Much of the information about self-storage security focuses on keeping out thieves and other unauthorized visitors. But what about renters who may pose problems due to negligence, storage of illegal materials, or even one who rents a self-storage unit in order to break into others from the “inside?”
Being less than diligent can cost you money and ruin your reputation. Property damage resulting from negligence, vandalism and theft is itself very costly. There’s also the domino effect, which can include property closure or seizure, loss of good tenants who don’t feel comfortable or safe in the environment, and loss of rent revenues during eviction and repair of units.
The domino effect continues as word-of-mouth spreads, and media—both traditional and social—gears up to address the issues.
Here’s where an ounce of prevention is worth many pounds of cure. Following are some timely tips to keep warm-weather months from getting too hot:
- Check out renters before giving them the green light. This can complement, not contradict, providing excellent customer service. In fact, legitimate renters will appreciate the vetting process, particularly if the self-storage owner explains the rationale behind it. This is not that different from retailers tightening up return policies in an effort to thwart those abusing the privilege. When it’s understood that this is being done to help keep prices down and prevent people from “gaming the system,” most customers understand. Make sure the renter provides a verifiable, valid photo ID, social security number, date of birth, current address/telephone number and emergency contact information. This will provide evidence of stability and suitability (or not). If indicated, the self-storage owner can ask for further documentation or conduct a background check.
- Request the renter to maintain a current inventory of storage contents. This protects the renter in case of theft, fire or water damage, and can help document losses.
- Make it very clear to prospective renters that the facility maintains a close working relationship with area police and fire departments. Provide department information addressing criminal activity and fire safety in the self-storage office and post it around the site. Make sure police have 24/7 access for random patrols and inspections.
- Provide the police department’s Criminal Investigations Division (CID) with monthly lists of new tenants.
- Know ahead of time how to spot potentially illegal activity, and have a specific gameplan for what to do about it. This plan should be shared with all employees, so that everyone understands its importance.
A recent Inside Self-Storage report offers additional thoughts and suggestions about how to handle situations as they arise. The article points out:
“Maybe a manager discovers a unit filled with aquariums that house snakes (true story), a corpse in an unplugged freezer (really, it happened), or just a creepy tenant who says or does something inappropriate…How do operators handle these ‘Why me?’ scenarios? Is what you would do the same as what you should do?”