Can You Legally Live In a Self Storage Unit?

Man providing additional storage space in his garageRates of homelessness have been steadily increasing over the past few years. High costs of rent, the COVID-19 pandemic, and inflation have all contributed to the rise in housing insecurity. This has caused many to seek cheaper housing alternatives. 

Renting a storage unit as a temporary place to live may sound like a good option for overall cheaper rent, but is it? In this article, we’ll explore whether or not it’s legal to live in a self storage unit and why living in one may not be such a good idea.

Can you live in a storage unit?

The short answer is no, you cannot live in a storage unit. Whether you rented your unit through Neighbor or through a traditional facility, there are regulations against living there. 

Neighbor’s units are located on a host’s property, either in their home or in their yard and are not intended for habitation. Neighbor’s Terms of Service plainly state that the space is only intended for the storage of personal property. Hosts charge a much lower price than they would through home sharing websites, such as Airbnb, that allow you to actually sleep in the space.

At a traditional storage facility, living within units is prohibited by local and federal housing laws. These facilities are not zoned for residential use so letting people live there could get them into trouble. Storage facilities also have insurance policies that have stipulations against people living within the units.

Traditional storage facilities are unsafe for habitation as well, due to things like fire hazards and a lack of basic housing amenities. Therefore, for legal reasons, insurance reasons, as well as safety concerns, any storage facility that discovers individuals living within its units is forced to evict them.

Do people still live in storage units?

Yes, people still live in storage units at traditional facilities regardless of the legality. There are a number of reasons for this, but the primary one is cheaper rent

You can rent a large storage unit for under $200 per month, while an apartment usually costs 4 or 5 times this. This makes it an attractive choice for those who have fallen on hard times and lack other options.

While the low monthly rent may be tempting, living in a storage unit isn’t a good idea for a number of reasons. First of all, it’s not legal so you will get evicted. You may get away with living in your unit for a little while, but eventually, you will get caught. 

Facilities take several measures to make certain that no one is living in their units. This includes the use of gates that lock after a certain hour, 24/7 security, and security cameras that monitor the premises. Additionally, storage spaces aren’t safe places to live and people have died while staying in their units.

Why living in a storage unit isn’t safe

There are a number of major safety concerns with living in a storage facility. Self storage units were not created with human habitation in mind. Therefore, they offer terrible living conditions, and staying in one can be risky.

Some of the risks of living in a storage unit:

  • Fire hazards – Using electricity within a storage unit greatly increases the risk of fire. Additionally, if you’re living in a storage facility, you’ll likely need to cook. However, using a hotplate or toaster oven in a unit greatly increases the likelihood of a fire.
  • Lack of basic hygiene – Storage units do not have running water. This means no access to a toilet or washing facilities. This can lead to health issues from a lack of personal hygiene.
  • Getting locked inside of a unit – Most storage unit doors are garage-style and lock from the outside. Storage facility staff do regular walkthroughs to ensure all the units are locked to prevent theft. If you’re in a unit and they lock it from the outside, you can become trapped. This could be incredibly dangerous, especially if a fire takes place.
  • Poor ventilation – Storage spaces don’t have proper ventilation making them very stuffy and uncomfortable to spend significant amounts of time within them. If you’re using a gas-powered heater or appliance, this could easily lead to a fatal accident.
  • No natural light – The majority of storage units are no more than small concrete boxes and do not have windows. While this is fine for your things, this could be very depressing for living. Staying in a storage unit can feel like living in a dungeon and is terrible for mental health.
  • Lack of electricity – Many storage facilities do not have electrical outlets in their units. Wiring your unit for electricity greatly increases the likelihood of a fire. Additionally, the facility will likely notice the spike in electricity usage over time which will alert them to your presence
  • Extreme temperatures – Unless you rent a unit with climate control, you will be at the mercy of outside temperatures while living in a facility. This means extreme hot and cold temperatures depending on location and season. The temperatures inside of a unit can be as much as 30 degrees higher than outside. This could be very dangerous during the summer season.

What will happen if you’re caught living in a storage unit

Nearly every storage unit renter’s lease states that you can’t loiter or live in your unit. So if you’re caught living here, you’ll be evicted immediately for violating the rental agreement. You may lose access to your unit and your stored items as well and could even face civil charges.

If your children are living in a storage unit with you, the consequences could be worse. Living in a storage unit with children can constitute child endangerment. This could lead to criminal charges as well as issues with Child Protective Services.

Storage facilities are accustomed to people trying to live in their units so the staff is well trained to look out for the signs of someone staying there. When you’re eventually caught, you’ll be left without a home, a place to store your things, and possibly face legal consequences. It’s just not worth it.

Alternatives to living in a storage facility

Things happen, and if you’re facing homelessness, a storage unit could seem like the only choice. However, while storage facilities are a good place to store your things when dealing with housing insecurity, they are not a valid place to live.

Depending on where you are, there are a variety of resources available if you’re facing homelessness. There are also options available for finding a relatively cheap place to live. These include:

  • HHS.gov and SAMHSA have a number of resources available for people experiencing homelessness.
  • Homeless Shelter Directory can help you find a temporary place to sleep in cities all across the country.
  • Airbnb has rooms available for rent with substantial discounts if you rent for a month or more.
  • Craigslist and other online classifieds offer low-priced rooms for rent with low monthly and weekly rates.
  • Couchsurfing hosts will let you stay on their couch for a few nights for free.
  • Section 8 Housing is available for those who qualify and can give you long-term cheap housing.

The cheapest option for storing your things

If you’re facing housing insecurity, you’ll need a place to keep your things safe. While storage units aren’t a good place to live, they are the best option for storing your things until you find a new home.
Neighbor is a great choice for keeping your stuff safe for the least amount of money. With storage units that are, on average, 50% less than traditional storage, it’s the best option when money is tight.