What to Do if a Tenant Loiters

Krista Diamond |

Every storage facility has that tenant. You know the one. The tenant who is always there. The one who spends hours in his storage unit. The one who sits in her parked car. The one who shows up when your storage facility opens and stays there until you close (heaven help you if you’re open 24 hours a day).

Loitering can be tricky to define in the context of a self storage business. Is the tenant visiting every day but only staying on property for a half-hour? That’s not necessarily loitering. Are they visiting a few times a week and spending hours at a time? Are they spending those hours inside the storage unit with the door partially closed? That could be considered loitering.

It’s easy to tell the difference between a commercial storage renter taking a few hours to sort through an inventory and a tenant who is spending a suspicious amount of time in and around their storage unit for no reason. If you think you’ve got a loitering tenant on your hands, here’s what you can do.

Put No-Loitering In Your Lease

It all starts with the lease. If your storage facility’s lease doesn’t include the words “no loitering” in it, you’ve got to re-examine it. Put specific language in your rental agreement stating that loitering is prohibited. Include activities associated with loitering that aren’t allowed. For example: No loitering at the storage facility. No vehicle maintenance, sleeping, cooking, smoking, personal grooming or operating a business on property.

Create Signage

A simple “No loitering” sign in a highly trafficked area of your storage facility can send the right message. Avoid going overboard with signs if you do decide to take this action, as too many signs or harshly worded signs might actually hurt your business. You run the risk of deterring new tenants, who may see these signs and think that loitering is a big problem at your storage facility. Existing tenants might feel unwelcome, as if your business is emphasizing strict rules over customer service.

Have an Active Presence

If you’re the kind of self storage operator who sits in the office instead of roaming the grounds of the facility, loitering tenants will take advantage. Prevent loitering by patrolling the storage facility on a regular basis, taking time to acknowledge tenants. Not only does this let would-be loiterers know that you’re aware of what’s going on, it has the added benefit of showing the rest of your customers that you take your job seriously.

Talk to Them

Communication. It can go a long way. If the tenant is loitering on a daily or weekly basis, it’s time for a conversation. Be friendly but firm. Remind the individual that when they signed their lease they agreed to not loiter. Encourage them to stick to that agreement going forward.

Send a Violation Notice

If the loitering continues after your conversation, send the tenant a notice explaining that they are in violation of the lease. You can be firmer, as this will be a reminder rather than the first discussion about this behavior, but be professional. Let the tenant know the potential consequences of continuing to loiter.

Look For Signs That Someone is Living in Their Storage Unit

A tenant who loiters can easily turn into a full-time resident if left unchecked. Every veteran self storage operator has heard his or her fair share of explanations from a loitering tenant, and while many of them are genuine and even heartbreaking, allowing a tenant to continue violating the terms of a lease isn’t fair to customers who do follow the rules.

If you allow a tenant to loiter, you might unwittingly be allowing them to fully move in. You can identify a live-in tenant through a number of clues:

  • They are always on property, perhaps even more so than when they were simply just loitering.

  • The tenant who has a history of loitering moves to a climate-controlled unit during the winter or summer, making it easier for them to comfortably spend more time inside of it.

  • The unit has an electrical outlet inside and is drawing an unusual amount of electricity.

  • They spend a lot of time in your public restroom, which may indicate that they are using it to wash up, brush their teeth, or do other things that one might do in their own bathroom. You’ll also notice that you’re going through a lot more bathroom supplies.

  • There is a strange odor coming from the storage unit, whether it be cigarette smoke, cooking or body odor.

  • There are noises coming from the storage unit that indicate someone is inside.

  • You receive complaints from other tenants.

If a tenant continues to loiter or advances into actually living on-site, you have the right to give them a 30-day notice, as they are clearly in violation of the lease. Continuing to allow a tenant to loiter will make other tenants uncomfortable, detract new customers and earn your business a negative reputation. Be professional and clear when dealing with a loitering tenant. If they have nowhere else to go or cannot return home due to an unsafe living situation, connect them with resources that can help, but remember that your storage facility is not one of those resources. It gets harder and harder to stop loitering the longer you let it go on. Taking action will benefit your business and your customers.