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Need to Rent a Storage Unit?

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Nearly one in 10 US households rent a self-storage unit. Some do so to store belongings during a renovation. Others use them for long-term purposes, such as storing seasonal clothing and furniture. What to look for…

CONVENIENCE AND SAFETY

Price and location are big factors — but also consider…

Accessibility. Look for a facility that is open during the hours you are likely to visit. If flexibility is important, make sure you don’t have to make an appointment but can just show up. Also find out if you can drive right up to the unit. You don’t want to go through a central loading area where you must compete for limited parking and elevator service.

Security. Make sure a manager or guard is always on duty. Look for well-lighted corridors and video surveillance.

Climate control. A climate-controlled (heated and air-conditioned) facility can cost 50 percent more, but the expense may be worthwhile for valuable or heat-sensitive items, such as videotapes, photos, artwork, pianos and expensive furniture. Look for alarms that warn if the temperature or humidity levels reach a point that could damage stored items. Also look for backup generators to power lights and climate-control equipment.

Important: Storage centers assume no liability for damage or loss of your items. Check to see if your homeowner’s insurance policy covers stored property at no extra charge. If not, compare what your insurer offers with the additional coverage that the facility offers. Cost: You generally can get $10,000 worth of coverage for $15 to $20 a month.

Best way to research a facility. Ask current renters about their experiences, especially about such things as insects or rodents that could damage your belongings. Show up on a Saturday morning, and you will find plenty of tenants. Also, check for complaints at your local Better Business Bureau (http://lookup.bbb.org).

COSTS

Per-month prices at a self-storage facility start at around $40 — but you will need to know the following to accurately compare costs…

Are there any set-up or processing fees? These go from $25 on up, but you may get them waived if you plan to store belongings for a year or more.

Does the facility charge late fees? If you forget to pay on time one month, the penalty can be as high as 30 percent.

What about transportation costs? Some facilities may offer free pickup or use of a truck to move your items.

When can the rent be raised, and by what percentage? Also, how much notice do you have to give before terminating your contract?

Are discounts available if you are a senior citizen or in the military? You also may get a discount if you pay for several months up front.

Resource: To find a facility, go to www.selfstorage.com.

PORTABLE Units

Weather-resistant containers delivered right to your driveway are becoming increasingly popular for temporary storage. A typical 8-by-12-by-8-foot unit holds the contents of a standard two-bedroom apartment. You can leave the unit on your property or have it picked up and delivered to another location. Cost: $100 and up per month.

Important: You may need a permit to place a unit on your property. Ask the dealer in your area. To find one, call 703-416-0060, go to the Web site of the Mobile Self-Storage Association at www.ms-sa.org/member-sites.html or look in the Yellow Pages under “Portable Storage.”

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Source:
Source: Tim Dietz, vice president at the Self Storage Association, Alexandria, Virginia. It provides educational services for owners of 51,500 storage facilities around the US. www.selfstorage.org.
Date: January 15, 2009 Publication: Bottom Line Personal
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