Have you ever wondered what happens to the contents of storage units when their owners abandon them or default on rent payments?
It’s not a common occurrence but, from time to time, self storage facilities find themselves lumbered with the abandoned belongings of ex-customers, despite persistent efforts to contact their owners.
In these situations the contents of the storage units need to be removed so that the storage facility can let the space out to new customers. This process can be very time-consuming and the costs of clearance and disposal only add to the financial losses of the already unpaid rental bills.
However, there are ways for storage facilities to limit the amount of financial damage they sustain in these situations. In this article, we’ll take a look at an innovative yet misunderstood solution that has grown in popularity over recent years, one that has crossed the Atlantic on a wave of TV success.
Storage Unit Auctions As A Last Resort
Mostly due to the success of shows such as Storage Wars and Storage Hunters UK, there has been a growing interest in the world of abandoned self storage units in the UK. While these TV shows are no doubt entertaining, they don’t accurately reflect what typically happens to deserted units in the UK.
In the first instance, these shows pit a group of potential buyers against each other as they vie for the contents of around five storage units per episode. That’s a lot of abandoned storage units. In reality, most storage facilities may only have to deal with one or two deserted units per year, and many will go years without having to deal with any.
It’s not surprising really when you consider that people care a lot about the items them keep in storage units, so naturally they don’t want to lose them. However, in rare circumstances and for various reasons, storage facilities may have no choice but to reclaim the abandoned unit.
In the majority of cases though, self storage facilities will make every effort to contact the owner of the storage items. This grace period can be anything between ten days to three months, and will typically involve a letter being sent by recorded delivery to both the customer’s main and alternate address.
While it is very rare for storage facilities to resort to getting rid of people’s abandoned belongings, it can sometimes be the only recourse. Which brings us to…
Abandoned Storage Unit Auctions in the UK
After the grace period has ended and the storage facility’s letters, emails and calls have gone unanswered, they can regain access to the unit to assess the contents. Depending on the facilities general policy and the value of the items, the storage facility may simply dispose of the contents or put them up for sale to cover their losses (this is known as ’lien’ in legal terms).
Here is where we see another difference with the TV shows. While the show depicts auction-bidders standing outside a locked unit, loudly speculating and bidding on its mysterious contents, the reality in the UK is a little less dramatic.
Firstly, storage unit auctions are, for the most part, conducted online, typically on auction sites such as Ebay. Some facilities may even have mailing lists of prospective bidders who they can alert when a storage unit comes up for sale.
While the storage facility can choose to keep the contents of the unit a mystery, most will upload pictures of the contents or even list the storage items one-by-one. Not quite the tension that TV producers are looking for!
Personal Data and Privacy Concerns
Before a storage unit (or any items therein) is sold, storage facility staff will inspect the contents to ensure that all confidential information has been removed. This may include documents, photos, IDs, CDs, computers or any other items that could be or hold personal data.
These sensitive items will either be forwarded on to the previous customer or, if they are still unresponsive, will be securely destroyed to ensure that data protection laws and GDPR regulations are upheld. The storage facility should also retain a certificate of destruction that can be presented to the previous owner or any government inspectors on request.
Avoid This Situation With A Reliable, Cost-Effective Storage Facility
While storage units are occasionally abandoned and some customers may default on rent payments, the reality is that the vast majority of these situations could be avoided with proper communication and an adaptable storage company.
At Flexible Storage, we go the extra mile to build relationships with our customers to ensure that they receive the best possible service. We regularly remind customers to check their contact information is up-to-date, as well as keep our prices as competitive as possible so that our units are affordable for all. We have a multitude of self storage services available to ensure you’re only paying for the storage you need. Contact our friendly team today for a free consultation on your storage needs.