Is it legal to live in a storage unit?
The answer is no, it is not legal.
Living in a self-storage unit is extremely dangerous, and tenants who do so are putting themselves at risk. Not only do storage units lack electricity, running water, and climate control, but their doors often shut on the outside and can trap a renter inside, creating a fire hazard and serious threat to their health.
Also, storage unit facilities are zoned for commercial use only. That means that they do not need to meet code regulations for residential units like installing fire alarms or carbon monoxide detectors. Storage unit rules and regulations, as well as state laws, strictly prohibit living in a self storage unit for these reasons.
Tips to Remove a Live-in Tenant
Although you may know that living inside a self-storage unit is illegal, it’s difficult to kick someone out of their temporary home when you know they’ve most likely fallen on hard times. Tenants who resort to residing in a storage unit could be victims to today’s extreme housing unaffordability and may not know where else to go. However, it’s crucial that you address these renters as soon as you notice them. It’s important both for their health and safety, and for the security of your business.
The best way to avoid having to remove a live-in tenant is to put prevention measures in place to keep the situation from occurring in the first place.
You could achieve this by hiring more on-site staff to patrol the facility during off-hours and inspect any unusual activity, and by establishing a firm “no loitering” policy in your lease agreements. Another good idea to discourage live-in tenants is to require that new renters verify their home/mailing address. That way, you can be sure they have a place to stay.
Approach the Tenant with a Note
Once you’re sure you are dealing with a live-in renter, it’s a good idea to first approach them with a note saying that you have noticed unusual activity from them and, if they do not vacate the unit and find alternate accommodations, their lease will be terminated.
Follow State Evictions Procedures
Each state has laws that concern evicting a self-storage tenant who is residing in their unit. Be sure to double check which notice you must send and which court to file with before evicting the tenant.
Also, keep in mind that if the tenant refuses to leave even after you’ve obtained a court order for eviction, you can hire the sheriff to remove them for you. However, this should be a last resort, and landlords are typically required to give the tenant time to leave on their own first.
Connect the Tenant with Local Resources
It’s normal to feel empathetic towards the renter. It’s difficult to kick someone out of their living arrangement. If you want to help this tenant out, feel free to connect them with resources like homeless shelters, food banks, or ministries nearby that could help them get back on their feet. These organizations are also great resources for you if you need advice on how to best handle the situation.
Keep some fliers in your office for these resources just in case a tenant needs one. You can slip one under the door of their unit alongside the first notice.
Importantly, do not give out any personal information to the tenant or offer to house them on your property. Your safety comes first, and although you may feel responsible for this renters’ plight, you are not. It’s best to let the tenant find help from professionals.
Evicting a live-in storage unit tenant is not pleasant, but it’s what’s best for their wellbeing and for the wellbeing of your other clients. Following the tips above can help you handle the situation with discretion and care while also remaining firm in what is legal and fair.