Vehicle storage is an increasingly popular service that many of us use, for a variety of reasons. Whether it’s a car you are not driving on a daily basis or recreational vehicles such as boats, bikes, ATVs or RVs, one thing is for sure: most of us don’t have that kind of garage or yard space at our disposal. Since keeping them at home is generally not an option, the best solution is a self storage facility that offers vehicle storage.

Putting something as valuable as a vehicle in storage comes with rights and responsibilities, but there are also precautions to take and some “homework” to do beforehand. Here is some valuable information about vehicle storage that you should be aware of if you are planning to place your vehicle in self storage:

What are your options in terms of vehicle storage?

Not all storage facilities offer vehicle storage options, but many of them do, so shop around in your area to find the right facility for your needs. Usually, you can choose among several types of vehicle storage. Indoor vehicle storage is similar to a garage, with four walls and a roof, but the size can vary from the standard garage to a huge 10’x30’ unit, big enough for a boat or RV.

Covered parking spaces have the benefit of a roof, while uncovered parking spaces are just that — located on the storage facility grounds but without a roof, walls, or any protection from the elements. Of course, indoor vehicle storage is the most expensive option among these three, while uncovered parking spaces are usually the cheapest. Pick the type of storage that’s best for you based on the vehicle you are planning to store, how long you are planning to keep it in storage, and the local climate.

boats covered for storage

If, let’s say, you own a classic car that you drive only rarely, your best option is an indoor storage unit — you don’t want to expose it to the elements. However, if you simply need somewhere to park your car for a couple of months or so, an uncovered parking space will most likely do the job.

What rights do you have as a vehicle owner using a storage facility?

Vehicle owners have the right to expect reasonable security measures for their vehicle within the storage facility and that their vehicle is stored in a manner that minimizes risks. However, it’s essential that you read the rental agreement carefully because that’s the determining factor that governs the relationship with the facility.

“All of a tenant’s rights, when renting a space in a storage facility to store their vehicle, will depend on the specific language contained in the rental agreement that they are signing,” says Scott Zucker, founding partner of Weissman Zucker Euster and Katz law firm and partner in the Self Storage Legal Network, a subscription-based legal information service for self storage owners and managers. “Generally, all self storage rental agreements are ‘nonbailment’ contracts, where the facility operator takes neither ‘care, custody or control’ of the property being stored, even a vehicle,” he continued. In other words, “the tenant is the one that assumes responsibility for the contents of the space they rent in the self storage facility,” he emphasized.

What responsibilities do vehicle owners have?

When storing a vehicle in self storage, the owner of the vehicle has the responsibility to purchase proper insurance. Most self storage facilities encourage — and many even require — that customers who are putting a vehicle in storage also purchase insurance to cover the risk of loss or damage. “Generally, but for the intentional or malicious acts of a facility owner (i.e., they stole it), the tenant assumes the risk of damage or theft and must be sure to insure itself against that risk when storing their vehicle at a self storage facility,” explains Zucker.

Also, be aware that just because the car is in storage and not on the road doesn’t mean that it’s safe from damages. “Any tenant should insure its off-site stored property for the value that they believe their property is worth and should carry the type of coverages that will protect them in case of loss (theft) or damage (water, fire, storm, etc.),” continued Zucker. Your insurance company may offer specific options for stored vehicles. Comprehensive coverage might be sufficient for stored vehicles, as it protects against non-driving-related risks like theft, vandalism and natural disasters. Adjusting the coverage on your stored vehicle may save on premiums while maintaining essential protections.

Another important aspect of vehicle storage is keeping the stored vehicle in good shape so that it can be easily moved should the need arise. In fact, many storage facilities require the vehicle to be operational to ensure the safety and functionality of the storage environment.

Of course, timely payment of storage fees according to the terms of the agreement is an essential responsibility of the tenants — and setting up an automated payment solution, particularly if you are storing a vehicle long-term, could be the right strategy. This way, you are not risking forgetting to pay your monthly bill, which can have negative consequences. “When a vehicle is stored at a storage facility, the facility operator has a lien on the vehicle as a security for nonpayment,” said Joseph Doherty, attorney and self storage industry expert.

If you forget or neglect to pay your monthly rent, the storage facility has different methods for handling the situation. “The operator may follow the requirements of the state self storage law and/or the state DMV to sell the vehicle and recoup some of the unpaid rent,” said Doherty. Another strategy that a facility might use is to involve a third party. “In most states, the operator has the option to have the vehicle towed — typically when the rent is unpaid for more than 60 days — in lieu of a sale,” explained Doherty. In such a case, the facility operator gives up its lien, and the towing company can charge the vehicle owner for storage until the vehicle is retrieved. However, if that doesn’t happen, the towing company will eventually gain the right to sell the vehicle in order to recover its unpaid charges.

What should you do in case of damage or theft of a stored vehicle?

Most self storage facilities have security measures in place to protect tenants’ property from theft or property damage. However, unfortunate situations might still occur, and the legal recourse available to vehicle owners often depends on the terms outlined in the storage agreement and the local laws. Here are steps you should take if your stored vehicle suffers damages:

  • Carefully examine the storage agreement to understand the liabilities and responsibilities of both parties.
  • Promptly inform the storage facility management about any damage or theft. Document the situation with photos or any evidence available.
  • If the vehicle is insured, file a claim with the insurance provider. Insurance coverage for storage-related incidents can vary, so it’s essential to review the policy.
  • If the storage facility is found negligent or in breach of the contract terms, resulting in damage or theft, legal action may be pursued. This could involve small claims court or hiring legal representation, depending on the extent of the damage and local laws.

It’s crucial for vehicle owners to keep copies of the storage agreement, any communications with the storage facility, and records of payments made. Consulting with a legal professional knowledgeable about local storage laws can also provide guidance and options for recourse in case of disputes or issues.

Author

Maria Gatea is a real estate and lifestyle editor for Yardi with a background in Journalism and Communication. After covering business and finance-related topics as a freelance writer for 15 years, she is now focusing on researching and writing about the real estate industry. You may contact Maria via email.

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