Putting things away in storage can be nerve-wracking. Maybe you’re worried about your items enduring the winter in storage, or you’re nervous about pests getting inside. While there are preventative measures for some hazards, others are hard to even predict, let alone defend against or mitigate.
Maria Alfano, who owns the blog The Silver Diaries, has a story to tell. “Living in the North East, winters can be really cold, snowy and icy – the perfect storm for burst eavestroughs. We happened to have a downspout right outside our unit. I’m sure you can guess what happened next.”
“The downspout gushed water into our unit, and the water froze overnight. Everything at the front of the unit was not only damaged, it was stuck to the ground in 3 inches of ice!”
It’s important to prepare for anything, and insuring your belongings while in storage is simply good practice. You want to make sure that getting your stuff damaged or lost won’t leave you hurting financially, especially if you use your storage unit to keep stock for your business, for example.
Most self storage facilities already require that renters have insurance for their storage units, but there are important distinctions that need to be made before you consider yourself – and your items – covered.
Don’t I already have insurance?
Homeowner’s, renter’s or business insurance can include (but may have caps for) storage unit insurance, but this isn’t always the case. It’s usually around 10%, which means that if your homeowner’s insurance covers $10,000 in personal property, you may only get $1000 in coverage for the items you have in a storage unit.
Always check your insurance contract and contact your insurance company, if needed, to get an accurate idea of your coverage.
If your cap is too low for the items you have stored, you should consider getting additional storage unit insurance. Even though many storage facilities offer their own, it’s best to shop around for options before committing to one.
What does self storage insurance protect me against?
If you only have storage insurance as part of your homeowner’s insurance, your storage unit is only insured against the same problems that your residence is. This usually covers things like fires, lightning strikes, theft and falling objects.
There are, however, other problems that this insurance might not cover – things such as pests, mold or even larger scale incidents like flooding or earthquakes. Again, check the details of your insurance policy to see exactly which hazards are already covered and which might require extended coverage.
What does self storage insurance not protect me against?
Some valuable items may not be insured by default under a standard policy. Jewelry, in particular, is such an exception. For especially valuable items, you should look into endorsements, sometimes called floaters, in addition to your regular home or renter’s insurance policy. These are perfect for insuring expensive or unique items like jewelry and antiques.
How likely am I to use it?
Hopefully you’ll never have to make an insurance claim, and your items will remain untouched by misfortune. With regards to likelihood, it’s important to understand the risks associated with the area you live in – every place has its own particular hazards.
Places like Seattle, New Madrid and the entire state of California are high-risk areas for earthquakes, so pay special attention to the specifics of your policy. Look at coverage for falling objects as well, as these two hazards often go hand in hand. In California, you’re not only subjected to a high risk of earthquakes, but wildfires have become increasingly frequent and destructive. Insuring against these hazards is a must!
Along the east coast and around the Gulf of Mexico, especially in southern Louisiana and Florida, the risk of hurricanes and floods is very high. Therefore, you should not only insure against these potential problems but also look for storage options that are better protected against them from the outset through location and construction.
Pests can strike almost anywhere and so can thieves, and you never know what the latter will take. It may even be something of personal value. “Two years ago, there was a robbery incident in my storage facility,” says Rinal Patel, founder of Suburbrealtor. “I lost my daughter’s crib and my grandmother’s flower vase was shattered on the floor […] it was as though they made it a point to destroy all the other stuff they couldn’t take with them.”
Although some of these items cannot be bought again, self storage insurance can really soften the blow of such unfortunate events.
Other tips about self storage insurance
The first step to insuring your storage unit takes place before you’ve signed any contract. Choosing the right storage facility is paramount – look for gates, surveillance systems and on-site staff, and check the unit itself before renting. If you can’t do that in person you can search for storage units by size and amenities here.
In the unlikely case that disaster does befall your belongings, arm yourself with patience. The claim process can be laborious and, at times, stressful. “Those of you who have ever had to file a claim are aware that it’s usually not a pleasant affair. People may become agitated, and their emotions may be heightened,” Eva Tian, growth strategy manager at Mynd, told us. “Gather all pertinent documentation. Make a note of the occasion’s date and time, as well as each participant’s full name and contact details. Particularly in cases involving injuries, incident reports are particularly helpful.”
And remember to take photos! This is especially true if you’re the first person to witness the damage. “I once had a self storage unit that was impacted by a flood […] I do recommend that customers take their own photos of the damage immediately before starting a claim. This makes it easier to have your own record of the damage in the event that there are any discrepancies,” says Jon Stephens, director of operations at Snowshow Vacation Rentals. “Take a photo of your unit before you open it and take another photo of the contents as-is before moving anything.”
Even if you’re being careful with how you keep your things and opt for climate-controlled storage, things can still happen. Greg Rozdeba, president of Dundas Life, has seen it – “Last year, some of my sensitive possessions were damaged in the unit. It happened because a power outage caused the temperature control to stop working. I filed a claim with my insurance provider and was reimbursed ASAP.”
The reality is, not only do you need self storage insurance, but most self storage facilities require that you have it. Even if you use one of the few self storage providers where this is an optional requirement, it’s still a great idea – it will protect you financially from predictable and unpredictable threats.