Whether due to downsizing, moving, or simply being overrun with the “stuff” we collect, many of us turn to storage units for help when space becomes limited. In 2013, BBB received more than 1,500 complaints against storage units. Many of the complaints filed were from disgruntled consumers who were never able to access their storage units after paying a deposit, had goods damaged in the storage units, and even consumers that had their belongings taken from the storage unit. Before allowing a company to store your precious belongings, BBB advises consumers to use caution.
“Over time, many of us collect items which may be difficult to part with and rely on storage facilities for help”, said Mechele Agbayani Mills, President and CEO of BBB Serving Central East Texas. “It’s important to do your research beforehand to ensure the relationship with your storage company is a good one.”
BBB recommends that consumers understand the following before selecting a temporary storage facility:
Cost. Obtain written cost estimates from at least three facilities. Most will insist on inspecting your items before offering an estimate. Costs to consider include the monthly rental fee (usually there are a minimum monthly storage charge and a minimum number of month’s storage); storage preparation, padding, packing or transportation fees; and fees for extra options (electricity, pest control, insurance) you may choose. Ask how the fees are to be paid and by what date.
Size. What size storage units are available? Is there a maximum weight limit for unit contents? Can you pack the entire unit from floor to ceiling?
Climate. Consider the general climate and whether your belongings might be subject to mold or water damage. If so, you may want to consider an environmentally-controlled unit.
Insurance. Make sure your items are insured from theft, fire or other damage. The facility may provide basic insurance or you can choose to purchase insurance from an alternate source. Some homeowners’ policies cover self-storage; check with your insurance agent to see if you are covered.
Safety. You will need a heavy-duty, secure lock protecting your storage unit. Ask if the facility has surveillance cameras on the property and if a system is in place to restrict access by strangers. Ask for contact information to reach someone at the facility in case of an emergency, both during and after business hours.
Contract. Get everything in writing – the size and location of the unit, options (such as climate-control) that you have selected, termination regulations, insurance coverage, and payment terms. Make sure the facility has several different ways to get in touch with you (home phone, cell phone, email, etc.) in case there is ever a problem with your unit or your payment.
Access. What are the hours and related charges for accessing your unit? Is there adequate room for parking and is the distance from your car/truck to the rental unit acceptable? Does the facility offer dollies or hand trucks to help you move your belongings in and out? Make sure you can easily move your possessions in and out with reasonable ease.
Lastly, pay attention to your monthly bill or credit card statement to make sure you are up-to-date on your payments. You don’t want your storage unit to be labeled “abandoned” and put up for auction.
For more tips you can trust, visit bbb.org. To report fraudulent activity or unscrupulous business practices, call the BBB Hotline: (903)581-8373.