When you’ve exhausted the space in your attic, garage, or basement, self storage can be a lifesaver. Having a convenient place to store your seasonal decorations and clothing, extra furniture, and business supplies and equipment can be invaluable.
It’s an easy solution and given that most properties are secure, convenient, and have sizes and prices to fit any budget, it’s easy to find a reputable facility. Nevertheless, choosing the right self storage facility from so many options requires some thought. Before you commit to leasing a unit, there are some questions that need to be asked to help you make the right decision.
One of the most important questions to ask is, “Do you offer a tenant protection plan?” Tenant protection plans provide an extra level of security, over and above your storage or home insurance. If possible, find a facility that carries a Storage Shield tenant protection plan to lessen your risk and provide peace of mind that you’re protected against a major loss.
Questions To Ask Before You Choose A Self Storage Unit
The first thing to do after you’ve narrowed your search is to check websites. A high-quality website should provide valuable information: locations, unit prices and sizes, amenities, security details, access hours, and an FAQ page that will help to answer many of your questions. A well-designed, comprehensive website is your first indication that the property is a well-operated, professional facility.
After reading through the FAQs you’ll undoubtedly have more questions. So that you can get the details that you need and make an informed decision, here are a few suggestions to get you started.
Can I tour the facility?
Request a tour of the property so that you can visit in person, get an impression of the property, feel comfortable with the level of customer service, and get a visual feel for the size unit that you need. The property should be well maintained and the management staff should be accommodating and professional.
Can you explain your security features?
Today’s storage facilities are typically equipped with state-of-the-art features like 24-hour digital video monitoring, electronic gates with keypad access, vigilant on-site managers, and maintenance staff to keep the facility clean and in good working order. The property should have perimeter fencing and bright lighting, and managers should be actively monitoring the system and doing regular walk-throughs.
More advanced features may include individually alarmed “smart” units and wireless, cloud-based digital key management that allows tenant entry using only a smartphone. These are convenient high-tech additions to a property, but you can be assured that your items will remain secure without them.
Please keep in mind that even though most facilities have high-quality security features in place, no company should “guarantee” the safety of your belongings. Random events can occur that are out of everyone’s control. That is why you need a tenant protection plan to supplement your insurance coverage.
Do you offer a tenant protection plan as well as storage insurance?
A tenant protection plan differs from an insurance policy. A tenant protection plan is a contractual agreement between the facility and the tenant, with the customers being reimbursed at replacement costs up to a specified dollar amount. The facility assumes limited responsibility for the tenant’s belongings while they are stored in a locked unit. Protection plan fees are conveniently collected with the monthly rent and there are no deductibles.
Insurance, on the other hand, typically includes personal property coverage from certain risks for clothing, appliances, electronics, and furniture. These items are covered only up to the coverage limits on your policy.
For more detailed information read Is There a Difference Between Storage Insurance and a Tenant Protection Plan?
What sizes and types of storage do you offer?
Your storage requirements are your priority. Are you planning to store personal items or do you need business storage? Are you looking for massive warehouse space or are you a collector looking for specialized storage for wine or other valuables? If RV or boat storage is at the top of your list, do you need extra high ceilings and extra-wide doors? If you’re storing in an area that is subject to temperature extremes, climate-controlled storage is a must. Be precise about the items to be stored so that a staff member can provide you with the right information to meet your specifications.
What are your access hours?
Access hours vary by location but are typically from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. In any case, there are facilities that offer extended hours. During access hours you can use your gate code to access your storage unit. If you need to regularly get into your unit outside of standard hours, look for a facility that has 24-hour access. In some cases, you can ask the management to make an accommodation. It’s important that you’re able to retrieve your items on your schedule.
How do you handle pest control?
Your facility should have a regular pest control program. Rodents and insects can cause permanent damage to your possessions, and you should know if and how often the units are treated.
How do I contact the staff if I need assistance after regular business hours?
Staff is usually present during regular office hours, but you should be provided with phone numbers and emails available for after-hours contact.
Do you have restrictions on what can be stored?
There should be a complete list of restricted items in the FAQ section of the website. It should also be indicated on your contract. The office staff should be happy to explain which items you are not permitted to store and why.
Do You Offer Online Account Management?
Bill pay and autopay options should be available for your convenience. Verify the accepted methods of payment, and be sure that you will have timely notification of any rate increases.
Trust Your Instincts
The vast majority of self storage facilities are well-maintained and well-protected, and the staff should be happy to answer your questions and accommodate your needs. If, for any reason, you don’t feel comfortable with your experience, move on to another self storage business.
Don’t hesitate to take the extra time and effort to locate the property that is the best fit for you. Once you’ve gone through the trouble of moving your items into storage, it’s highly unlikely that you’ll go through the inconvenience of moving them into another facility.