Kip Tips


Is Your Storage Unit Properly Protected?

Cameron Huddleston

Make sure you have enough insurance coverage for your belongings.



I was always thought that if you had to rent a storage unit, you had too much stuff ... that is, until I rented one myself. When my grandmother moved from a two-bedroom apartment to a one-bedroom apartment in a retirement community, she gave me the furniture from one of the bedrooms because it had been in my father's childhood bedroom. I didn't have space in my house for it. But I didn't want to sell it because my father died several years ago and I had very few items that once were his. So I rented a storage unit.

A few months later I moved into a house with more bedrooms, so I was able to use the furniture that I had placed in storage. The rental only cost me about $30 a month, so I didn't regret spending the money to hang on to something that had sentimental value.

Storage units have dramatically grown in popularity over the past several years. I'm not just talking about their popularity as reality TV fodder on A&E's "Storage Wars," where the contents of abandoned units are sold at auction. The number of U.S. households that rent self-storage units has actually increased 65% in the last 15 years, according to the Self Storage Association. One in ten households currently rents a storage unit.

If you're among the growing number of people renting a storage unit, you need to make sure your belongings are protected. That means choosing the right facility and getting the proper insurance coverage. The Insurance Information Institute offer these tips:

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-- Look for a secure facility. It should be surrounded by a fence and have coded security pads to enter the facility and video surveillance cameras. Ideally, there should be cameras throughout the facility, not just at the entrance.

-- Make sure it is clean and well-maintained. If it's not, that means it might not be monitored for bugs and rodents, either. Ask to see proof that the facility has a permanent pest extermination contract in place.

-- Find out what losses are covered. Before signing a rental agreement, find out what losses the storage facility will cover and whether you need supplemental insurance. Most storage facilities require you to have insurance for the full replacement cost of the contents of a unit, according to III. If you already have homeowners or renters insurance, check with your insurer to see if your policy provides off-premises protection for property. Most standard policies do, and this coverage typically provides protection in instances of theft, fire, tornadoes and certain other disasters. If you don't have a homeowners or renter policy, make sure you select a storage company that offers insurance.

-- Consider units that are climate controlled. If you don't want to risk mold growing on your belongings choose a facility with climate-controlled units. Homeowners and renters policies, as well as insurance offered by storage companies, won't cover damage caused by mold, vermin and poor maintenance, or floods and earthquakes. Based on my research when I was shopping for a storage unit, these climate-controlled units cost two to three times as much. But the added expense might be worth it if you plan on leaving your belongings in a unit for a long period of time and don't want them to be damaged by extreme temperatures.

-- You may need to purchase additional coverage. Some insurers limit coverage for off-premises possessions to 10% of the overall amount of homeowners insurance a policyholder has. And some have dollar restrictions on insurance payouts for theft of items such as art, antiques, jewelry and furs. So you might need to add a floater or endorsement to fully cover these items. Have your items appraised so that you get the proper amount of coverage.

--Take inventory of all the items in your storage unit. You should make a list and take pictures (or a video) of all the items in your unit to substantiate any losses and speed up the claims process. III's free Know Your Stuff software can help you do this.

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