5 Ways Self-Storage Units Cost More Than You Think

1. Self-storage facilities are targets for crime

Because of the conditions surrounding self-storage facilities, they can sometimes become targets of crime, meaning you could end up paying more than you expect when you have to replace stolen items. Few have on-site managers that watch the units overnight, meaning that it can be easy for thieves to break in and steal belongings. 

Self-storage facilities “are just buildings that have your lock on it and are for the most part unattended after 7 p.m.,” Jeff Greenberger, a lawyer who handles self-storage cases, told Consumer Digest

If burglarized, items such as family heirlooms — which are often kept in storage — could be lost forever. It could also be harder to get your storage facility to pay you back for your losses  than you might think. 

Oftentimes, you’ll have to prove in court that the storage facility was negligent, or that they knew of the security issue that led to the theft and did not fix it. If the storage facility is found to have provided “reasonable” protection against theft, they are not liable for your loss. 

2. They aren't obligated to protect your items from damage

Self-storage facilities are not necessarily liable if your items are damaged by water, fire or a natural disaster while in storage. 

Like with theft, the burden of proving that your storage facility is responsible for the damage of your items lies with you in most cases. This could be time consuming, expensive and may not even result in you getting your money back. Experts recommend that you have your own insurance to protect your stored items. This is just another expense when you could already be forking over $100 or more a month to your storage facility. 

3. They're raising your rents

Self-storage units are often built in low-income areas where land is cheap enough that companies can afford large warehouses to maximize the amount of space they can rent. Over time, however, gentrification may begin to occur in these areas, causing property values to skyrocket. 

This means that rents go up and many residents of the neighborhood may be forced out of their longtime homes. One of the few ways that this process can be combated is through the creation of more housing to ease demand on the market and cause rent decreases. 

Especially in big cities like San Francisco, land is sparse and storage facilities can waste valuable space where housing could be built.

For example, in the Mission District, a San Francisco neighborhood currently undergoing steep rises in rent, the total of nine storage facilities that we identified in the area took up more than 202,000 square feet of land, according to property data obtained from the San Francisco Office of the Accessor. That’s enough space to build hundreds of apartments, which could help to alleviate the city’s affordable housing crisis and lower your rent. 

4. They're taking jobs in your neighborhood

Self-storage facilities take up more space, have lower operating costs and employ fewer people than most other kinds of businesses. Because they take up land that could be allocated to businesses that employ more people, they could very well harm a city’s economy. 

That’s why in recent years, cities across the nation, including New York, have begun placing tighter zoning restrictions on self-storage facilities. In an information report on New York’s implementation of the restrictions, the New York City Economic Development Corporation writes that limiting the number of self-storage facilities could help “preserve opportunities for industrial and manufacturing businesses.” That could mean less job competition in your neighborhood. 

5. There are cheaper alternatives

Self-storage facilities may seem like your only option when you have no other place to keep your belongings. But San Francisco-based company Sharespace offers you an alternative to self-storage units and the risks that come with them. 

Sharespace allows you to store your belongings in a neighbor’s empty garage, rather than a self-storage unit on the edge of town. With this service, your belongings will be both closer to you and you’ll be able to store them for cheaper. 

Sharespace charges about $75 per month for the renting a storage area about the size of a bedroom, while other storage companies could charge you more than double that rate. Unlike traditional self-storage units, Sharespace also protects your belongings with its $10,000 insurance coverage.