For 35 years, the self-storage industry has been the fastest growing segment of commercial real estate. That’s according to the Self Storage Association, which also stated there are more than 48,500 storage unit facilities in the United States. Nearly 1 in 10 American households, or 8.96%, rented a storage unit in 2012, up by nearly double around two decades earlier. As more and more Americans decide to store their belongings in a storage unit, Better Business Bureau urges consumer to do their research first to prevent problems down the road.
In 2012 BBB received more than 1,400 complaints nationwide against self-storage companies. Many complaints alleged unexpected rent increases. Other consumers alleged their goods were damaged, and they received no compensation.
Before signing on the dotted line, BBB recommends consumers consider these 7 factors when selecting a storage unit:
1. Cost. Obtain a written estimate. Costs to consider may include a deposit, monthly rental fee, storage preparation and fees for extra options such as electricity, pest control and insurance. Ask about the fees, how they are to be paid and by what date.
2. Size. Ask what storage units and sizes are available based on your needs. Ask if there is a maximum weight limit for unit contents and if you are able to pack your belongings in the entire unit from floor to ceiling.
3. Climate. Keep in mind the general climate and whether your belongings might be subject to mold and/or water damage. If so, you may want to consider an environmentally-controlled unit.
4. Insurance. Make sure your items are insured from theft, fire or other damage. The storage facility may provide basic insurance or you can choose to purchase insurance from an alternate source.
5. Safety. Ask if the facility has surveillance cameras on the property and if a system is in place to restrict access.
6. Access. Ask if there are hour restrictions that determine when you can access your unit. If so, make sure it works with your move schedule. Also, get as much contact information as you can to reach someone at the facility in case of an emergency, both during and after business hours.
7. Contract. Get everything in writing, including; the size and location of the unit, whether the unit is climate controlled, term regulations, insurance coverage and the payment schedule. Make sure the facility has provided you with several different ways to get in touch with you, either by home phone or cell phone in case there is ever a problem with your unit or your payment.
To find a list of local accredited storage unit facilities, visit bbb.org.
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