Self Storage Units

How To Prevent Renters From Inhabiting Your Storage Unit

June 12, 2023

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Keep Your Renters From Living In Storage Units

Can you live in a storage unit? 

No matter which state you live in, the answer is always “no.” There are several reasons why it’s illegal to live in a storage unit, the most substantial being health and safety concerns.  

Storage unit facilities are not zoned for residential living and therefore aren’t regulated by the health, safety, and housing codes that residential buildings are. It’s dangerous to live in a storage unit, which is why storage facility owners need to respond quickly if they suspect a tenant is attempting it.  

As an owner, it’s your responsibility to do everything you can to discourage live-in tenants. Here are seven ways to prevent renters from inhabiting your storage units.   

#1 Establish a Firm “No Loitering” Policy in All Lease Agreements 

Every lease agreement you sign with a tenant should have a clause that prohibits loitering around, sleeping in, and living in your storage units. You can also site any local laws or housing regulations and explain to tenants why it’s prohibited. Your job is to keep tenants and their belongings as safe as possible, and you can’t do that if tenants are violating the rules. Remind your tenants that even if they get in severe trouble financially, their storage unit should not be an option for living accommodations.   

The lease is also an ideal place to emphasize the measures you plan to use to enforce this rule. For example, if your facility is surveilled by security cameras or on-site security staff, inform tenants that their presence on the facility grounds will be monitored at all times.   

#2 Lock Gate Access During Closed Hours 

Many self-storage facilities offer 24-hour access. This is a great amenity for renters who may need to visit their units outside of typical business hours, and it’s also an excellent way to market your accessibility to prospective customers. However, it can unfortunately make it easier for tenants to use their storage units as living accommodations. 

To prevent this problem, you might consider setting specific hours your facility is open and keeping the facility closed outside of those hours. If the gate remains locked during closed hours, it’s much harder for tenants to come and go when they shouldn’t be. It also helps you keep a closer eye on your facility during nighttime hours, when you can double down on security. 

#3 Stay Alert to Signs of Live-In Tenants 

It’s important that you and your staff know how to recognize signs someone is living in a storage unit. Possible signs could include: 

  • A tenant is frequently on the premises and doesn’t seem to be loading/unloading belongings 
  • Their storage unit door remains propped open at night 
  • There are vehicles or people on the premises after hours 
  • A tenant makes a request for electricity or running water in their unit 
  • There’s a surge in electrical bills from a particular unit, suggesting that the renter is using cooking appliances or heaters. 
  • Bathroom supplies run out faster 
  • You find household trash around the facility, such as food wrappers, cigarette butts, or sanitary products 

If you notice any of these signs, it’s important to investigate further and take action as quickly as possible.  

#4 Increase On-Site Security  

Increasing security is another way to keep a closer eye on your storage units. Security cameras will do the trick, but hiring on-site security staff to patrol the facility at night is often a better way to deter live-in renters and discourage loitering on the property in general. Their presence alone will make it much more difficult for a renter to see their storage unit as reliable and safe housing. 

You can also install and monitor gate access to your facility. With this technology, you can track entry and exits and compare the number of times the gate code was entered with the number of vehicles that left the premises. If there are frequently more entrances than exits, you’ll know that someone is on the premises who shouldn’t be. 

#5 Ask Renters to Verify Their Mailing Addresses 

When a tenant signs a lease with you, you’ll want to ask for a billing and mailing address for payments. Keep this address on file, and regularly ask your tenants to update it. This way, you can ensure that all renters have home addresses aside from their storage units. 

#6 Conduct Regular Inspections of Your Facility 

As the landlord in a self-storage rental agreement, it is your right to inspect your rental units whenever you see fit. Be sure to describe your right to inspect storage units in the lease and then regularly do so. Inform renters about what to expect for monthly or quarterly inspections, and look out for signs of live-in tenants while you’re completing them. Inspections are also a great time to make sure renters are complying with other rules you may have in your facility, such as bans on hazardous substances, value limits, or other regulations. 

#7 Discourage Habitation by Purposely Making Your Storage Units Uninhabitable 

It may sound harsh, but it is actually an effective and kind way to maintain safety and make your units seem as unattractive to live in as possible. The more you can do to discourage habitation, the fewer evictions for such you’ll have to face. 

Discouraging habitation could mean shutting off water and electrical access, locking gates and offices after hours, or installing motion-detection lights inside units as well as around the facility. You should also keep bathrooms and offices locked after business hours, so that tenants can’t use those facilities regularly. 

Conclusion 

If you do notice signs of a renter living in your storage unit, learn the eviction process in your state as quickly as possible. It’s a sad and unfortunate situation to deal with, as many renters who try to live in storage units are regular people facing hardship and trying to think of creative ways to survive. However, if you have your tenants’ safety in mind, you’ll take these measures to prevent your units from being used for anything besides the purpose they were intended to serve. 

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