You know the old saying, “I don’t make the rules; I just enforce them”? Well, sometimes you make them too. As a self storage operator, the rules that your facility enforces will be a combination of legal obligation and personal preference. For example, the laws in your state might prohibit tenants from smoking in certain areas of your storage facility, which would make that a rule you’d be obligated to enforce. On the contrary, your storage facility might choose not to allow pets (outside of service animals) on property, which would be a rule you’d be enforcing by choice.
Some of the rules your storage facility enforces will be listed in the lease that each tenant signs (typically under a section entitled “Use of Space” or something similar), others you can communicate through signage or just through common sense—though as every veteran self storage operator knows, you can’t always count on that.
While your opinions on which rules to enforce may vary, here are five that every self storage operator should make a part of their management policy.
Everyone has seen stories on the news about people living in storage units. If you’re a self storage operator, you’ve likely experienced those stories firsthand. The general public might think that prohibiting tenants from living in storage facilities is an obvious rule, but in the world of self storage, it’s not always so simple. Many storage facility managers have felt sympathy for a tenant down on his or her luck and allowed them to become an overnight guest. Take for example, the storage facility that allowed this entire family to live in a Houston storage unit. Don’t be that storage facility. You can certainly connect homeless and struggling tenants to resources like shelters and food banks, but housing them is dangerous for them and for your business.
Another no-brainer, right? Or at least it sounds that way until your favorite, loyal tenant—the one who always pays rent on time—needs extra time that extends past the late payment period. As tempting as it is, you can’t make exceptions for anyone. If you do, you’ll have to make exceptions for everyone. Some storage facilities do allow tenants to make partial payments, but even if you go that route, you can’t give anyone special treatment.
No storage facility allows smoking inside storage units or inside buildings, but some owners have opted to go as far as banning smoking altogether, even on properties where the majority of storage units are the outside, drive-up variety. Creating a property-wide ban on smoking is your call. Enforcing this rule will dramatically limit your risk of fire damage. A tenant might not be smoking inside a storage unit, but a partially lit cigarette butt flung in the wrong direction could still result in tragedy for your storage facility. If you enforce this rule, you’ll need to make it clear with signage throughout the property. Enforce it amongst staff as well. Have a space in mind where you can direct smokers to that is a safe distance from storage units.
Have you ever walked out to your storage facility’s dumpster to throw something away only to find an entire couch, a couple of mattresses and who knows what else inside of it, next to it and all around it? This is not only annoying and unsightly, it can encourage the spread of pests and deter discerning customers from giving you their business. Don’t allow customers to use your dumpster. Lock it up if the issue persists. You can connect tenants with places to donate unwanted items and even offer to make periodic recycling trips (especially for hard to recycle materials), but don’t let them use your dumpster.
Some self storage operators limit the amount of individuals who have access to a storage unit while others allow multiple names on a lease. Allowing multiple names on a lease makes perfect sense if you’re dealing with a large college population of students who might be sharing units, but outside of these markets, it’s not totally necessary. You might allow one name on a lease and have that individual fill out a form that grants one or several other people access.
Whatever you choose to do, don’t allow anyone who doesn’t explicitly have access to a storage unit to enter this. You may encounter this situation when dealing with a tenant going through a divorce, the family members of a deceased tenant or college renters. You should never immediately give the individual in question access—-no matter how believable their story is. If you’re dealing with an especially tricky situation like the storage unit of a deceased tenant or a storage unit that the police need access to, be polite and carefully verify the information before allowing just anyone into someone else’s storage unit.