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Make Sure You Ask!
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There are approximately 58,000 storage facilities in the U.S.1 which, to give you perspective, almost triples the number of McDonald's restaurants.2 In essence, you have a lot of choices when it comes to storage facilities, and price isn't the only thing you should consider when signing a contract. Before making a decision, be sure you know these ten things:
1. Do you have 24-hour access? Many facilities have electronic gates with keypads which make it easy to access you unit at any time. However, this is not the case with all storage facilities. If you may need access after normal working hours, this is a very important question to ask!
2. Are there onsite personnel? You'd be surprised how many facilities are owned and managed by people who live cities or even states away. With call-answering services and automated gates, there isn't a "need" for onsite management. However, things happen, especially with gate softwares, and there is nothing more frustrating than waiting outside a facility for hours before help arrives. Make sure you are renting from a facility that can get someone there quickly if you need onsite assistance.
3. Do they spray for bugs regularly? Few things can destroy your storage more quickly than an infestation of bed bugs or something similar. Keep your eyes open as you tour the facility, and be sure to ask how often they spray for bugs and if they've ever had a bad outbreak.
4. Do they offer insurance? The need for insurance depends on where you live, honestly. If you live near the coast and are at risk of floods, or if you are in a city where crime is high, insurance might be a good idea. Many facilities offer optional insurance plans for low monthly premiums.
5. How much are their late fees, and how often do they charge them? Sometimes life happens, and it is nice to find a facility who is flexible and understanding. That being said, many facilities charge multiple late fees beginning on the first day past due. Know what you are getting yourself into before your rent!
6. Do they provide a lock? Unit keypads are more secure than many locks, but if you are renting from a facility that uses padlocks, be sure to ask if the lock is provided. Many facilities provide a padlock, but others will charge you $20 for a lock you could have bought elsewhere for $5.
7. Will your price increase over time? I love a facility who promises a flat rate no matter how long you rent with them. If the facility you are considering doesn't promise a flat rate, you might consider asking how often they've had price increases. If they are a small business, they might increase prices regularly just to stay afloat.
8. Do you need a climate controlled unit? If you are storing documents or artwork, you really need to see if you can get a climate controlled unit. At the very least, ask if the ceiling is treated to prevent drips. Wall insulation is more common with newer units, and you should ask if they have that as well.
9. What are their lockout policies? I know a facility that locks their customers out if they are one day past due. They have every right to do this, but it can be straining on you as a tenant if you are, like many of us, forgetful at times. Another facility places physical locks on "past due units" with the disclaimer that the lock will not be removed (even if payment is received online) if you are trying to enter outside office hours. Again, know what you are getting yourself into!