You need some extra storage space. Maybe you’re downsizing, maybe you’re going away for the summer. Whatever it is, you decide to rent out a self-storage unit. And then you see all of your stuff in storage auctions on the popular reality TV show, Storage Wars, and you realize that Grandma’s old piano is really a Bösendorfer and worth thousands, maybe hundreds of thousands. Ever played out that scenario in your head and decided you never want to use a self-storage unit for fear of your precious, beloved stuff being sold or worse, auctioned off to the highest bidder?
Here is the reality of storage unit auctions, their legality and rules
1. When do storage auctions occur?
Auctions will only occur after the tenant or “occupant” of a self-storage unit fails to pay the agreed amount in the agreed time, according to the contract. Generally, this period of time comes to about 30 days. If there is failure to pay by 30 days, the storage facility reserves the right to sell the unit’s belongings.
2. Who gets the money from a storage auction?
The storage facility can only keep the amount owed by the tenant and enough to cover the auction costs; the rest of the profit is given to the self-storage unit occupant.
3. How/Where do storage auctions take place?
The auction generally takes place at the storage facility, giving bidders the opportunity to look inside from the entrance and evaluate the contents. You can’t actually enter the unit until after the sale, and paying with cash is encouraged for winning a bid. But nowadays, online self-storage auctions are becoming increasingly popular as they eliminate having to travel long distances.
4. Can self-storage unit tenants retrieve their belongings?
Once the 30 days have passed and a unit is sold, the buyer is officially the legal owner of the unit contents. But an auction will only occur after repeated attempts to contact the unit tenant and recover the rent. If a tenant wants to buy back their belongings, they will have to review the policies and procedures of the storage facility for publishing buyer names, etc.
Overall, storage unit auctions may or may not be exactly like how Storage Wars portray them to be. There can be incredible finds, or just rooms full of useless junk—you never know! But rest assured that there are legal procedures backing up every auction: your precious stuff is safe as long as you pay the bill.
Storage laws can vary by state; check your state storage code for your specific storage unit laws.
Plus you should check out a storage unit auction sometime! Maybe you will find Spanish gold coins valued at $500,000 like Don and Laura on Storage Wars, or maybe it will be more like the time Kenny bought a unit full of kitty litter. As they say, one man’s junk is another man’s treasure. Or it’s just kitty litter. You decide.