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The Dos and Don’ts of Renting Your First Storage Unit

Jon Fesmire | September 12, 2017 @ 9:00 AM

If you’ve never rented a self storage unit before, you may be confused about what you can expect, and what is expected of you. Fortunately, we can demystify the process for you, help you find a great unit, and help you become an excellent tenant at the same time. Let’s look at the dos and don’ts of renting a self storage unit.

The Dos

Picking a Unit

Once you decide that you need a self storage unit, you will need to search for a facility. Ideally, that should be one near you with top-notch security, a friendly staff, and affordable prices. Depending on where you live, however, you may need to look just outside your immediate area to find the best prices.

You’ll also need to know what unit size you need. Sizes range from 5x5, which is like a large closet, to 10x30, the size of a two-car garage. Also, determine if you will need a unit with climate control. Basically, if you live in a hot, humid area, or a cold, dry area, it’s highly recommended, though some of your items will need it more than others. A climate controlled unit generally rents for 25% to 30% more per month than a standard unit of the same size.


Once you’ve picked a facility and know what size and type of unit you need, rent it. Often, you can do this online, though at other times, you will need to go into the office. Even if you’re able to rent your unit via the company’s website, you may still need to go in to fill out paperwork.

When you do, make sure to bring your ID. Read over the paperwork, and ask questions. Find out how much extra you will have to pay for self storage insurance, what the office and facility hours are, what day your rent is due and what methods of payment are accepted. You should also be sure that you know what you can and cannot store. This typically includes items that are perishable and combustible.


When packing up your items for self storage, do so with organization in mind. That means keeping an inventory of your stored items, using sturdy boxes, and stacking them well inside the unit. If you plan to use a moving truck, ask the storage facility if they have vehicles available for rent, as some do. Otherwise, compare services and prices of local truck rental companies and pick what works best for you. If you need to, ask a few friends to help you move your things into the new unit and treat them to dinner.

At the Facility

With all that done, it’s time to take your possessions to your new storage unit. You’ll use your security code to get into the gate, and then park near your unit and unload your boxes. Many storage facilities have carts available for your use, which will make hauling boxes to and from your storage unit much easier.

When you’re done putting things into your storage unit, do return the cart to where you found it, so that the next customer who needs to use it can find it.

Be friendly to your fellow tenants. Keep in mind that when people use storage, often it’s because of stressful life changes.

Once you’re done with your business at the storage facility, don’t loiter. Head out and go do something you enjoy.

Your Bill

Do pay your storage unit rent on time. If you don’t, you risk the belongings in your storage unit going to auction. The exact process and timetable varies from state to state, but essentially, these laws exist so that facilities can reclaim their space and recoup their financial losses when a tenant abandons a unit.

Facilities do send warning letters to tenants before units go to auction in an attempt to get them to pay their bills. If you receive such a letter because you forgot to pay your rent for a couple of months, pay it right away.


What Not to Store

This cannot be stressed enough. Do not store anything the facility disallows. Don’t store flammable materials, open food containers or perishable foods, live plants or animals, or wet items. These pose a danger to your unit and the facility as a whole. Flammable materials can catch fire. Food-related items can attract pests, from rats to roaches. If you store any of these and the facility finds out, there’s a high chance you will get evicted from the unit.

For Storage Only

You may not sleep in your unit. Self storage units are not made for human habitation. In very rare cases, a storage facility may have units that people use as offices, gyms, or space for band practice. Again, this isn’t common, but it does exist. You should never assume that your storage facility is okay with you using a storage unit for any purpose other than a place to keep your belongings. And if you are using a storage unit for something like rehearsal space for your band, you should never sleep in it.


Your gate code is for you alone. Don’t give it out, and do not let the person behind you drive in without entering a code. If this does happen, inform the self storage staff.

That’s Too Loud

We’ve mentioned that you should be kind to other tenants. So, don’t play loud music from your car while you’re unpacking. It may be your favorite artist, but that doesn’t mean everyone else wants to hear it. Turn the music off before you roll in the gate.

Doors Are for People

When you go to your storage unit, you probably just want to drop off or retrieve something and then head home. You may drive in and find that no one else is around. Even if this is the case, don’t park too close to any entrance, because you could inadvertently block the door someone else needs to go through to get to their unit. It can be upsetting to come around a corner with a full hand truck and find that your door is impossible to navigate to with all your boxes.

That about covers it. Now, you’re ready to declutter your home, rent the right storage unit for you and have a good relationship with your storage facility and your fellow tenants.

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