Tips on picking a safe
temporary storage facility
There are plenty of reasons why you might want to
use a temporary storage facility when relocating. But they're not
all created equal -- and even a national or regional chain can have
major differences from one location to the next.
Consider the case of Barbara Anderson of Sun City
West, Ariz.. Anderson was moving from Des Moines, Iowa, to Phoenix
in September 1998. She rented a 10-foot by 30-foot storage unit
in Mesa, Ariz. Anderson says she chose this particular facility
because of its assurances that it was secure.
"I was told they videotape each alley to the storage
units 24 hours a day," Anderson wrote in a complaint to the Rip-off
Report. "As my unit had a front and back door, my unit would
be covered on both sides. Also the entire area was gated ... you
needed an access code to drive in."
Anderson says she checked the unit in December and
everything was fine. But when she returned in April 1999, the unit
had been ransacked. Anderson claims the lock she had put on the
front door was gone and replaced with another lock. She got in through
the back door that still had one of her locks.
Tapes had been erased
Anderson says she was shocked when she asked the storage facility
to look at their videotapes to try to identify the burglar and was
told they erase the tapes every month or so. This was no help to
someone such as herself who was renting the space for a fairly long
When Anderson called the Mesa police, she says she
was told break-ins at storage facilities happen "all the time."
Anderson says the break-in resulted in a $40,000 loss
that she still is negotiating with her insurance company.
"It's been a nightmare," Anderson told me in a recent
phone conversation. "Where did you buy it, when did you buy it,
how much did it cost? I have a lot of pictures and I think they're
trusting me on other things but I have to list everything from a
stinking tablespoon on up."
There are some lessons to be learned from this incident.
Make sure insurance covers it
One of the more obvious ones is to make sure you have an insurance
policy that covers items you put in storage. Some facilities will
insure contents, but most don't. You could get a short-term separate
policy from an insurance company or some storage facilities will
help you arrange for insurance. Even though they don't provide the
coverage usually, they know how you can get it. The Council
of Better Business Bureaus recommends you get the rental agreement
in writing and read it thoroughly.
Next, ask about the facility's security system. Barbara
Anderson says she didn't ask enough questions.
"If they tell you it's being videotaped, ask them
how long they keep the tapes."
She also suggests a phone call to the local police
department to find out if the facility is a favorite target of burglars.
"Ask how safe the area is. It turns out Mesa isn't
one of the safest places to store things in," says Anderson. "The
storage company doesn't have to report a theft to the police and
the police told me storage companies won't report damage done to
the facility during a break-in because it costs less to fix than
the bad publicity."
Pick a safe neighborhood
Anderson says that if she ever rents storage space again she'll
pick a safer neighborhood -- even if it means a longer drive.
She also suggests videotaping everything in your house
for insurance purposes.
"Walk through your house and talk about the pieces.
I mean how often do you talk about bedspreads? Open closets -- everything."
Good advice from someone who learned the hard way.
-- Posted: July 7, 2004