We’re big fans of storage facilities, but even we have to admit that they can seem kind of creepy at times. How do you tell the difference between that I’ve-seen-too-many-horror-movies feeling and that gut instinct that keeps correctly insisting that something sketchy is going on? From the ones that are filled with crime to the ones that hit you with unauthorized fees, here are 10 signs that your storage facility is sketchy.
If any of these sound familiar to you, it’s time to book a storage unit somewhere else.
1. They don’t call you when there’s an issue.
If you show up to your storage unit only to learn that it’s been burglarized/flooded/burnt down/teleported to another dimension, that’s a red flag. Your first clue that there was an issue with your storage unit shouldn’t happen in person. A good storage facility will notify you if your storage unit sustained damage from a natural disaster, was broken into or even if you simply left it unlocked.
2. They hide fees.
You might have found a storage unit with the cheapest rates in town, but how much does it really cost? If every other place is charging $55 for a 5x5 unit and you found one for $25, read the fine print and the online reviews before moving in. That low rate may be the result of hidden fees. Every storage facility charges fees, but they should be transparent.
3. The police are always there.
Maybe it’s kind of charming that your storage facility manager is on a first-name basis with every single police officer in the neighborhood. Maybe it’s convenient that when your storage unit gets broken into, the cops are able to respond in seconds because they were already on-site dealing with an assault. Or maybe it means that there’s way too much crime going on around your storage unit for you to safely leave your stuff there.
4. Something smells fishy—literally.
As you walk through the hallways of your indoor storage facility, the only thing you should smell is...well...nothing. If you smell smoke, cooking, body odor or anything else suspicious coming from inside a number of storage units, that’s cause for alarm. You could be dealing with a storage facility that doesn’t care when tenants store prohibited items, looks the other way on tenants living in units and generally doesn’t take cleaning seriously.
5. Their security cameras are just for show.
We can’t stress the importance of good self storage security enough. A secure storage facility has high walls, gated access and operational security cameras. Operational being the key word. Have you ever been inside a business that has a fake security camera in place to ward off thieves? Some of them even have blinking lights. If your storage facility uses a camera that isn’t real, isn’t pointing in the right direction or is no longer in service, it’s not going to do you any good if crime occurs on property.
6. The property is poorly maintained.
Everyone appreciates curb appeal. You know, the nice flowers, the pretty painted sign, the office with free coffee for customers. The thing is, most of us don’t think we need curb appeal in a storage facility. And while there’s nothing wrong with renting a storage unit at a no-frills facility, you don’t want to confuse no-frills with no maintenance. If a storage facility has overflowing dumpsters, trash strewn around the grounds, leaking pipes and noticeable mold, you can almost guarantee that you’ll be seeing mice and bugs too.
7. The only customer service you can reach by phone is at a call center.
In some cases, dealing with a storage facility’s call center is fine. Maybe you just have a quick question about facility hours, maybe you want to make sure your rent payment was received. But in the case of a real emergency—or even just a complex question—you want to be able to talk to an actual person who works at the storage facility. If your storage facility makes that impossible, rent elsewhere (and maybe look for a storage facility with on-site management).
8. They raise your rent without contacting you.
A storage facility has to contact you before raising your rent. Period. If your automatic payment deducted $80 instead of $70 last month and you weren’t warned about the increase, that’s sketchy storage behavior. Not only should you receive at least 30 days notice on rent increases, they shouldn’t be so high that you have no choice but to move out.
9. There are a lot of storage auctions going on.
Before we get into this one, we do want to mention that the majority of storage facilities avoid storage auctions. The point of a storage auction is to recoup lost rent, and the average auction rarely accomplishes that, let alone turns a profit. They’re time consuming, financially draining and they involve auctioning off another person’s belongings—an affair that even the most machiavellian of human beings has a hard time delighting in. But if you pass by a storage auction every time you’re on property and you notice a lot of tenants complaining about not being notified about the lien process, you might be dealing with one of the .0001% of storage facilities that is going about the storage auction process for the wrong reasons.
10. The online reviews seem a bit...off.
Your storage facility is dirty, the customer service is bad and yet there’s a glowing online review from someone with the exact same name as the facility manager. Sketchy. Look out for online reviews that seem like they were written by someone on staff, written in exchange for compensation or appear to contain language that is advertorial in nature. A good storage facility doesn’t need to hire people to write reviews. Find one that is worthy of a glowing recommendation on its own.