Contacts and Costs

When you plan to store your property you should bear in mind that in most cases you get what you pay for. Therefore choosing the cheapest facility may not be the wisest decision. You must consider all aspects of the storage carefully. Consider the type of items to be stored – are they of monetary or sentimental value and do they require special storage conditions if they are to remain in good condition.

The Contract or Agreement
When you have decided upon the storage facility, the operator is obliged to provide a written contract or agreement. Before you sign the document, it is a good idea to take it home and peruse it very carefully taking careful note of the fine print. If something is not completely clear, put your questions to the storage facility operator, so that you have a full understanding of the contract you sign. Contracts are drawn up with the intention of protecting both the customer and the storage facility. You must keep your copy of the contract in a safe and available place, in case you need to refer to it from time to time. As a rule, the contract may be terminated easily upon giving timely notice, and generally you would not be obliged to pay for the whole month if you terminate mid month, the sum payable being prorated. However, you must ensure that this clause is included in your contract as otherwise the storage facility would be entitled to charge for a full month.

Inventory – Why the need?
The items that you intend to store should be carefully inventoried. It is customary for the warehouse operator to make the inventory with you, recording the condition of each item going into storage. If there should be a dispute over damages, the inventory can be referred to as the condition of the item has been recorded upfront upon storage. This protects both customer and storage facility operator. It is necessary for both the customer and the warehouse operator to sign the inventory, thereby agreeing to the items and their condition when they go into storage.

What is included in the monthly cost?
The contract will include basic costs - the cost of the actual space, utilities such as light and electricity as well as insurance. In addition, there will be the cost of climate controlled storage if you have accepted this. You must check the items with care and be sure that the costs are according to your agreement. Note if there are hidden costs. “Free” truck rental to take your goods to the warehouse may require payment of labor or other charges.

Charges for access
It is not usual, but some storage companies charge you for accessing your unit if you do so during non office hours. In this case the rate fees should be stated in the contract. However, the contract does not need to specify charges for parking on warehouse property when you drop off or remove items from your unit. The contract does not have to state the charges for labor. Most companies do not charge for labor needed to move your goods into storage, but they are entitled to do so and you should find out their policy.

The storage facility will require you to put down a deposit which is usually fully refundable. This condition must form part of the contract. Read the fine print in this clause with care. Some storage operators will lay down conditions for a full refund that will not be possible to meet at the end of your storage period. Conditions like this should alert you that this storage company which is not upfront about the refundable deposit may after all not be as reliable as you believed and you may be wise to find another warehouse to store your goods.

The contract must state clearly the monthly charges and how regularly you will be billed. The monthly charge will cover the storage place itself, lighting, basic insurance and the security offered by the storage company. The contract can give the actual cost or estimated cost. Not more than 10% can be charged above the estimated cost. If you have requested climate controlled storage this will cost extra and must form part of the contract. It is advised that you consider carefully whether your items require climate controlled storage because it is not worthwhile to pay for options that you don’t need. The cost does not usually include packing your goods and transporting them to the warehouse. If the storage company is providing a free truck this must appear in the contract, as well as the rates that will apply if the truck is not returned within a specified time. If you are offered incentives without charge, consider them cautiously. Sometimes the offer can turn out to be a gimmick. If the free time allowed before time for return is too short, the extra charges incurred can be very costly.

How much insurance will I need?
Only basic insurance charges will be included in your contract, unless you have arranged for additional insurance to be taken out to cover your goods which are in storage. Basic insurance (about $0.3 per pound) offers little protection. A television set weighing 20 pounds would be insured for only $6.00, being 20X$0.3=$6.00. You have various options. If you already have a homeowner’s insurance policy, find out whether this will also cover the goods while in storage. If this is the case check what you need to do when you remove or add items in storage. This applies to whatever insurance cover you take out and you must find out how the insurance company handles this event. Your insurance needs change when you remove or add items. You don’t want to find out that a valuable antique piece of furniture added to the warehouse after the initial storage, and subsequently damaged in the warehouse, was not covered by the insurance. Some warehouse operators who offer extra insurance may require you to accept the insurance they offer if you store your goods with them. Others will offer different options with outside insurance companies, which will offer competitive rates because of the bulk discount given. Whichever way you go, the bottom line is that you need to have your goods insured adequately and you must understand all the terms of the insurance policy.

What happens if I miss some payments?
A clause in the contract must set out what will happen if you fail to pay for the storage service. If you forget to pay or unable to pay, the storage company will take action. The contract must specify after how many missed payments the action will be taken. Until you pay the amount owing the storage company is unlikely to allow you access to your goods. Exceptions are welfare documents or medical information which the law requires you must be able to access. If you are unable to meet your payments the storage company will frequently remove your goods out of their space so that they can rent the space to a paying customer. It is also possible for them to sell your goods at auction and in this event you will be given notice of the date, time and location of the auction. Some states allow you the right to try and prevent your belongings from being auctioned. But such an action must take place well in advance of the auction date and this differs in different states. As an example, if you are in New York you will be obliged to file court proceedings at least 10 days prior to the date of the auction.