items from our shop mobile storage container and this was a separate issue and he was the renter.

    The storage facility manager said he did not care and we was to leave.

    A few days later the manager sent us certified letters on our 2 storage units telling us to move out at the end of the lease month.

    their should be some rights for us!

    now we had to hire a crew to move us and he treated our contactor very rudely as if he is a snake in the grass trying to pull a fast one!

    I call the storage facility manager after getting the letters from him and his reply to me was ” Don’t want you type of people here!”

    I just don’t get the point he is making, someone could pay 1 or 2 months on a month to month bases or he could get 3 months in advance up front so that makes us being sneaky?

  4. Job is playing games said

    It is interesting that if you are a human renter in an apt building the “rights” are tipped toward the renter and if your stuff is the renter of a storage unit you have no rights what so ever?

  5. Jack Meoff said

    All storage place owners are criminals, you all violate the law by making up your own rules on renting /late fees/ lock outs etc…
    CA. does the same. AZ is a joke too
    you owners never obey the law cause you think nobody knows what their rights are. you make insane leases that are only there to screw the renter. soon you will all be in jail I hope !!!
    and the big ripoff by saying a space in bigger then it really is & charging us for it, is just CRIMINAL !!
    I bet all u owners are obama voters :(

  6. Most of the landlords don’t want you to pay on time, and hope your not able to pay! This way they get to FLUFF your stuff! Go to a flea market away from the town your storage is located at, don’t be surprised if you see some of your stuff there for sale! I got something they can all lien on, and I aint talk”n bout my truck either!

  7. Denise Jackson said

    Sale of items in storage unit without proper notice

  8. Carol said

    Can a self storage facility be held liable for stating on website mult video cameras through out the property providing security when they only have a camera at the entrance and one at the exit and is so antiquated that the video is poor quality and there was nothing to aide the police in an investigaton of the theft of an entire 2013 travel trailer. It took 17 days for them to tell the truth and then to be told that because ofthis incident they had bids out for new equipment. I asked how that would help me and I was told it wouldn’t, but it would help the next person. Our trailer was tsken withina 5 day window and there was a separate break in during that period. Criminals
    kobviously knew it was an easy target. A friend of mine called a few weeks later to inquire about renting an rv space and asked about security and was told that it was very safe. No breakins or security issues.

    • Here are two topics to investigate when the storage facility has mislead you about the security it provides:
      1. Your state’s consumer protection statute. Navigate from this portal to state legal codes. See also the National Consumer Law Center
      2. Negligence – When a business breaches a duty and that breach results in harm, which can be financial harm, it is legally negligent and has to pay damages. The lawyers who handle negligence cases are personal injury lawyers. You should be able to get a free consultation with a local personal injury lawyer to discuss your case and decide whether to pursue legal action.
      An efficient first step that you can take is to file a consumer complaint with your state attorney general. State attorneys general investigate and prosecute fraudulent business practices. You can find your state attorney general’s website via http://www.naag.org/naag/attorneys-general/whos-my-ag.php. Once you are in your state AG’s website, look around for an online complaint form. The attorney general represents the public, so even if the storage company tries to claim that you signed a contract promising not to sue (the same contract where they promised to provide adequate security) the attorney general can take immediate action on behalf of the state.

  9. Tammy said

    I have a tenant that is renting an apartment and he also got a the garage to take care of the lawn and shovel the snow he also put his car in one of the other empty garages I ask the tenant to empty out one of the garages the verbal agreement was only for one he will not move his stuff out what can I do to get him to get his stuff out of my garage legally

  10. Leeya Loe said

    I have a question me and my family are homeless and are renting a storage unit . My boyfriend was shaving in their bathroom quickly and a employee walking in on him by accident . He said that because of what he saw he would not continue the lease with him because of it. Not to long ago we got a call saying because of what they saw on camera which is is coming in and out of the storage unit they will limit our hours from office hours (which are the times we work) instead of the hours outside of the storage unit that say 6-10 . Can they do such thing !? NoNE of this is mentioned in the terms and conditions or on their lease

    • The facility might have rules or policies that you have to follow in addition to the lease. The lease will usually mention those if they exist. Your actions may have given the facility the impression that you are living in the storage unit. Perhaps that is forbidden by the lease. If you believe that you have not violated the lease and that the facility has violated the lease, you may have rights under your state’s consumer protection law. The attorney general’s office will investigate your complaint and decide whether to prosecute the storage facility. Meanwhile, if this facility is arbitrarily changing rules based on a false impression and preventing you from accessing your stuff when you have no place else to keep it, you might have a tort claim. Even though personal injury lawyers handle tort claims, you might want to talk with a legal aid lawyer who knows about poverty.

  11. Dawn said

    i have been renting a garage for some time now and i had put a few things out and forgot to trash them the owner however changed my locks and said that he has a bill of $450.00 that he wants me to pay or he wont let me get my things or access to my unit what do i do

  12. LaBuda said

    We rented 4 units when evicted from a facility that has online ads claiming 24 hr access, well-lit facilities, secured with monitored surveillance and security, WiFi access, business center, mail services including a private mailbox, desk and phone services to conduct business transactions including meeting customers, climate-controled units, etc. Realty: only camera watches gate that is left open all night, very limited lighting-most areas are completely dark, no business services, no facilities for occupants, not allowed to utilize 24 hr access without getting accussed of sleeping in unit, not allowed to remain in unit for more than 30 minutes, and singled out due to no vehicle.
    Wife was injured during moving process & we weren’t getting along that day. No public scenes occurred. Wife remained at storage to begin consolidation of 4 to 2 units-I left for welding class. Storage employee harassed wife to point of tears. Employee demanded wife call 911. Wife refused. Employee called 911 claiming she had video of DV assault. Police, Fire, & EMTs dispatched. Wife was taken to hospital to have injury checked out. 3 hours later wife returned to storage to continue with consolidation. We didn’t block access for anyone. We didn’t leave a mess. Returned a week later to work through night (day temps avg 100 degrees-climate-controlled units don’t exit). Next morning a 2nd employee accussed us of living in unit. Said they had received several complaints. Told us to leave. Returned a week later on a Sunday when office closed thinking we could finally get move finished. Unidentified male claimed he was security–threatened us with calling cops to evict us immediately, said we couldn’t use electricity or water, said couldn’t have service animal on property, said he would sell our property next day, said 24 hr access had been revoked 2 wks prior due to police being called on us, said he could do whatever he wants, told us we had to leave by 7pm when standard posted hours for non-businesses are 6am-9pm 7 days a week, said he didn’t care gate always open from 9pm-8:30am, said he didn’t care that fire extinguishers were out-of-date, said occupant across from “pays for utilities” when there isn’t a separate meter to do so.
    We have never “broken” the rules at this facility. Welfare check has been twisted into reason to make different rules for us than other tenants. We have NEVER slept/lived out of any of the units but the employees constantly claim they have received complaints about us. We only need the storage for another 2 weeks but need access. What do you recommend? In AZ. Thanks.

    • According to Arizona’s Attorney General, “Consumer fraud, as defined by Arizona law is any deception, unfair act or practice, false statement, false pretense, false promise or misrepresentation made by a seller or advertiser of merchandise.” If this sounds to you like the treatment you are getting from the storage place, you can file a free complaint with the Attorney General’s office.

  13. Ive been renting a storage unit here in california now for almost a year . I have paid on time except for one month and I paid all the excessive fees and caught up I was like 24 days late anyways they cut my lock off and replaced it with one of theres when i was delinquent when i had them get there lock off and entered my unit I noticed that some of my stuff was missing . theres no doubt in my mind that whoever cut my lock helped themselves to my possessions and i want retribution what recourse do I need to pursue to get monetary equivalent of the things that were taken 1)crossbow 2)a video cam recorder 3)a bb gun rifle 4) muzzle loader hand gun 5) over/under shotgun 22 and thats just what i can remember I know theres probably more ? can anyone help me?

  14. Omg. Praying someone replies. I am so so angry. So here is the story, I rented a storage building after my father died and placed many of his things along with some of my things. A few months later (Payment up to date) I was at building cleaning it out throwing things out and selling some of the things I didn’t want. It was a hot day, and after few hours I was so thirsty. I jumped in car leaving three chest sitting out that were to be trashed. I didn’t leave them in the drive area I left them up against mg door opening with the door open making it clear. This isn’t a busy place and is in a small town. When I come back fifteen minutes later my items were gone. I figured someone came along thinking they were feeling something of value. Went on about my business thinking nothing else up it until a week later when I received a message from the storage companies stating that I had left items outside of my building they had to take them and put them inside of an empty building. Because of this I was being build a $25 fee. I was out of town and sent a friend to get the items. When I went to pay my monthly fee I was informed my friend did not remove all of the . Instead of paying my normal $87 I was charged 267 due to this I really did not have the time to argue with him nor the patience at that moment. I received an email from them a week later telling me because the items were still in their building they were now renting that building to me and I could see the enclosed contract provided in the email sent. When I Look to the email it was a full month fee for $100 a month building. They also informed me in this email that until that payment was made I was locked out of my other building which was paid in full and I would not be getting in it. I am in the state of North Carolina and I am to me and I could see the enclosed contract provided in the email sent. When I Look to the email it was a full month fee for $100 a month building. They also informed me in this email that until that payment was made I was locked out of my other building which was paid in full and I would not be getting in it. I am in the state of North Carolina and I am asking anyone that may have knowledge of the to please state their opinion or I give me guidance as to how I handle this. I feel this is not right. If they wanted to take that stuff and put it in their building and say you’re not getting it back I had no problem with that even. But to lock my building that was paid for in full I feel is wrong.

    • You need a local lawyer. Here is an online form to help you find lawyers in your city who handle disputes about contracts and property. http://www.martindale.com/Find-Lawyers-and-Law-Firms.aspx Did you report them to the Better Business Bureau? The BBB will mediate or arbitrate a dispute between you and this storage company.

      • Hello. Not yet. I went to the business yesterday and recorded the conversation. I told him I was going to file papers against him in civil court he found that amusing. I asked for a copy of my contract and he gave me one. The contract clearly stated any items left out of your storage building OVERNIGHT will be picked up and disposed of . OVERNIGHT! I was gone fifteen minutes MAX. I am so outdone. Glad you suggested better business bureau. I will do that in the AM. Thank you much for replying

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