Do You Have Insurance...On Your Storage Unit?

The Self Storage Association notes that one out of every 10
households in the U.S. currently rents some kind of storage unit, including
portable on demand storage (PODS). If you’re one of the 10 percent, are you
insuring your unit?

Whether you are downsizing to a smaller home,
safeguarding heirlooms after a death in the family or just cannot let go of
those old mementos, storage units can provide a useful solution for dealing with
extra belongings. While storage units may be the answer to de-cluttering your
home, adequate insurance coverage is the answer to protecting your belongings,
according to the Insurance Information Institute (I.I.I.).

"If an item is
valuable enough that you are willing to pay for storing it, the item should be
financially protected with the proper amount and type of insurance," says
Loretta Worters, vice president for the I.I.I. "Even in the best managed storage
facilities, theft, fire and other disasters can and do occur. That's why before
signing a rental agreement, it is important to find out what types of losses
will be covered by the storage facility and whether supplemental insurance may
be needed."

Most storage facilities require that you maintain insurance
for the full replacement cost of the contents of your storage room and ask to
see a copy of your homeowners or renters policy. One way to satisfy your
insurance obligation is by purchasing insurance through the storage facility.
However, most storage facilities limit the value of property that can be stored
in a unit, basing it on the size and the amount of your rent (usually up to
about $20,000). If your property is worth more than the assigned amount, some
storage facilities will allow you to increase the assigned value of the property
in your unit. There are also exclusions including art, antiques, jewelry, furs,
watches, money, securities and other documents of value. Be sure to check your
homeowners or renters insurance policies first to determine whether your
contents may already be covered.

Standard homeowners and renters
insurance policies that include off-premises protection provide coverage for
property in storage facilities from theft and damage from fires, tornadoes and
other disasters listed in the policy. Much like storage facility insurance,
homeowners and renters policies do not cover damage caused by flooding,
earthquakes, mold and mildew, vermin or poor maintenance. Some insurers may
limit the off-premises coverage for personal possessions to 10 percent of the
overall amount of homeowners insurance you have. Other insurers may offer higher
coverage limits for personal possessions stored off-premises, so check with your
insurance agent or company representative before renting a storage unit. Also
keep in mind that insurance through your home or renters policy will be more
comprehensive than storage facility insurance and is regulated by your state
insurance department.

If you intend to store valuable property such as
art, antiques, jewelry or furs, there may be dollar restrictions under your
standard homeowners or renters insurance policy for theft. Ask your insurance
professional about adding a floater or endorsement to your policy in order to
fully cover these items. There are also specialized storage facilities available
for these types of items, as they often need to be kept at specific temperature
and humidity levels. Small items such as jewelry can also be kept in a bank safe
deposit box; insurers will generally charge less to cover an item stored at a

One of the best ways to substantiate the value of your personal
property is to create a detailed home inventory of all your possessions,
including those in storage. If your property is stolen or damaged, an inventory
can help speed the claims process and substantiate your loss. It will also help
you determine how much insurance to buy to adequately protect your

The I.I.I. offers the following tips for choosing a storage

  • Look for a secure facility. Fencing that secures the entire
    property and access control are the very minimum that a storage business should
  • Consider the safety of the immediate area surrounding the
    facility. Does the storage building have onsite security features such as
    24-hour video surveillance cameras and coded security pads to access the
    building? If so, does the code work only for your floor or for the entire
    facility? Are there video cameras throughout the building or just at the
    entrance? An informed manager should have the answers you need.
  • Look for a unit with climate control options. This will
    ensure your appliances and furniture are not in a harmful environment. Very high
    or low temperatures, as well as dampness can quickly cause damage. And make sure
    that rising ground water from snow or rain is unable to penetrate your storage
  • Select a company that offers insurance along with their
    space. If you do not already have coverage your renters or homeowners insurance,
    look for a storage company that offers insurance, and make sure you fully
    understand how their insurance will cover any potential damage. Find out about
    the facility's procedures in cases such as fire, flood, etc. and keep in mind
    that any facility should also have their own insurance to cover damages or
    injuries that occur on their premises.
  • Check that the storage facility is clean and
    well-maintained. If a storage facility is not routinely and thoroughly cleaned,
    there is a good possibility no one is monitoring for bugs and rodent
    infestations. Verify that the facility has a permanent, reliable pest
    extermination contract in place before you trust them with your belongings.
  • Investigate the reputation of the storage company. Check
    with friends and neighbors who may be familiar with the facility, or ask the
    storage company for referrals.