Most people have seen the TV programmes about auctioning off the contents of storage units. Normally U.S. based, these programmes show the fortunes of treasure hunters hoping to benefit and make a profit from units where, for whatever reason, the bill has not been paid.
But is that what it’s really like? Do Self Storage Centres really hold public auctions if clients don’t pay their bills. Can they empty your storage unit and let the contents go for little or no money in comparison to its perceived value?
The answer is yes and no!
You have an obligation to pay the fees agreed for the rental of your self storage unit and if you fail to meet those agreed payments, the centre has a right of lien over the contents. That means they are entitled to hold on to the contents until any debt is repaid. In the event of non-payment, the goods can eventually be sold to recover the debt. But, there is a proper process to follow to get to that point.
You should be given notice of the fact that you are in arrears and what will happen if payment is not made. Ultimately, if you ignore the notices and don’t pay any of the arrears, then the storage centre will, at some point in the process be entitled to dispose of the contents of your storage unit. After all, as long as your belongings are in there, they are losing income as they can’t let it to anyone else.
Now there is the odd exception to the rule where there really is a genuine reason for non-payment and receiving no response to letters. For example, if someone dies and their family are not aware they have a storage unit. If there’s no obvious paperwork lying around and the property isn’t owned there’s a chance it could be overlooked. If the person owns a property there’s more chance of it being picked up as there is normally a period of time while the property is being sorted when correspondence may be picked up.
The reality is that no-one wants to get into a dispute over payment arrears. If you think you’re going to have trouble meeting your monthly commitment, talk to your storage centre manager. There are probably things that can be done to help.
The obvious option is to remove your contents from the storage unit before you have got to a point where you can’t pay the fees, then you won’t get into problems. If you really have nowhere else to store your belongings but are having trouble meeting your existing payments, then consider moving to a smaller unit. There are 2 options available to you when doing this
- Ask the advice of the centre about the way you’re storing the contents of your unit at the moment. Can it be done more efficiently that will allow you to move everything to a smaller unit and reduce your costs?
- Take a long hard look at what you’re storing. Do you really need everything in there? Maybe a few things could be moved to the garage at home or got rid of altogether. Getting rid of some things may allow you to move to a smaller unit.
Most storage centres are flexible when it comes to changing the size of your unit. We are here at Space Centre Self Storage. If we have a unit free that will allow a change from one size to another, we’re happy to accommodate it without penalty because we recognise that sometimes people’s circumstances change.
They key thing is to not get into the arrears situation in the first place. When you first start using a self storage unit take a little time to think about what you’re storing and how you’re storing it. Make sure you get the right sized unit from the start and are not paying for space you don’t really need. Always think about what will happen if you need to store for longer than you originally plan to. If you need some advice about how best to store your items, ask you centre manager.
If you’ve done those things and still find yourself in difficulty further down the line, talk to your centre manager at the earliest opportunity. The last thing anyone wants a drawn out debt collection process and a unit that’s out of use for many weeks. You may well be able to come some arrangement.